Sierra Ancha

Sierra Ancha

The Sierra Ancha (“broad range” in Spanish) is a mountain range in Gila County, in central Arizona. It lies between Roosevelt Lake to the south, the Tonto Basin to the west, Cherry Creek to the east, and Pleasant Valley to the north. The range is one of several, including the Bradshaw Mountains, Mingus Mountain, and the Mazatzal Mountains, which form a transitional zone between the lowland deserts of southern Arizona and the Colorado Plateau of northeastern Arizona. The highest point in the range is Aztec Peak, at an elevation of 2345 m (7694 ft). This summit is the site of a U.S. Forest Service fire lookout once staffed by noted Arizona essayist and novelist Edward Abbey.

The Sierra Ancha is penetrated by few improved roads, and the range is cut by numerous deep, spectacular canyons, particularly on its eastern flank. Little agricultural, commercial, or residential development has taken place, though in the past asbestos mining was carried out at a mine between Asbestos and Zimmerman Points. Cattle ranching is still practiced in the area. Nearby communities include Roosevelt, Tonto Basin, Punkin Center, and Young, Arizona.

Two U.S. Wilderness Areas lie within the Sierra Ancha — the Salome Wilderness, encompassing Salome Creek and its canyon on the southern edge of the range, and the Sierra Ancha Wilderness, protecting the high peaks and deep canyons of the eastern flank of the range. The range also includes the U.S. Forest Service's Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest, a tract on which research on the characteristics of Southwestern U.S. watersheds has been conducted.

The Sierra Ancha includes abundant archaeological remains, especially in the form of cliff dwellings in the rugged canyons opening eastward toward Cherry Creek. The identity of the Native American builders of these structures remains uncertain, but the sites show characteristics of both the Salado and Mogollon cultures. Tree-ring dating of roof beams from the sites suggests that construction began in the late 1280s AD, and that the structures were abandoned by 1350 AD.

The classic Sonoran Desert floristic community of saguaro, palo verde, and creosote bush can be found in the southern foothills above Roosevelt Lake (650-1000 m / 2133-3281 ft), while in the range's middle elevations (1200-1800 m / 3937-5906 ft) oak scrub and juniper predominate. Above 6000 feet (1829 m), the Sierra Ancha has extensive stands of ponderosa pine, with Douglas-fir on the highest, coolest slopes.

The Sierra Ancha lies completely within Arizona's Tonto National Forest.

External links

* [ Topographic map from TopoQuest]
* [ Tonto National Forest—Sierra Ancha Wilderness]
* [ Tonto National Forest—Salome Wilderness]
* [ Sierra Ancha Wilderness at GORP]
* [ Salome Wilderness at GORP]
* [ Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest (USFS)]
* [ Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest (University of Arizona)]
* [ Sierra Ancha Cliff Ruins (USFS)]

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