Green Valley, AZ
Green Valley Environs
The Land–The Santa Cruz River Valley is what puts the “Green” in Green Valley. Despite the fact that it is dry most of the year, the trees, shrubs, and plants growing along the edges of this major are “green” most of the year. Towering over Green Valley is the tallest peak in the Santa Ritas, Mt. Wrightson at 9,453 feet (2,881 m). This peak is one of the tallest in southern Arizona and at such an elevation is often covered by snow in the winter months. The Coronado National Forest encompasses most of the mountain range, which contains Madera Canyon, an important birding area, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory on Mt. Hopkins.
The Santa Rita Mountains run north-south for 26 miles and at the higher elevations pine-oak woodlands prevail. At the lower elevations diverse cacti grow in the Arizona Sonoran Desert, an arid area that is uniquely southwestern and found nowhere else in the world. The tall Saguaros are the icons of this environment. All kinds of animals flourish in this diverse setting, and hikers are apt to encounter many of them as they trek through Green Valley and its adjoining mountains.
Arizona is one of the most geologically interesting states in the country, and income from industrial mining is a major economic activity. For example, the Green Valley area is also the site of some of the most important copper deposits in southern Arizona. Mined since the late 1800s, commercial mining began in earnest in the 1960s. Since then billions of tons of copper ore have been extracted from the area. Because of the slump in copper prices, however, size of the operations has been reduced significantly. The Green Valley Council’s Environmental Committee monitors the mining activities to keep the community informed about issues that affect the residents. The photograph shows the reclaimed talus slopes from mining, west of Green Valley.
The Culture–Mining ghost towns figure into the culture history of southern Arizona for a short period of time. For most of the time, the past 10,000 years and more, the area was inhabited by archaic hunters and gatherers for which the desert, surprisingly enough, furnished abundant resources. In order to harvest these resources, these people had to practice a nomadic way of life, moving from mountains to valleys and from water sources to arid lands. When the first explorers arrived, they found peoples along the river valleys in southern Arizona who were also engaged in horticulture and farming. Today these people are known as the Akimel O’odham (the river people, aka Pima) and the Tohono O’odham (the desert people aka Papago). Native Americans who moved up into southwestern Arizona, such as the Yaqui, did so at a later time, after the Spanish Entrada.
The area of Green Valley is rich in archaeological and historical sites, and the literature on the culture of southern Arizona is vast. Archaeologists have written the prehistory of the area, and historians who study the writings of early chroniclers start with the Spanish military and religious explorers in the late 1400s and 1500s. The geopolitical boundaries of the US and Mexico did not attain their current status until 1912. So for about the first 500 years, the relations between US and Mexican peoples were not marked by politics but instead by lifestyles, which changed over time, from exploration to farming and mining, and finally to ranching and industry. Today, there are archaeological sites which tell the story of Native Americans; mission ruins and restored heritage sites that tell the story of the Jesuits and Franciscans; and ghost towns and ranches that tell the story of the miners and cowboys.