Visitors to Phoenix, Arizona must plan a visit to Papago Park. Stretching within and between Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona, Papago Park offers approximately 1200 acres of history and excitement. Contained within its borders are the Desert Botanical Gardens, the Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix Municipal Stadium and three fishing lagoons that are stocked by Arizona’s Department of Fish and Game. Further attractions and offerings include miles of hiking and bike trails among many beautiful buttes formed from red sandstone.
Nestled among those buttes are the distinctive Hole-in-the-Rock and Hunt’s Tomb, a white pyramid that is visible from virtually every part of the park, containing within the remains of Arizona’s first governor and several family members. The park also houses a softball complex, an exercise course, an orienteering course, and armadas that can be reserved or used on a first-come first-serve basis.
Papago Park History
Papago Park has served several purposes over its history. It was originally established in 1879 as a reservation for the Maricopa and Pima tribes. In 1914, legislation was passed to create the Papago Saguaro National Monument, but this was abolished in 1932 by a later bill. From 1943 to 1946, it served as a war camp that housed German POWs; subsequently it became the site of the largest mass escape from a U.S. prison camp in December 1944. All prisoners were recaptured within a month, as the Arizona desert proved to be more difficult to survive than the camp. From 1947 to 1951 the park was the home of a VA hospital, from 1953 to 1956 it served as the District Headquarters for the Arizona Army Reserve. In 1959, the park was sold to the city of Phoenix, beginning the process of transforming the park into the recreational area it is today.
Traces of Papago Park’s rich past can still be found today, notably in numerous enduring buildings that have been repurposed, including Scottsdale’s Elk Lodge, and in the pictograms still found on rock outcrops. For folks visiting the Phoenix, Arizona area, Papago Park offers something to entertain everyone.
Image credit: Sean Hobson