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Along with its own collection of red rocks and forest trails, Sedona offers other attractions within an easy drive. Scenic Arizona Highway 89A parallels Oak Creek and the canyon it has carved. It’s a slow, winding 44 kilometer drive between Flagstaff and Sedona.
Just north of Sedona, Midgely Bridge crosses the canyon. Completed in 1939, it brought the decidedly mixed blessings of tourists and growth to Sedona.
There are numerous recreation and fishing spots along Oak Creek. Slide Rock State Park surely is the most popular one. Oak Creek has eroded channels in red sandstone to create a kind of natural water park with an assortment of swimming holes and slides (hence the name). On a hot summer weekend the “Swim Area” attracts a crowd worthy of any theme park.
Getting to the Swim Area requires a hike down a short (500 meters) but rather treacherous “primitive route,” officially designated as a trail of moderate difficulty. Good sturdy shoes are very helpful. Once you’re in the Swim Area the footing is even more primitive; you have to find your own way along the rocks, as there are no trails and it’s slippery near the water.
As an incorrigible klutz, I found the going slow. But the scampering children whose way I sometimes blocked seemed to have little trouble. Given the popularity of the park— and in light of the Americans With Disabilities Act— I’m surprised there isn’t better access. But with the hordes of families who seem to have no trouble getting to the Swim Area, officials probably don’t consider improvements necessary.
The park was originally the homestead of Frank L. Pendley, who
acquired it in 1910. He planted a 17-hectare apple orchard and built the
irrigation system that made it possible. The Pendley Homestead is the
“upper” section of the park, between the parking lot and the top of the
Swim Area trail. It has remnants of the orchard and an exhibit of
farming equipment Pendley used, including a large water wheel he built
to generate electricity.
Jerome is a National Historic Landmark 45 kilometers west of Sedona on Highway 89A, built 1,600 meters high on Cleopatra Hill. Founded in 1876, it was once a boom town with a population of 15,000, the fourth largest in the Arizona Territory. In the 19th century it was as famous for its saloons and brothels as for copper, zinc, gold, and silver mining.
Jerome then became a ghost town, with maybe 50 people remaining. Artists moved in during the 1960s and 1970s, attracted by the setting and the low cost of real estate. Their studios, galleries, and curio shops now provide the main attraction for tourists.
The rest, as they say, is history: Jerome’s other (and lower-cost) attraction is its steep and narrow streets filled with old buildings whose exteriors at least look as they did during Jerome’s wild heyday. There are also the preserved shells of long-abandoned buildings, such as the (former) Bartlett Hotel.
As you might expect, over 75 years of active mining left behind a lot of
residue. Mine tailings— all the dirt left over after extracting
the good stuff— spread across the Verde Valley from Jerome. The
tailings are furrowed and kept irrigated so they don’t become a dusty
airborne hazard. The furrows make interesting patterns. I took this
picture from Tuzigoot National Monument, one of two Sinagua Indian ruins
within an short drive from Sedona. You can read about those ruins on the
travel photo essay page.