Then and Now in Cave Creek Canyon

Below is the next set of paired photographs spanning 90-100 years from Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona.  The top photograph is a view of the entrance to cave creek canyon taken in the 1920's by the McCulloch Brothers.  While the lower photograph was taken September 22, 2011.  The location was the road fork where Portal Rd splits into Forest Service Rd 42 and 42B (the road to Paradise).  The time of day differs between the 2 photographs, since the light suggests the 1920's view was taken in the afternoon while the current photograph was taken in the morning.  Hence there is little light on the east side of the canyon in the modern photograph.

Notice the closely cropped vegetation in the 1920's photograph while the modern photograph shows an abundance of  high grasses and shrubs.

Photograph of the Chiricahua Mountains in Cochise County (Ariz.)

Photograph of the Chiricahua Mountains in Cochise County (Ariz.), courtesy of  the History and Archives Division, Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, obtained from http://azmemory.lib.az.us/"
Replicate view of Cave Creek Canyon taken September 22, 2011


  1. Nice comparison, Bruce. The upper photo shows the effects of overgrazing of the grasses, which was very prevalent in the 1920s and for several decades prior to that. Not much brush invasion yet, but the lower photo shows the increase in woody vegetation that came after overgrazing suppressed the regular grass fires that used to burn in the area. Fires killed the shrubs but stimulated grass growth. By the turn of the last century both fire and grasses were in short supply in the Portal area leading to long-term vegetation change. The mesquites we see so prevalently now were much rarer 100 years ago. --Paul Hirt

  2. Thank you for the information. I did not mention overgrazing specifically having no reference but have read about the San Simon Cattle and Canal Company and their land use strategies.