The Monument contains evidence from campsites to villages occupied by ancient hunter-gatherers, the Hohokam, and the Tohono O’odham. There also are remnants of a small mission constructed in the late 1700s by Tohono O’odham laborers for Spanish Franciscan friars, and remnants of mining camps and cemeteries dating to the 1800s. There are three historic properties that have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. They are the Los Robles Archaeological District, Cocoraque Butte Archaeological District, and the Santa Ana de Cuiquiburitac Mission site. Surveys within the IFNM have recorded 343 archaeological and historical sites, but the survey data suggests that there may be as many as 3,000 sites. Evidence of the Hohokam people dominates the archaeological record, with sites that include trash mounds, roasting pits, petroglyphs and numerous types of artifacts. The abundance of historical sites and artifacts is another reason for the preservation of IFNM, and it also provides further opportunities for education.

Establishment of the Ironwood National Monument

by John F. Wiens, courtesy of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
ASDM News, April May June 2017

Historical Documents of Interest

Proposal in Support of the Ironwood Preserve, March 2000
Proposal for the Establishment of the Morris K Udall Ironwood Forest – Upland Corridor National Monument,  April 2000
Pre Plan Analysis for the Ironwood Forest National Monument, February 2001
Old Pueblo Archeology, February 2015
Natural History Synopsis

Accomplishments and Awards

A sea of California poppies blanket the hill side in spring at Ironwood Forest National Monument. Photo BLM.

A sea of California poppies blanket the hill side in spring at Ironwood Forest National Monument. Photo BLM.

  • 2010 Bureau of Land Management Making A Difference National Volunteer Award for our work to eradicate buffelgrass from the Waterman Mountains.
  • 2010 Landscape Stewardship Award from the national Public Lands Foundation’s for our work to eradicate buffelgrass from the Monument.
  • Labor donated by volunteers and organized by the Friends was leveraged for an additional $59,000 in FY2009 through the federal Challenge Cost Share program.
  • Recruited volunteers and organized projects resulting in over 400 volunteer hours in FY2010 and over 700 volunteer hours on the Monument in FY2011.
  • Organized a Monument tour for scientists participating in the Saguaro National Park Bio Blitz.

Our programs focus on accomplishing targeted conservation service projects, educating the public and Monument visitors about the natural and cultural resources, seeking out partnerships with other organizations, and serving as a strong advocate for protecting the Monument.

Archaeology Resources

The cultural resources located within Ironwood Forest National Monument represent approximately 8,000 years of human history.

Petroglyphs of three Big Horn Sheep tell the story of people who lived on the Monument long ago.

Petroglyphs of three Big Horn Sheep tell the story of people who lived on the Monument long ago.

They include campsites used by Archaic hunter-gathers about 6,000 B.C., villages, hamlets, and agricultural fields where Hohokam farmers lived and cultivated corn, beans, and squash between A.D. 300 and A.D. 1450; sites where proto historic and historic Tohono O’Odham Indians, who are believed to be descendants of the Hohokam, camped, farmed and harvested domesticated and wild plant crops; a small mission/visita constructed in the late 1700s by Tohono O’Odham laborers for Spanish Franciscan friars; and remnants of historic mining camps and cemeteries dating to the 1880s. (Bureau of Land Management, 2001)

National Register of Historic Places

Three areas within the Ironwood Forest National Monument have been recognized as having special significance, prior to the designation of the area as a National Monument. These sites include the Los Robles Archaeological District, the Cocoraque Butte Archaeological District, and the Santa Ana de Cuiquiburitac Mission Site.

As with all archeological and historical resources, they are Monument objects and are protected by federal law. Do not touch, move, disturb or in any way alter the appearance or state of any of these irreplaceable treasures.

The mission located within Ironwood Forest National Monument, Santa Ana de Cuiquiburitac, was closely tied to the missions at San Xavier del Bac and Tumacacori. However, the location of Ciquiburitac is barely discernable, save a few stones marking the outline of its foundation. For a more historical perspective of this mission, the Friends received permission to publish parts of the following article.

Santa Ana de Cuiquiburitac: Pimeria Alta’s Northernmost Mission – Bernard L. Fontana

Originally published in the Journal of the Southwest, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 1987, Copyright by the Arizona Board of Regents. Edited by Joseph C. Wilder.

Selected sections in the article reprinted with permission from Journal of the Southwest, University of Arizona Press, The Southwest Center, Tucson.
Young Cage showing kids archeological artifacts on behalf Ironwood Forest National Monument

Young Cage at Friends of Ironwood Forests’ booth, teaching students about archaeological artifacts at the 2012 Bio Blitz.

