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Get exercise and a lesson in history on the Romero Ruins trail

Cross the Sutherland Wash
Cross the Sutherland Wash
Kim Kloes

Catalina State Park has an actively used trail that leads to Romero Ruins. It’s perfect for those who want a warm up hike, if you’re hiking with children or if you want to explore the ancient past.

This way!
Kim Kloes

There is evidence that the area has been continuously inhabited since 5000 B.C. On a ridge overlooking the Sutherland Wash at the base of Santa Catalina Mountains and covering 15 acres are the remains of an ancient Hohokam village that once held as many as 300 people. Water flowed freely then, and the people were able to grow crops.

It is considered one of the most significant archaeological sites in the northern Tucson Basin according to Archaeology Southwest.

This Native American site was occupied between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1450. While Europe was experiencing the dark ages, the Hohokam raised their families, planted their crops and even had time for games. Two oval depressions on the ancient site are evidence of what are believed to be ball courts. A game that is now lost to us was once played there. These ball courts have been found in other parts of the southwestern U.S., Mexico and Central America.

In 1450, like so many other native cultures, the people who lived here were gone. Where they went is a mystery. There are some who believe that the people today, the Tohono O’odham, are the descendants of the ancient ones.

In the more recent past, around 1865, rancher Francisco Romero established a ranch with 60 head of cattle. He took advantage of materials at the site and built his family a ranching compound. It was an effort to protect himself and his loved ones from the Apache who were then raiding almost continuously.

Romero’s grandson, Fabian, said that Francisco was engaged in continuous warfare with the Apaches. He would begin the day by saddling his horse and chasing any Apache who had stolen livestock. With his .44 carbine, he was easily a match for the bow and arrows of his foes. By 1870, he and his wife, Victoriana, had left for Sonora. According to Fabian, at his death, Francisco’s body was riddled with scars inflicted on him during his skirmishes with the Apache.

The trail as it is today is relatively easy; however, there are some stairs. Interpretive signs guide you through the village as it may not be apparent to the untrained eye what you are seeing.

The park can be reached by driving north on Oracle Road. Watch for signs 10 miles north of Tucson after you cross the Cañada del Oro Wash. There is a fee for entrance. Check the website for the latest information.