The Great Wall of the Tumacacori Mountains

Note: Ron Quinn passed away on August 30, 2016. His story, however, lives on. Read more chapters from Ron’s book, “Searching for Arizona’s Buried Treasures” and purchase online at Amazon.

See sample photos of the wall in Ron’s book on pages 106-111.

What we discovered during early 1957 still remains shadowed in mystery. It was an odd shaped stone wall we came upon by accident high atop the Tumacacori Mountainss. It was not a Hohokam Indian Wall, which are quite numerous in Southern Arizona.

We happened upon the structure while searching for a hidden cave once used by the notorious Apaches during the 1880s. The cave is alleged to contain rifles, handguns, ammo and saddles, decorated with silver. A very impressive find if located. The cave is supposedly located near high cliffs, of which there are many, on the eastern side of these mountains.

This region is extremely hazardous, especially during the summers. Temperatures can reach 110° or more, as we discovered during our first summer on the desert. Hot winds whistle among the boulders and seem to come from the furnaces of hell itself. Luckily we’d be searching during winter months.

This story was told by Roy’s friend, Breezy, owner of the old Tubac Inn. After hearing this story we decided to move camp and begin searching for the elusive cave. After seeing the rugged area, one can understand why it’s never been found.
After weeks of climbing ridges, cliffs and deep rocky canyons infested with snakes, we found no trace of the treasure cave. However, several caves were discovered which turned out to be “javalina dens,” home to the wild boars of the desert that can be quite ill tempered at times.

Of course, our hunt for the cave was unsuccessful, if in fact it ever existed. We enjoyed this hunt and there was always the chance we’d stumble upon something else while exploring. We found a “big one” the following day.

While hiking through this sun baked country, Chuck and Roy happened upon a large overhanging rock and called me over. The ground beneath was littered with bits of flint and many broken arrowheads. This definitely had been where Indians once made these fine pieces of workmanship. Gathering some of the best we moved on, and into a mystery that plagues us to this day.

Later while climbing a high lonely ridge near Sardina Peak, a lofty mountain which dominates the northern boundaries of these unfriendly hills, we came upon a wall—a very mysterious stone wall. The structure where it begins was only a foot in height. But, the wall slowly increases in size as it winds across the summit for almost a third of a mile. It ends near several boulders, where it measures nearly five feet high.

Gazing at this monumental piece of engineering, one could see no purpose for its existence. Midway along its twisting route there’s an odd half moon circle, formed by the wall. It would be many years before we discovered its alleged meaning.

I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but while in the presence of this wall, you have a strange feeling you’re not welcome. This could have been brought about by the eeriness of the location. The wall is built well, and many months of labor must have gone into its completion, perhaps centuries ago. After exploring and trying to determine why the thing was ever built, we had lunch beside some boulders. Later we took pictures and returned to camp.

One day Louie Romero rode in. We asked what he knew of the wall.

Looking at us with a wide grin, he said, “What have you been drinking? There is no wall up there.” This was strange as he was raised here and knew the land like the back of his hand. However, he might have missed it, as he only rides the low rolling hills most of the time, not the rugged ridges where cattle seldom venture.

Luckily we had been to Tucson and had the film developed. After viewing the pictures, Louie said, “I have never seen this wall or heard of it.” This only deepened the mystery.

During 1985 I met, Bill Conley, another treasure hunter. Over the months we became close friends and made frequent trips into the surrounding mountains. During one I happened to mention the wall. Bill was curious to visit the site, so plans were made.
A few days later, after an hour’s climb and crawling through catsclaw which tears at you without mercy, we arrived at the wall. After seeing the unique structure once again it brought back pleasant memories of the adventurous times we spent among these harsh hills.

Bill was fascinated by the wall, and he also couldn’t imagine why it was built. He brought his camcorder and taped some 15 minutes of the monument showing various portions of the strange oddity. Bill also couldn’t understand why it slowly increased in size. Using ones imagination, the wall almost resembles a giant snake stretched out across the summit with the small section being its tail, and the largest its head.

When first discovered in ’57, I had Chuck take a picture of me beside the wall. I asked Bill to duplicate the picture and pointed toward the ledge where Chuck had taken it. A few hours later we descended to Bill’s 4 x 4 and returned home.
Unbeknown to us at the time, another mystery was to unfold concerning this discovery. When I compared both pictures, the ’57 photo and our recent one, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I called Bill, saying I’d be right over as there was something he must see.

He also saw the difference. A large portion of the wall had been “moved.” A section had mysteriously been straightened out. Almost 20 feet was moved further north. In our recent picture this is quite obvious. The wall is also much wider. A boulder, near me and above, was against the wall. Now you could walk between both. I hadn’t noticed these changes until viewing the photos, as memories do fade over the years, but pictures don’t lie.

It was difficult to fathom who or what would undertake such an enormous task, moving tons of stones out in the middle of nowhere, just to straighten a section out. Also, when did this transformation occur? Other portions could have been moved, but not having pictures to compare, this would be almost impossible to determine. What we had was a second mystery. But soon, another would follow.

Months later I happened to meet a gentleman from Sedona, Arizona, by the name of Anderson. He also was interested in Southwestern legends. So, I mentioned our wall with the half moon circle. He looked at me in amazement and said quite loudly, “Do you realize what you have found?” His explanation would only deepen this mystery.
I was informed we had discovered the legendary “Healing Wall,” once used by the ancient Indians. The half moon circle was the altar and many miracles were performed there. In all our travels we had never heard of this legend, and we heard them all. Not even from old Indians we had known had we heard this story, perhaps they knew but kept it a secret.

