As you walk around Marana, it’s easy to get lost in a feeling of newness. All of our streets offer smooth surfaces, and many feel like they were paved just yesterday. The premium outlets at Marana Center still have that fresh, new mall scent. The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain gleams in the warm desert sun.
Don’t get lost in all this novelty though. Marana’s got some history to it, too. Centuries of it! When you Discover Marana, you’ll discover not only cutting edge attractions, but also well-preserved relics of the past.
One thing you’re sure to appreciate about Marana’s history is how accessible it all is. No need to dig deep underground for our ancient past, it’s all right up at the surface. Even better is that you can find comfortable, affordable lodging, right in the thick of it all. Marana has a dozen hotels and motels conveniently situated near some of the Town’s most fascinating historical sites. Read on to learn how Marana’s past lives on today—and where you can see it for yourself.
Ancient Petroglyphs in Wild Burro Canyon
Not much is known about the Hohokam people who once lived in the Wild Burro Canyon, but much of what we do know derives from petroglyphs, faded etchings arduously scratched onto rock. The art conveyed in these images speaks to the perseverance of these Native Americans.
For hundreds of years, the Hohokam tilled extensive agave fields on the slopes of the Tortolitas. By creating small dams out of carefully placed rocks, these farmers were able to retain every precious drop of water. Meanwhile, their hunters would patiently wait for just the right moment to capture the prey that would feed their families. During that waiting, crouched in the shade of massive boulder, it’s easy to imagine a patient hunter leaving behind these wonderful images.
No one knows exactly what happened to the Hohokam people. Many trace their lineage to the present-day Tohono O’odham Nation, which lies not far from Marana. What is known, though, is their iconic art that has survived into modern times, such as this image left on a rock in the Wild Burro Canyon. Keep your eyes peeled as you hike along these trails. There is art all around.
For some, hiking the Wild Burro Canyon is only a prelude to the opportunity for some of the best preserved petroglyphs in all of Southern Arizona. And since you’ve already done your hiking for today, we’ll give you a break, because you can drive right up to these images. Take a scenic tour through Saguaro National Park on Picture Rocks Road and Golden Gate Road. Along Golden Gate, there’s a spur leading up to Signal Hill. At the top of this small peak is a veritable wealth of ancient icons. Plan to stay a while, because you won’t be able to tear your eyes from these fascinating images.
Juan Bautista de Anza Trail and Encampment at El Rio Park
According to Google Maps, it takes 14 hours to get from Tubac, Arizona to San Francisco, California. That’s a really long drive. You can listen to Adele’s new album at least 17 times on that drive. I mean, not that anyone would ever do that. Not that I’ve done that. I digress.
You know what’s even longer than that? Walking to San Francisco from Tubac. Google says? 300 hours. Juan Bautista de Anza didn’t have Google Maps when he led his expedition of 200 men, women, and children across the desert to found El Presidio de San Francisco, and it turns out, he didn’t need it. Five months after starting out from Tubac in October 1775, Captain de Anza and his ragged followers arrived in San Francisco. Along the way, in the first leg of their journey, they spent several days traveling through Marana, and you can visit a few of those sites today.
For example, check out El Rio Park. This small community space looks out over a seasonal pond affectionately called by some “Marana Lake.” During monsoon season, this basin will often fill with water, making this site a popular destination for migratory birds, thirsty mammals, and yes, a certain convoy of Spanish travelers. Sheltered by the steep walls of the northern Tucson Mountains, this riparian ecosystem now attracts disc golfers, birders, and cyclists. The park currently marks the northernmost point of the Loop, a network of interconnected paths that offers walkers, runners, and cyclists more than 100 miles of car-free roadway.
Every year, the long-running Fiesta de los Vaqueros attracts thousands of spectators, but you don’t have to wait until February to enjoy a taste of rodeo. Wentz Point hosts rodeo events throughout the year, and you won’t regret coming out for one of these fun-filled afternoons.
Wentz Point offers a setting where visitors can rub elbows with some of the best calf ropers, barrel racers, and bull riders in Arizona. On the third Tuesday of every month, Wentz Point even hosts a formal competition where you can watch some of the best show off their skills. Did you pack your boots? For the youngsters, there’s also mutton bustin’, a popular Marana pastime in which children hold on while a sheep bucks beneath them. Don’t worry, though—experienced handlers are at the ready to catch these aspiring cowboys and cowgirls before they even touch the ground.
It’s easy to forget how much history lies behind a Town like Marana. Sure, our buildings don’t date back to colonial days, but that’s because we offer a different kind of history. We celebrate Native Americans from hundreds of years ago. We remember the Spanish settlers who migrated across an impossibly long distance to settle one of the largest cities in the West. We continue to gather around a sport that defined this community a century ago, and still entertains us today.
To experience all this and more, book your stay today in one of our convenient and accommodating hotels. Marana is home to twelve options within a short drive of I-10, which means quick access to all these windows into the past. History in Marana isn’t locked away in a museum. It’s out in the brilliant sunshine, waiting for you to experience it for yourself. Book your stay today.