Play Song (mp3)
Riding West of Tucson is an original song that tells about a man traveling
in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona. He is a prospector looking
for valuable metal ore such as gold or silver. However, he encounters
problems on his journey and realizes that gold and silver are not the
most important thing in the desert environment.
The Sonoran Desert covers parts of the state of Sonora in Mexico and the
state of Arizona in the United States. Like most deserts, it generally
receives less than 10 inches of rain every year. Often the rainfall comes
in a few large storms leaving the land completely dry for most of the
year. Deserts cover approximately 1/5 of the earth’s land surface,
so plant and animal life vary greatly from one desert to the next because
of the different kinds of terrain. The Sonoran desert is home to a large
variety of cacti, plants and trees along with various mammals, reptiles,
amphibians and birds. In fact, the desert around Tucson doesn't always
look like a desert because some places have quite a few small trees and
other plants. Of course there are lots of cacti along with many different
kinds of living creatures.
The Sonoran desert is famous for mining. Digging and processing copper
ore has been a major industry in southeast Arizona in modern times. And
in the recent past, Arizona was famous for its gold and silver mines along
with all of the boomtowns and excitement that went along with the search
for wealth. However, many times these boomtowns became ghost towns!
There are several ghost towns near Tucson, Arizona. If you visit one you’ll
probably have difficulty even finding it since now there is almost nothing
left of most of the former towns. For example, Helvetia is located near
the bottom of the Santa Rita Mountains about 25 miles south of Tucson.
About 300 hundred people lived there in the 1899. Most of them were mining
copper ore. However, by 1921 the mining operation at Helvetia was not
successful so the mines shut down and the post office closed. Now, there
are only a few adobe walls and a cemetary. And maybe there are some ghosts!
Mining in Arizona
People have been mining resources for thousands of years. In Arizona,
pre-historic people used many kinds of rocks, minerals. The Spanish first
starting exploring the area in 1540 when Francisco Coronado led a large
expedition looking for gold. In 1690 a Catholic missionary named called
Father Kino came to the area and established the beautiful mission know
as San Xavier. People were searching for gold and silver and sometimes
they found it. Lots of stories about incredible treasures always interested
prospectors. By the late 1800s many Americans and Mexicans were mining
and sometimes they were successful.
One of the most famous success stories is Tombstone, which has been in
many movies. In 1877 a prospector went searching for silver in some hills
in southeastern Arizona. Army soldiers had told him that it was so dangerous
the only thing he would find was his own tombstone. However, he found
a very rich silver deposit. When they started a town, he decided to name
it Tombstone! By 1890, 15,000 people lived in Tombstone, but today it
is only a place where tourists go to see the wild west.
In the 20th century, copper became the most important metal in Arizona.
By 1912, copper mining was the biggest industry in the state employing
about 25% of all the workers.
Water in Arizona
Arizona’s desert climate affects the available water for people,
animals, and plants. The primary sources of water are known as surface
water and groundwater. In Arizona people are also using the Colorado River
as well as reclaimed water. The big problem is surface water from lakes
and streams is very limited, and ground water is being used faster than
it is being renewed. Many people are concerned that the desert region
cannot support a large increase in people.