MEADVIEW CIVIC ASSOCIATION
Meadview Monitor, May 1967
QUARTERMASTER LOOKOUT - BAT MINE BY JACKIE BROWN
“A good time was had by all,” seems an appropriate phrase, when applying it to the Auto Caravan trip taken to the Bat Cave Tower and Quartermaster Lookout points, recently. For everyone really DID seem to have a good time and all expressed their delight at having gone.
True, it wasn’t everyone who would stand on the edge of the ledge and look over, but by and large, most of the folks were real brave and did at least sneak a peak.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain. In Saturday, April 8, 1967, a large group met at the Meadview Marina store, including yours truly and hubby, Hal Brown. Our destination was to the south rim of the lower Grand Canyon and specifically to Quartermaster Lookout and to the towers that overlook the bat cave on the opposite side of the Colorado River. Each of these viewpoints hold a fascination of their own and each has a story to tell, but will go in to that a bit later.
“Take off” time was 9:00 a.m. and the caravan departed pretty much on schedule. About half the vehicles were conventional automobiles and the other half pickups with campers. Our conveyance falls in either category as its part car and part pickup, one of those 2 seater, 4 door jobs with a truck bed on the back. The manufacturer calls it a Crew Cab so guess that’s good enough.
Hal and I, along with Martha and Ed Lopez, were in the lead car and equipped with a Citizens Band radio. Fourteen vehicles back, our follow-up car, manned by Frank and Clo George, was also equipped with the same. These radios allowed direct contact fore and aft, and this instituted as a precaution in the event anyone experienced car trouble, or for any emergency. The two way contact worked beautifully but was not very conducive to general conversation within the Crew Cab, and this was a terrible blow to two women who wanted to talk.
The first part of the took us through the large, nearby, Joshua forest, and this is an experience in itself if you have never seen Joshuas. These particular one are the largest we have ever seen anywhere, and are almost gargantuan in appearance, with their great huge limbs reaching out in all directions.
Next, we passed by the Diamond Bar Ranch where Suzie and little Joy Kump greeted us with a hello and goodbye. Here, the first ranch gate is encountered with another in close succession. add text.
With the nasty business of opening and closing gates out of the way, for a while, the string of cars processed up through a rather rugged and interesting canyon, rising in elevation all the time. It is along these hillsides that the vegetation starts to change to the Junipers, Pinon Pine, some Cedars and the Century Plant. A complete change of scenery.
Once out of the hilly terrain, the road levels off and soon the fence to the Hualapai Indian Reservation is in sight, with another gate. After dispensing with that barbed barrier, we took off for our final destination traveling through an entirely different kind of county, a flat grassy mesa.
With noting to obstruct our view, it is here you first begin to see the colorful and rugged formations of the Lower Grand Canyon, with their pink, lavender and hazy blue bluffs staring right at you.
These bluffs, on the north rim, are actually across the canyon from where we are going.
With in a half hour the caravan had started to skirt the top and the edge of the south rim of the canyon walls themselves; and had all the vehicles bee “bugged,” I’m sure we would have heard plenty of oohs and aahs. This is when the term, awe inspiring, applies, for the scene before you leaves one at a loss for words. The color and the depths of these canyon walls become too hard for this neophyte writer to describe.
It is at this point where the towers of the bat mine operation are located and where our group had lunch, and it would be pretty safe to say that everyone was quite captivated with the scenes before them.
This is what we have learned about the history of the bat mines. Several years ago some enterprising concern decided to mine bat guano from the bat caves, which are located on the north side of the Colorado River, at an inaccessible point on that side. Not to be outdone, a tower was built on the south rim, and from this structure a cable was strung high across the river to the cave on the other side. Gondolas were hung from the cable to ferry the men across, and once over there the mining of the guano began.
Standing on this point, underneath the tower, you realize what a tremendous fete the building of that installation was. That, plus all the natural beauty of the terraced canyon walls, which seem to have been carved with a knife; and along with that the rainbow of muted colors, well, it just about becomes more than one can grasp.
Tis profound evidence of man and nature is only marred by the fact that one day, a few years back, a low flying plane out an end to this spectacular crossing over the river.
Flying down between the canyon walls themselves, someone in a frisky jet, happened to hit the cable with the tip of the plane’s wing, and though the culprit came out unscathed, the impact broke the cable and that was the end of mining bat guano.
After a leisurely lunch, the vehicles once more lined up single file, behind the Crew Cab and within a short distance we were at Quartermaster Lookout. Elevation, approximately 5,000 feet.
This point may not have as colorful a history as the Bat Cave Towers it is equally, if not more impressive. One can drive right to the edge of the precipice (if they so desire), but all chose to walk; for here the cliffs just drop off into an empty void, straight down. Something like 3,000 feet.
Far below, wending its snaky way in and around the canyon walls, is the murky Colorado River, seemingly no wider than a strip of highway.
Quartermaster Lookout, we understand, came by its name from an old navy man, who noted the resemblance of one of the bluffs, to a ship. And it really does look like a large vessel sitting there.
To demonstrate the depth and the perpendicular angle of that particular part of the canyon wall, Hal stood on a jutting ledge and tossed large rocks down below. He made his point very well and soon others were also heaving and tossing, and all this bit of by-play literally turned yours truly’s stomach up side down. It was with a sigh of relief then, when the call came to head homeward.
