A Tour of Some Stunning Prehistoric Hanging Canal Images

A Tour of Some Stunning Prehistoric Hanging Canal Images

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Description: An image tour of some newly rediscovered prehistoric hanging canals from the bajadas of Southeastern Arizona's Pinalino mountains. These canals were literally "hung" on the edges of steep sided mesas. making their slopes largely independent of the surrounding terrain and thus providing exceptional energy efficiency during construction.

These unique mountain stream based world class discoveries date from the 1350's and remain largely unknown and unstudied . A total of twenty nine canals are under exploration for a total distance of nearly sixty miles. Tours, grants, and field mice are most definitely encouraged.

Author: Don Lancaster and Dr. James Neely (Fellow) | Visits: 2531 | Page Views: 2587
Domain:  Green Tech Category: Environmental Subcategory: Water conservation 
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A Tour of Some Prehistoric
Hanging Canal Images
Don Lancaster and Dr. James Neely
Synergetics, Box 809, Thatcher, AZ 85552
copyright c2014 pub 6/14 as GuruGram #124
don@tinaja.com and neelyja@utexas.edu
(928) 428-4073 and (575) 686-0098

Some recent rediscoveries in the bajadas of the Pinaleno Mountains of Arizona’s
Safford Basin have identified a stunning group of uniquely world class prehistoric
mountain stream derived domestic irrigation canals believed to date from the
1350’s. At present, some twenty nine canals have been located having a total
length approaching sixty miles.

These canals are uniquely characterized by portions of them being literally "hung"
on the very edges of steep side mesas, sometimes hundreds of feet above their
adjacent drainages. Credible reasons for this unusual posturing seem to be that
the canal slopes could be defined largely independent of their surrounding
terrain. And that highly energy efficient construction could largely be carried out
across, rather than along, the canal route. Thus minimizing costly cuts and fills.

These structures and their trading patterns show influence from the Hohokam
master canal builders of the Phoenix area. Implied is the collaboration and the
collective action of smaller groups, rather than a more complex social structure.
Estimations of the construction time vary from fifty man years upward. While no
survey instruments are known to survive, it is possible that pilot extensions of the
canals themselves acted as static water levels.
In addition to stratigraphy and association, other evidence of age includes:
Being run over by roads, SCS dams, and even cemeteries roughshod without
accomodation; uniform patina, lichens, and caliche; mature trees, cacti, and
shrubs mid-channel; extreme purposefullness and well directed energy efficiency;
and a lack of any apparent use of pioneer or CCC tools.
A summary hanging canal paper can be found here, a detailed tutorial here, a
lecture sequence here, and a collection of additional resources here. The latest
canal developments can be found here, and info on tours and personal research
opportunities here.
These cataloged images are shown here at modest resolution to keep the file size
and download times manageable. Clicking on any image or its URL should access
its full resolution parent picture.
— 124 . 1 —

Allen Canal Just Beyond Spring Canyon Takein Point.
N 32.78240 W 109.83475

The spring in Spring Canyon appears to immediately source several canals, while
any remaining unfettered water travels a distance down Spring Canyon to this
Allen Canal takein point. At this location, the canal begins a sudden northerly turn
heading to historically developed Hawk Hollow Tank.
The view is to the north.

— 124 . 2 —

Allen Canal Between modern Dam and the Culebra Cut.
N 32.83553 W 109.79789

Well defined Allen portion shares an otherwise atypical white caliche-like aeolian
fill with the Mud Springs canal. Canal is trending westward and about to enter
the major Culebra cut.
The view is to the south.

— 124 . 3 —

Allen Canal Culebra Cut with Dr. Jim Neely.
N 32.83567 W 109.79806

This portion of the Allen Canal below the dam is the widest and deepest known,
although both the HS canal counterflow and the Marijilda Aqueduct involved
much more excavation. The Culebra area shows no apparent historic use or
rework, so this construct appears genuine.
Shown is Dr. James Neely. View is to the west.

— 124 . 4 —

Deepest Allen Canal Cut Below Dam.
N 32.83564 W 109.79788

The Culebra Cut on the Allen Canal appears to be the widest and deepest known
in the region. There is no evidence of any historic rework. Uniform patina also
attests to its prehistoric age.
The view is to the west.

— 124 . 5 —

Possible Three Way Switch on Deadman Mesa Knife Edge.
N 32.76086 W 109.78109

There are several instances of "knife edging" in which a canal apparently gets
purposely routed along an extremely narrow and highly critical mesa edge. At this
point, a three way switching appears possible between Porter Springs tank, Upper
Deadman tank, and Lower Deadman tank. Attributing this positioning solely to
coincidence appears highly unlikely. Suggested is a profound understanding of
both topography and hydraulic fundamentals.
Aerial view is of north = up.

— 124 . 6 —

Aerial Drone Potentially Usable for Canal Research.

The Draganfly is a camera sized aerial drone and video capture system that
should be eminently suited to further hanging canal exploration. Especially for
finding non-obvious continuances.
A grant for one or more of these would certainly be welcome.

