Battleground Ridge

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4.8/5 (7 reviews)
Payson, Arizona (Coconino County)
Last Updated: 12/23/2022

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In 1882, White Mountain Apache warriors, led by Na-tio-tish, got into an altercation with and killed several policemen in San Carlos, Arizona. Eighty warriors, chased by U.S. cavalry, crossed the Tonto Basin and climbed onto the Mogollon Rim. They laid a trap for the pursuing cavalry on a rugged side canyon of East Clear Creek. The cavalry's scout ferreted out the trap. The fight raged for an afternoon until a severe afternoon thunderstorm halted hostilities. The warriors escaped in the night and returned to the reservation, leaving behind 20 dead Apaches, with two dead and six wounded among the cavalry troops. Nearly lost to history, today, a lonely marker stands on the site, and the entire area is called Battleground Ridge. Battleground Ridge, also known as FR 123, is a distinctive trail for two reasons. First is the obvious connection to the obscure bloody battle fought here. Secondly, an aqueduct that pumps water from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir down to Payson runs along a portion of the trail. You can see the roadside access points; round metal covers every hundred yards along the trail. A small power line brings electricity to the pump station near Waypoint 10. But take a step away from both the history and the modern, and you overwhelmingly sense the remoteness of this place deep in the uplifted country of the Mogollon Rim. The wind, as it always has, sings through the upper branches of the tall Ponderosa Pines. Elk bugle on the ridges and down in the deep canyons. Flocks of shy wild turkeys scratch the forest floor for a meal. Gazing across the deep canyon at the trail's end to the distant forest-blanketed ridgelines of this wild landscape, both the past and present seem very far away.

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