The return trip brought us back to Meadview in plenty of time for a short respite before the Sportsman’s Barbeque commenced. Filing our tummies with those heavenly steaks seemed a perfect end to a perfect day.
Many people who drive the road leading downgrade from Pierce Ferry Road to South Cove launching ramp have seen anywhere from two to as many as thirty Desert Bighorn Sheep. They are beautiful animals, found in somewhat localized areas of southeastern California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico.
The species is found in western North America, ranging from central British Columbia, Canada, to Baja California in Mexico. Size and color gradations are noticed as one moves from north to south, with a larger and darker colored animal found in the north, with animals of lighter weight and color in the south. The coat of the northern animals is also heavier and more coarse.
The Desert Bighorn is generally recognized as consisting of four sub-species: 1. The Mexican Bighorn, found in the states of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico, and in New Mexico, Arizona, and southwest Texas, in the U.S.A.; 2. The Nelson, in southeastern California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, and northern Arizona; 3 and 4. The Ovis Canadensis Cremnobates and the Ovis Canadensis Weemsi, found in extreme southern California and in Baja California, Mexico.
The sheep have four large natural enemies: the coyote, the bobcat, the mountain lion, and the Golden Eagle. Predation on the adult animals is negligible, however.
Diseases and parasites have little effect on the Desert Bighorn population if healthy. Poor forage conditions are believed to combine with disease and parasites to cause mortality. Most parasites harbored by the animals are believed to have been picked up from association with domestic animals, such as sheep.
Four areas are set aside by the U.S. Government as refuges for the Desert Bighorn. Two of them are in Arizona, one called "Cabeza Prieta", the other the "kofa" game ranges. The "Desert" game range is located in Nevada, and the "san Andres National Wildlife Refuge" is in southern New Mexico.
The animal's coat is a pale buff color, somewhat coarse and long. A white rump patch surrounds the short, dark tail and runs down the inside of the rear legs. The abdomen and forelegs are a lighter color than the rest of the animal. It has rather small ears, and relies on its excellent eyesight to warn of danger. The rams are adorned with a set of massive, curling horns which may reach 16 or more inches around the base, and 2 1/2 ft. around the outside of the curl. The ewes also have horns, though they grow more slowly and do not reach the size of those on the rams. Growth rings on the horns are used in determining an animal's age.
The Desert Bighorns mate in late summer and early Fall, and lambs are born in February, March, or April, after a gestation period of approximately six months. The young are usually born in high, rugged terrain; generally a single lamb, but occasionally a pair, will be born to a ewe. Lamb mortality is very high, and only the hardiest survive.
The females and the young spend the year grouped together, with the rams joining the groups only during mating season. Other times, the rams will group together in bands of two to fie and remain apart from the ewes and the young.
During the summer season, the Desert Bighorns usually remain in a localized area where water and food are available, with movement governed by the water and food. In winter they range over a wider area, as then they are less dependent on water holes.
When bedding down, the animals usually paw out a bed, sometimes a number of them in a day, with each one being occupied for an hour or so before being abandoned. At night it appears that they occupy a bed all night long and may use the same bed for more than one night.
Grass seems to be the favored food of the Bighorn, though it eats a great variety of shrubs and plants. Natural competitors for food include rabbits, rodents, and deer, with deer offering the greater competition. Animals introduced into the area by man, such as cattle, horses, sheep, burros, and wild goats, create the most serious competition for food and water, however, and the increase of human population results in less habitat for the Bighorn.
The Desert Bighorns occupy some of the hottest and driest, most rugged mountain ranges in North America. Most animals their size could not survive here. There are deep canyons and steep-walled washes where scanty vegetation appears and the Bighorn prefers the most precipitous areas of cliffs and ledges in which to live. In a land of very little rainfall, the animals have adjusted to the lack of water, being able to go for a month or more without water in the winter season, and for a week or more in the summertime.
The Bighorn is also well adapted to the steep terrain in which it lives. Their forefeet are larger than the rear ones, and they have hoof pads which are rough and rubber-like, and which seem able to cling to most any kind of surface. The animals, about three feet in height and four to five feet in length, weigh upwards to about 200 pounds for a large ram, and somewhat less for the ewes.
The Cabeza Prieta and Kofa Game Ranges comprise nearly 1 1/2 million acres in the hottest and driest part of Arizona. Established in 1939, they contain a number of desert mountain ranges with wide intervening valleys. Many waterholes have been established in these ranges by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. The U.S. Air Force and the Marine Corps use most of the Cabeza Prieta Range for aerial gunnery practice. The San Andres Refuge protects the last sizable band of Desert Bighorn left in New Mexico. There are 57,000 acres in the San Andres Mountains, which were made into the refuge in 1941.
One can spot small bands of the Bighorn Sheep in the mountainous areas of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area from southern Nevada through northern Arizona. To spot them is always a thrill. The animals seem to know when you've forgotten your camera--they choose that time to make themselves visible to you.
When next you drive in the vicinity of Hoover Dam or in the South Cove or Pierce Ferry areas, keep your eyes peeled and your camera at the ready. It's a real thrill to capture these beautiful animals on film!
Information for this article was obtained in part from a publication titled "Desert Bighorn Sheep", Conservation Note 19, available from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. The price is 10 cents each.
Article reprinted from Meadview Monitor September/October 1977
SAGA OF THE DESERT BIGHORN