— 124 . 7 —

Start of HS Canal and Robinson Canal on Lower Frye Mesa.
N 32.76014 W 109.81138


pring Canyon water was apparently diverted along upper and lower Frye mesa
to a ponding area. At that point, it appears to have been split into a source for
the Robinson Canal and a spectacular HS Canal counterflow canal routing back
upcanyon to apparently merge with Frye Creek proper. It is not yet proven
whether this is in fact an upper source portion of the Golf Course Canal.
This is the only known example of a canal routing water back into a stream. The
view is to the north.

— 124 . 8 —

Present GIS Mapping of the Hanging Canal System.
N 32.83372 W 109.70286

This mapping has yet to show the Golf Course canal or its relationship with Frye
Creek and the HS Canal proper. Two mapping alternatives are currently being
explored, a more conventional and temporarily better looking GIS format and the
long term more promising and flyable KML format.
Aerial view is of north = up.

— 124 . 9 —

Low Cut Near Northern End of the Golf Course Canal.
N 32.79901 W 109.77736

The Golf Course Canal becomes difficult to trace before vanishing entirely in the
region of the southwesternmost duck pond. Only a pair of somewhat deeper cuts
are readily identifiable, with vague or missing portions elsewhere along the route.
The view is to the west.

— 124 . 10 —

Typical Northern Golf Course Canal Cut.
N 32.79903 W 109.77760


second cut near the northeastern end of the Golf Course Canal. Major portions
of this canal are still largely unknown and unexplored, although it appears to be
one of the more significant constructs. Sheet flooding has apparently made
exploration difficult.
The view is to the west.

— 124 . 11 —

Tour Members View Golf Course Canal Eastern Turn.
N 32.79990 W 109.78019

The "climb" of the Golf Course Canal "up" out of a north-south trending wash
involved major construction effort and is easily traced. At this point, the general
canal direction changes from northerly to easterly at a 4WD track.
Present are Don Lancaster, John Mcintosh, and Marie Freestone. The view is to
the northwest.

— 124 . 12 —

Middle Easily Traced Portion of Henry’s Canal.
N 32.73739 W 109.74150

This canal may have been superseded or replaced by the high Marijilda hanging
route that appears to bypass it. The destination is either the Roper Canal or a
possible field just south of the Roper Canal. The initial diversion from the upper
Marijilda Canal has not been located yet, except for several tantalizing hints.
Present is Phyllis Farenga. The view is to the east.

— 124 . 13 —

Western Jernigan Canal End has Well Defined Use Field.
N 32.84179 W 109.81605


ctual delivery destinations for most of the canals have yet to be determined.
One exception is the Jernigan Canal that clearly routes into a major field area.
There are also occupational structures nearby. Several portions of the Jernigan
Canal remain unknown and unexplored.
The view is to the east.

— 124 . 14 —

.JPG of Preliminary .KML "flyable" Site Map Under Development.
N 32.81911 W 109.80627

Two approaches to mapping the hanging canal systems are being independently
pursued. At present, the GIS method is further developed and is still more visually
attractive. Shown here is a .KML version using Google Earth. The actual .KML
implementation is "flyable" and shows terrain more optimally.
This .JPG image of its .KML original is shown north = up.

— 124 . 15 —

Spectacular High Marijilda Hanging Canal Reach.
N 32.73369 W 109.75521

Early view of one of the more impressive constructs in the entire canal system. In
the process of "climbing" up the mesa, the hanging canal routes a hundred feet
or more above its adjacent drainage. Similar major "climb" illusions can be found
in Deadman Canyon and Robinson Mesa.
The view is to the northeast.

— 124 . 16 —

High Marijilda Canal Includes Spectacular Hanging Portion.
N 32.73675 W 109.75298


ccess to this spectacular hanging canal reach involves some rather rough 4WD
roads. The canal flows from right to left as it routes "up" the mesa. Canals were
apparently used for remote delivery only. There do not seem to be any sites or
artifacts on the mesa tops along the routes. The Whitlock Mountains are shown in
the background.
The view is to the northeast.

— 124 . 17 —

Center Reach of Mud Springs Canal Below SCS Dam.
N 32.77606 W 109.79645

The SCS dam dating from the 1930’s in the background literally runs over the
canal without any accommodation whatsoever. The Mud Springs canal begins in
the Ash Creek drainage some three miles above this image. Most of the route is
quite well defined except for some still unexplored gaps.
The view is to the southwest.

— 124 . 18 —

Northern Known Limit of Mud Springs Canal With Wildflowers.
N 32.84778 W 109.81099


espite numerous visits, no destination fields are known for this canal, which
appears to simply stop at this northernmost explored portion. While a linking to
nearby northern lowland riverine canals would seem possible, the time and effort
of construction would hardly seem to justify the amount of deliverable water.
The view is to the southwest.

— 124 . 19 —

Mud Springs Canal Present Northernmost Known Limit.
N 32.84794 W 109.81105

Tours often start at this point as it is the easiest reachable of the known canal
alignments. While several gaps still exist in the route including its actual Ash
Creek takein point and a "mystery mile" above Mud Springs themselves, the
general path of this six mile canal is unambiguous and well established.
Present are Marie Freestone and Don Lancaster. The view is to the southeast.

