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Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

Santa Catalinas Mountains Sky Island

The Santa Catalina Mountains earns its name as a “sky island“ since it juts out in the middle of the Sonoran desert. Named by Father Kino in 1697, it is now part of the Coronado National Park, Oracle and Catalina State Parks.

Santa Catalina Mountains, Tucson, Arizona

The Santa Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson, Arizona have a looming and ominous presence. They are a undeniable landmark to the north of Tucson– seen for miles in all directions. Their peaceful sentry, however, hides some deep mysteries that continue to lure the adventurous.

The mountains rise north of Tucson and stretch across the entire cityscape. The peak, near Mt. Lemmon, reaches over 9,000 feet above sea level. Within the mountain range are Ventaña Canyon, Pusch Ridge, Samaniego Ridge, Oracle Ridge and Mt. Lemmon. A twenty-degree difference in temperature separates Tucson on the desert floor from the village of Summerhaven on top of Mt. Lemmon.

Thousands of people have lived, and worked, in the Santa Catalina mountains for thousands of years. The history of the mountains is displayed in Indian carvings still found on boulders and stories told by prospectors who explored the canyons and valleys.

Today, hikers still find remnants of a history long forgotten– old mining tunnels, abandoned equipment, artifacts and stone ruins. Modern prospectors still hunch over the winding creeks with hopes to pan some gold nuggets.

The daunting mountains may seem serene, but there is a lot of history, and many legends, to uncover.