Earth Notes: Walnut Creek Station

Nov 8, 2017

For centuries, Walnut Creek was home to Hualapai Indians, who lived there when Lieutenant Amiel Whipple and his military expedition passed through in 1853.

Walnut Creek station
Credit Diane Hope

But the Bradshaw Mountain gold strike of 1863 changed Walnut Creek—and central Arizona—forever. That strike unleashed a stream of prospectors and settlers. They traveled up the Colorado River on steamboats, disembarked near present-day Bullhead City, and continued by road along the creek to Prescott and beyond.

The route became so important that a toll road was commissioned with fees collected at what became known as Camp Tollgate. The army built a fort there, and cultivated all tillable land to feed personnel.  The little valley became famous for its garden produce.

In 1908 the U.S. Forest Service bought property just west of the former fort and established the Walnut Creek Ranger Station. In 1931, a Craftsman-style bungalow and barn were built. The buildings—now on the National Register of Historic Places and within the Prescott National Forest—retain the exact look and feel of that Depression-Era architecture.

Today, the facility houses the Walnut Creek Center for Education and Research, run by Prescott College, the Arboretum at Flagstaff, and Northern Arizona University. The station hosts field courses and a Southwestern Experimental Garden Array—where plant genotypes are studied to see which will be best suited for a future of changing climate.