— 124 . 20 —

Mud Springs Canal Northernmost Hanging Portion.
N 32.84262 W 109.81054


ortion of the Mud Springs canal just east of West Layton Road exhibits typical
minor hanging characteristics. While the white caliche-like aeolian fill is shared
with the Allen Canal below the dam, it is otherwise uncharacteristic.
Present are Marie Freestone and Don Lancaster. The view is to the north.

— 124 . 21 —

Map of mid Robinson Canal Area.
N 32.77558 W 109.79659

The Robinson Canal was historically adapted from its prehistoric origins to service
a number of cattle tanks west of the Daley Estates area. Its marked similarities to
others in the study attest to its earlier origins. The canal is renamed "Robinson
Ditch" on modern topo maps.
North is up on this aerial map.

— 124 . 22 —

Canal Beginning its "climb" up Robinson Mesa.
N 32.77601 W 109.79656


second location where a canal is literally "hung" along the edges of a steep
sided mesa well above its adjacent drainage. The "down" = "up" illusion seems
particularly apparent. Dead parasitic trees would seem to date from the last of the
historic canal uses.
The view is to the south. Deadman peak is conspicuous along the far horizon.

— 124 . 23 —

Typical Hanging Portion of Robinson Canal. "Up" is "Down".
N 32.77385 W 109.79645

One of the major hanging areas of the canal system. This portion was reworked
during historic times to serve cattle tanks in the Daley Estates area. But, curiously,
very little modern technology seemed to have been used along the major portions
of the route.
The view is to the north.

— 124 . 24 —

Robinson Canal Routing along Flat Mesa Top.
N 32.78005 W 109.79624

Once on top of a mesa, the canals usually have little need for hanging portions
or significant cuts and fills. The top of mesa slopes often seem optimum for canal
routings. Most canals appear to be for long range water delivery. Typically, there
are few artifacts or constructs on the mesas themselves.
The view is to the north.

— 124 . 25 —

Prehistoric Dry Farming Grids North of Gila River.
N 32.92893 W 109.80031

Other regional prehistoric ag features do include these dry farmed agave grids.
There are many thousands of these north of the Gila River, and possibly a few
hundred to the south. They seem to be largely independent of the hanging canals
proper. Also present are aproned check dams, mulch rings, habitation sites, field
houses, and various other rock alignments.
The view is to the north.

— 124 . 26 —

Potential Canal Conflicts with Alternate Sunzia Route
N 32.82477 W 109.79709


secondary alternative to a major transmission line project could well conflict
with many of the hanging canals as shown here. There is also a planned but now
deferred ADOT routing of alternate US 70 bypass that could introduce similar
problems as well.
Aerial view is of north = up.

— 124 . 27 —

Tranquility Canal Shows an Unusual "urban" Siting.
N 32.76459 W 109.72954

The Tranquility Canal is somewhat atypical in that it is shorter, is apparently
artesian sourced, and has obviously been historically reworked. Portions include a
puddled and crude aggregate concrete lining, while other areas appear totally
typical of prehistoric constructs.
The view is to the south.

— 124 . 28 —

Reach of Tranquility Canal Having Obvious Historic Rework.
N 32.76486 W 109.72953

Two parallel routings, one historic and one prehistoric are suggested in the
vicinity of Anne’s Ranch Road. While most reaches of most of the hanging canals
route over federal or state land jurisdictions, the Tranquility Canal traverses many
small private inholdings. Tranquility comes amazingly close to the Twin East
canal, separated only by a significant cliff and elevation difference.
The view is to the north.

— 124 . 29 —

Twin Boobs Ponding Area Before the City of Safford Trashing.
N 32.76621 W 109.73597

Earlier view of the Twin Boobs Ponding area before construction of the Safford
Water access road. This project appeared to completely ignore major prehistoric
and CCC constructs.
The aerial view is north = up.

— 124 . 30 —

Twin Boobs Ponding Area After Safford City Trashing.
N 32.76604 W 109.73598


nawareness of the significance of the hanging canals led to this paved access
road being constructed directly across the ponding area. This region is unusual
because it is far and away the most obvious on acme mapper and that it seems to
have two independent feeder canals of Twin East and Twin West.
Arial view is of north = up.

— 124 . 31 —

Typical Single Wall of the Twin Boobs Ponding Area.
N 32.76535 W 109.73410

Note the mature barrel cactus in the background, which would seem to exclude
any CCC or more recent origins. There are numerous ag related constructs in the
immediate area. Most of the actual canal delivery areas are largely devoid of any
artifacts, structures, or alignments.
The view is to the southeast.

— 124 . 32 —

Unknown Use Mud Springs "Troll House" Seems Canal Related.
N 32.82539 W 109.82279

Very few structures or even artifacts are associated with most hanging canal
routings, making this pithouse like structure extremely atypical. The structure is
intimately associated with the Mud Springs canal and is literally level and within
two feet of the canal proper. Curiously, there is no evidence of charcoal or other
fire use, and the exact age and purpose remains undetermined.
The view is to the northwest.

— 124 . 33 —