Fall has arrived in northern Arizona and one of the great places to visit during the autumn season is Hart Prairie near Flagstaff. Here is a story about visiting Hart Prairie we wrote in 2013. Contact the folks of Hart Prairie to learn of this year's fall tours.
It’s September and for those of us living in the Valley of the Sun the hope that cooler weather will soon return to our Sonoran Desert homes is often at the forefront of our minds. But by mid-September, ol’ Jack Frost has already been at work with his autumn colors in the high country of Arizona and no place does autumn better than the Quaking Aspen groves of the Hart Prairie Preserve. Located just north of Flagstaff at an elevation of 8,500’, Hart Prairie is where desert dwellers can rediscover and enjoy the amazing colors of fall.
It was the late 1870s when a group of German immigrants with family names like Michelbach, Hochderffer and Freudenberger came to homestead this land dominated by the majestic peaks of these ancient volcanoes. They found beautiful mountain meadows and believed them to be ideal for raising sheep and growing potatoes. Deer were so common in the nearby forest that they called this spacious land Hart Prairie which in their German language meant “deer prairie”.
One settler, Gus Dillman Freudenberger was also a blacksmith and soon built a set of cabins on his land. Since the good folks of Flagstaff had a hard time saying his last name, he dropped that name and just became Gus Dillman.
By 1892 the Dillman Homestead began to serve as a stage stop for a newly opened stage route that was now carrying tourists the 75 miles from the railroad depot in Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The Dillman Homestead, some 20-miles from Flagstaff, was and ideal place to change the team of horses, find water and have any repairs made. When two consecutive early winters ruined the potato harvests, most of the early German families had to abandon their mountain meadow homes, but Gus Dillman stayed.
Today the Dillman Homestead is the centerpiece of the 245-acre Hart Prairie Preserve. Now owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy this land continues to be unique for its uncommon wildflowers, old growth ponderosa pines as well as the largest known grove of the rare Bebb willow in the world.
Herds of elk and deer still graze in the large meadows which are also home to porcupines, prairie dogs and more than 40 species of birds. In addition the many large stands of Quaking Aspen trees turn this beautiful and unique landscape into a spectacular autumn palette of golden colors.
The Hart Prairie Preserve is closed to the general public most days although retreat facilities are available with proper reservations. But through October 7th, a free, guided 90-minute nature walk will be offered each Sunday beginning at 10:00 a.m.
So if you are looking for some cool weather right now as well as some dazzling fall colors, then get out and travel to Flagstaff. Join up with the guides from the Nature Conservancy and get ready to be “wowed” by one of Arizona’s really extraordinary places – Hart Prairie!
Link - northamerica/unitedstates/arizona/placesweprotect/hart-prairie-preserve.xml