Archaeology of the Ironwood Forest National Monument and the surrounding Tucson Basin

Archaeology Activity Handbook for Teachers

An introduction for teachers and parents of young children. Includes games and activities.
How to use this guide

This guide is a very basic introduction to the study of archaeology for young people, ages 6 to 16. It exposes students to several ways to better understand the things people in the past left behind, and thus the people themselves.


  • Historic Timeline & Study of the Stratigraphic Periods
  • Classroom & Home Activities
  • Pottery and Shell Designs & Symbols
  • References & Recommended Reading

Two-page Activity on Stratigraphic Periods


A Flood Of Memories On An Arid Homestead 

Sally Lord (middle) and her sisters on the Lord Ranch on today's Ironwood Forest National Monument. See story in Spring 2013 newsletter.

Sally Lord (middle) and her sisters on the Lord Ranch on today’s Ironwood Forest National Monument. See story in Spring 2013 newsletter.

She’s rangy and straight and she moves in easy strides across the land—an ease born of familiarity.  Sally Lord’s eyes come to rest on a rusted pipe rising from the hard, unforgiving earth:  “The kitchen was here.”

There’s not much there now—a few aged timbers, some corrugated metal roofing, the stripped and rusted remains of a ‘30s sedan shot full of holes where gunners could find little else on the desolate landscape at which to aim.

She was born on this land not too long after it was brought out of the public domain by her father.  The Stock-Raising Homestead Act of 1916, promulgated to develop grazing on unproductive public land, had made it possible for the head of a household to lay claim to a full section (640 acres—a square mile) for livestock ranching by living on it and improving it over a set period.  (The act was one of a handful of so-called Homestead laws—starting with the Homestead Act of 1862, signed by Lincoln after the beginning of the Civil War and, most-notably, after Southern landowners who had blocked the notion no longer were in Congress to do so.  By 1976, when Homesteading was discontinued in the lower 48 states, about 10 per cent of the total acreage of those states had moved from public land to private hands under the Homestead programs).

So the Lord Ranch came to be—and it started, not only in the halls of Congress, but also in a local tavern.  Sally Lord, whose memory is crystalline, says that her father, Lyn Lord, met three men in bar, as many stories and jokes begin.  These particular men were brothers, from Texas, named Sumerall or Sumrall or Somerall or some other variation.  The brothers were running a substantial herd of angora goats in the Sonoran Desert for their mohair.  They convinced Sally’s father to Homestead a section on the other side of one of the mountains from their land and what is now designated as the Lord Ranch sits in the shadow of the Waterman and Pan Quemado Mountains.

Their combined herd reached 1,200 head at one point and she recalls the process of bringing in the goats for shearing. After the bi-annual shearing, the mohair was loaded into a truck and sent to Winkelman for marketing. (Winkelman, it appears, once was a hotbed for mohair.  The Prescott Evening Courier of September 18, 1941, reported that, according to the Arizona Mohair Growers Association, the prior day’s mohair sale in Winkelman had moved 90,000 pounds of hair to a buyer from Boston.  Who knew?)

Along the way, in 1938, Sally joined her much older brothers and sisters (eventually there were to be three brothers and six sisters) on the electricity-free, luxury-free Lord Ranch where the roads were bad, the well was hand dug and playtime was a frilly notion.

At some point, the Lords switched over from goats to cattle and chickens, and leased grazing land brought the operating ranch, at its height, to more that 15,000 acres.  But, generally life went on day to day as it did on farms everywhere.  Her mother, Eudachia Lord, died of cancer at 42 and Sally remembers one of her sisters taking over raising those that needed raising, her brothers having left the farm to join the service in World War II.  And everyone pulled their share—there never were hired hands.

She also remembers moving into Tucson with her grandparents for first and second grades (kindergarten was a foreign idea, much less pre-school), but she moved back to the ranch in later school years and recalls leaving the house at 5 am to get to school at 9 am.

Standing on the land again, memories come and go like old friends—mountain lions in the Watermans and bighorn sheep mixed in with the goat herd—her first movie (“Buffalo Bill” starring Joel McCrea and a young Maureen O’Hara, released in 1944) shown at the El Paso Gas pump station where movies were shown outdoors for free on a temporary screen put up on Friday nights.

Eventually, Sally left the land and found her way to University of Arizona on scholarship, but only for a year.  “I married an engineer (a graduating senior) and moved to San Diego where he got a job building roads.”

But she has returned, now living in a rancher instead of on a ranch.  Lord’s Ranch, no less hard and desolate than ever, is back in the hands of the public, an in-holding in Ironwood Forest National Monument that was purchased by Pima County as part of the county’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

And while their stations have changed—hers and that of the land on which she was raised—she looks at her life and the land with satisfaction.  “I never felt that I wanted to be like someone else,” she says.  And she isn’t.

The Silverbell Cemetery is all that remains of the town of Silverbell.

The Silver Bell Cemetery is all that remains of the town of Silver Bell.