Earth Notes: The Slide Rock Orchard's Family Legacy

Sep 7, 2016

Most people know Slide Rock in Oak Creek Canyon as a popular swimming hole. But for Kathy Pendley Shaw, Arizona’s water-blessed oasis is steeped in her family’s history.  

Falls Brand Fruit Label
Credit Kathy Pendley Shaw

Her grandfather, Frank Pendley, came to Oak Creek in 1907. Finding fertile soil and plentiful water, he planted a hundred fruit trees. He lifted water to them via an innovative irrigation system featuring tunnels and a flume anchored on the sandstone walls. Before he got the irrigation ditches in, Frank watered with buckets.

With wife Jane, he built a home and they raised nine children. As the business grew, Frank added a cold storage building and packing shed, marketing his produce to Flagstaff, Williams, and Winslow under the name “Falls Brand Fruit.”

Son Tom took over the business and changed the name to Slide Rock Apples. Fifteen heirloom apple varieties, along with peaches, pears, and apricots, were grown.

One night temperatures dropped to 17 degrees, destroying the fragile blossoms. But in a good year, says Kathy, the orchard would yield 8,000 bushels.

In 1985, Slide Rock became part of the Arizona state park system. Today, you can walk to the Pendley Homestead, and thanks to the help of volunteers, sample those delicious apples. Their tantalizing taste tells of a pioneer who created a thriving orchard that’s lasted more than a century.