Tours of the Canoa Ranch in Green Valley last year showed people preservation efforts on the county-owned property. Now the county seeks volunteers to help conduct public tours beginning in mid-February.


After years of repair and restoration work, a unique cultural and historic park in Pima County is nearly ready to open.

The county is recruiting and training volunteer tour guides and docents for tours Tuesdays and Saturdays beginning in mid-February and going through March.

It will be the first time the park is open for seasonal public tours.

"Pima County and the staff are really excited about getting it open to the public," said Robert Vaughn, Canoa Ranch manager. "It's a gorgeous site."

Pima County bought the 4,800-acre ranch property, about 25 miles south of Tucson, in 2001 with the goal of making it a public site and nature refuge. Bond funds in 2004 paid for improvements.

Visitors will be led on guided tours through the historic ranch that was home at various points in history to Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans and Americans.

Interpretive signs will go up in the next few weeks after years of collecting oral histories and photographs from families who lived at Canoa Ranch.

"There's just lots and lots of history there, so we're trying to showcase all of that," Vaughn said.

The public will get to see how the old adobe buildings are being restored, which Vaughn said has been a major focus of the past six months.

Crews have also converted a garage into a public restroom and corrected drainage problems to protect buildings from flooding, he said.

The landscape is also getting restored, including pomegranate plants and herb gardens and pathways for tourists, he said.

Volunteers are needed to serve as tour guides or docents to talk about certain points in history, such as ranching history or vaquero history. Volunteers also are needed to help with restoration, landscaping and gardening. The first training session is Tuesday.

To volunteer or to sign up for a tour, call 877-6004 or email

Future plans call for building a Canoa Ranch visitor center, gift shop, museum and interpretive sites, some inside the existing buildings. There could also be a living history ranch, an equestrian center and special-event campground.

About $19 million is needed to develop the site in phases, and about $1.3 million would be needed annually to operate the park. About $6 million for the project could be included in the county's next bond election.

History of Canoa Area

• 600s to 1700s - Hohokam and O'odham people lived there

• 1770s - Spaniards, including Father Kino and De Anza, stopped at the site

• 1800s - The Ortiz, Elías and Herreras families are established; the Canoa Hotel is the site of the Tarbox massacre, an Apache raid that left the hotel manager and others dead. Cattle ranching and farming begin with Frederick Maish and Thomas Driscoll.

• Early 1900s - The Manning family acquires and ranches the land

• 1967 - Water rights are sold to Phelps Dodge

• 1997 - Pima County voters approve the purchase of the site

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.