On a topo map of the region, I pointed out the wall’s location, but due to Anderson’s age, I doubt he ever attempted the long grueling climb to the site.

The Tucson Citizen, a local newspaper, found the story interesting enough to publish an article about the wall. During the interview I never mentioned its location. I didn’t want any weird cults invading the site, thinking the ancient wall was somehow magical. Several of my friends believe it is. As far as I was concerned, no graffiti or unruly crowds were going to slowly destroy this site, as so many in the past have been. Quoting a paragraph from the article:
“University of Arizona researchers, who have not visited the site, say it is unlikely to have any connection with prehistoric Hohokam Trincheras walls and terraces that dot hillsides in Southern Arizona and northern Sonora.”
The vicinity where this mysterious structure is located is quite remote. Not many venture into this desert domain. The area is also known for its legends of treasures and other strange mysteries. We investigated many during our years roaming the southern portion of Arizona.

If you ever decide to explore this hazardous country, be aware of all I have said. These haunting hills are unforgiving, and have changed very little since the sandal-footed padres first stepped into the valley. As for the wall, it still stands there, high above the valley floor on that windswept ridge. Its secrets, if any, are guarded by the lofty peaks that look down in silence. Who rebuilt it and for what purpose remains a mystery. Anderson might have been correct when he said ancient shamans once practiced magic there. If this is right, it could explain the feeling of being unwelcome. Perhaps we were standing on sacred ground.

If I visit the site again and discover the wall back in its original position, my belief in the paranormal will greatly increase. People living within the shadows of these ghostly mountains have no idea of the secrets they hold. The wall is just one of many.

From: THE STONE WALL, Southern Arizona Trails, Vol. 2, No. 15, November 11, 1986, page 7 and THE MYSTERIOUS STONE WALL
Southern Arizona Trails, Vol. November 3, 1987, page 23

We heard another interesting tale concerning a “stone wall” located somewhere on the ridges which fan out on the eastern slopes of the Tumacacori Mountains. After discovering the chamber within Cerro Pelón, we moved camp further south and began our search for this elusive wall.

When the Indian Wars were going hot and heavy, hostiles would jump the reservation, kill and burn, then hide their weapons before again surrendering to the cavalry.

These arms consisted of rifles, handguns, ammunition and other items stolen during their raids.

All this was concealed in a small cave located above a stone wall that was built along the spiny back of a ridge on the east side of these mountains.

After spending several months on the reservation, the hostiles soon got itchy feet and would leave during the night. They headed right for their hidden arsenal and would start raiding again, but not before concealing the entrance with rocks and brush.

Our partner, Roy, knew the proprietor of the Tubac Inn and from him heard another tale about some Mexican gentlemen who discovered a cache of rifles in the area, which is directly west of Tubac. The story goes they were on foot and during their long hike out, discarded many of the old rifles because they were trying to carry too many.

Their discovery was made near the flats below the mountains and not in the vicinity of the stone wall. If this tale is true, I doubt if it was the cache hidden by the Indians. I was told there were several Mexican saddles decorated in silver that were among the weapons. If this was the case, I’m quite certain these men would have taken them and left the rifles behind.

After two days of climbing and searching, we finally came upon the wall, and here we have another mystery. Who built it and why?
I have seen walls similar to this built on the flats and gentle rolling hills, but never along the top of a rocky ridge for no apparent reason.

It starts right at the edge of the ridge and snakes its way back toward the mountains for almost 3⁄4 of a mile before terminating below some high cliffs near Sardina Peak.

In all our years of exploring the mountains and deserts of Arizona, this is the only place I cannot pinpoint on a map, but I know the general area.

The only excuse I have is that we found it 29 [now 53] years ago and the exact spot is a little vague. It’s either located just south of the road that lead to Cerro Pelón or the next ranch road about a mile further south.

My guess is it was the Cerro Pelón road and the ridge is just southwest of it. Checking my topo map, Tubac quadrangle 15-minute
series, I believe the wall is located in Township 15, which is just northeast of Sardina Peak. There is an elevation number (4102) on the small peak, and I’m reasonably sure the stone wall begins at this point.
I’m also certain that during our track toward the ridge, one could see a portion of the wall by using binoculars.
The wall is from three to four feet in height, and several feet wide and changes in size as you follow it along. It terminates between two large outcroppings of rock and is quite large at this point.

We had lunch in the shade of some boulders, and none of us could determine why such an enormous task was undertaken.

We came up with several reasons why it would be built on the flats, but not on a ridge where even cattle would find it difficult to find footing.

There were many large cracks in the high cliffs above where rifles, etc., could be concealed, but nothing was found. We checked the face of the cliffs very carefully for anything that looked out of place and not natural but again found nothing that resembled a hidden entrance.

After many hours of climbing and exploring, we abandoned the search and returned to camp below, just as the sun began to set behind the western escarpment and the long shadows of the peaks began to creep outward across the land.

Note: Ron Quinn passed away on August 30, 2016. His story, however, lives on. Read more chapters from Ron’s book, “Searching for Arizona’s Buried Treasures” and purchase online at Amazon.

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