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Earth Notes: Crescent Moon Ranch

Jeremy Haines, USFS

Crescent Moon Ranch beside Arizona’s Oak Creek has gone through many phases since it was first established.  

The ranch sits at the base of Cathedral Rocks south of Sedona.  It was first homesteaded by Prescott cattleman John Lee in 1880, and was originally called OK Ranch. Lee put in an irrigation ditch, garden, and orchard, but he soon left.

Since then, the ranch has changed hands—and been repurposed—several times.

It became the home of the Schuerman and Dumas families who raised children and built a school there. The orchard was turned into a thriving part of Oak Creek’s renowned produce-growing community, supplying apples and peaches to Jerome and Flagstaff. 

With the main Jerome-to-Sedona road passing right through, then-Dumas Ranch became a social hub of dancing and dining.

Verde Valley entrepreneur Andrew Baldwin bought the property in 1936 and rechristened it Palo Bonito. The Baldwins built a unique ranch house and 12-foot-diameter water wheel to pump water and provide electricity. Their famous peaches won prizes at the county fair.

But by the late 1970s, tourism had replaced agriculture as Sedona’s cash crop - and the ranch was for sale again. The U.S. Forest Service and Trust for Public Lands acquired it in 1980.

Crescent Moon Ranch was added to the National Register of Historic Places in April this year—the first such designation by the Coconino National Forest in more than 20 years. 

Now visitors can swim, hike and picnic there—or rent the old ranch house for a night—in this newest of Crescent Moon’s many phases.

Diane Hope, Ph.D., is a former ecologist and environmental scientist turned audio producer, sound recordist and writer. Originally from northern England, she has spent much of the last 25 years in Arizona and has been contributing scripts to Earth Notes for 15 years.
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