Kaibab National Forest
Gateway to both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, the 1.5 million acres of the Kaibab National Forest has the distinction of being divided by one of nature's greatest attractions. Elevations vary in the forest from 5,500 feet in the southwest corner to 10,418 feet at the summit of Kendrick Peak on the Chalender Ranger District.
The spectacular scenery ranges from the pinyon-juniper in the south, to the alpine meadows and mixed conifer forest found at the higher elevations. Both "sides" of the Kaibab offer the visitor perfect opportunities to rediscover and enjoy their National Forest.
Kaibab Plateau Scenic Byway -- Described as "the most beautiful 44 miles in Arizona," Highway 67, also known as the Kaibab Plateau Scenic Byway, is alternately bordered by vast meadows, lush pine forests, and stately aspens. Thousands of visitors travel to the Kaibab Plateau each fall to enjoy the vibrant colors of autumn leaves.
The North Kaibab Ranger District is situated on the spectacular Kaibab Plateau, from which the forest takes its name. The plateau is one of the five large plateaus that comprise the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Bordered on the east by Saddle Mountain Wilderness and to the west by Kanab Creek Wilderness, the Plateau provides breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon, Marble Gorge, House Rock Valley and the Vermillion Cliffs.
Beale Wagon Road -- This historic road was one of three major routes to California prior to the Civil War. Built between 1857 and 1859, the road ran from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to the Colorado River, roughly following the 35th parallel. Nearly 23 miles of the road are on the Kaibab National Forest, and approximately half can still be seen today.
Historic Route 66 -- Perhaps the most legendary of all U.S. highways, immortalized as the "Mother Road" by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath and in song by Bobby Troup, Route 66 traversed most of northern Arizona, including sections of the Kaibab National Forest. Portions of the historic route passing through the forest have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a 22-mile stretch has been designated an official auto tour route.
Trails and Wilderness
There are approximately 370 miles of trails on the forest, some maintained by the generosity and hard work of volunteer groups. Opportunities abound for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, both in North Kaibab and South Kaibab.
Two popular mountain bike trails on the South Kaibab are actually loops of Historic Route 66. Brochures for these and all other forest trails are available at any Kaibab National Forest office.
Wilderness is part of America's heritage and the Kaibab National Forest offers more than 115,000 acres of wilderness for the enjoyment of the general public. In order to preserve the natural state of the areas, travel is restricted to foot and horseback.
Kendrick Mountain Wilderness, located on the South Kaibab, offers breathtaking views atop Kendrick Peak and outstanding forest scenery. Some portions of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness lie within Kaibab National Forest boundaries, though main access is from the Coconino National Forest.
The diversity of wildlife found on the Kaibab provides unsurpassed enjoyment and aesthetic value for the photographer, bird watcher, nature lover, hiker, camper and hunter. The forest is home to a number of large animals, including mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and black bear. There are also a variety of smaller animals and birds of many species.
The Kaibab squirrel, found only in the Kaibab Plateau, differs from its counterpart—the Abert squirrel—by having a dark body and white tail. Also living in the forest are wintering bald eagles, other raptors, and several types of marsh birds. Wildlife habitat protection and improvement is an important goal of the overall resource management program in the forest.
Birdwatching in the Kaibab National Forest can be quite rewarding. The diversity of habitats found here, from upper Sonoran desert to alpine, ranging in elevation from 5,000 to 10,400 feet, accounts for a corresponding diversity in bird species. Each habitat has its own characteristic residents as well as many that are common across two or more habitat types. The least common habitats are those associated with water, such as marshes and lakes, which are rare in the forest.
Flocks of migrant species move through the forest during the appropriate season; a few remain for the summer. House sparrows are summer breeders in Williams, but move to warmer climes during the winter when the rural junco flocks move to town. Goldfinches are most common after the thistles go to seed. Acorn and Lewis' woodpeckers are locally obvious in the fall during abundant acorn crops. For the wild turkey and some of the thrushes, the fall migration is from a higher elevation to a lower one (ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, down to pinyon juniper). If you do see migrating ducks, and other water-related birdsin the forest, you're more likely see them during the spring than the fall, because spring snowmelt is much more reliable as a water source than summer and fall rains.
Springtime on the south Kaibab is often a period of very limited access because of muddy conditions caused by snowmelt runoff. During the summer, most of the forest and grassland areas are accessible by vehicle, with the exception of the Kendrick and Sycamore Wilderness Areas, where vehicles are prohibited. Winter birdwatching is easiest in the pinyon juniper areas; however, even these may be covered by a few inches of snow in January and February.
The best time for viewing and photographing birds and other wildlife is from May 1 to November 1, when roads are accessible.
The Kaibab Plateau
Major John Wesley Powell, the famous explorer of the Colorado River, was the first in written record to apply the term "Kaibab" to the plateau. "Kaibab" is a Paiute Indian word meaning "mountain lying down."
Most of the Kaibab Plateau was withdrawn from the public domain in 1893 as part of the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve. This area included lands on both sides of the Grand Canyon and essentially all of the North Kaibab. In 1908, the Forest Reserve north of the Grand Canyon, including the Game Preserve, was renamed the Kaibab National Forest. In 1919, Grand Canyon National Park was created from the Forest Service lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. In 1934, the Tusayan National Forest south of the Grand Canyon was consolidated into the Kaibab National Forest, forming the present Forest boundaries. The forest area north of the Canyon became the North Kaibab Ranger District.
The Kaibab Plateau is an "island" of forested lands surrounded by the sage and grasslands of lower elevations. The plateau, with elevations up to 9,000 feet, is bordered on the south by the Grand Canyon; on the east and west by tributary canyons of the Colorado River; and on the north by plains that are dissected by tiers of uplifted cliffs.
Vegetation varies by elevation and exposure. Principal tree species are ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, aspen, blue spruce, oak, pinyon pine, and juniper. As elevation decreases, trees give way to bitter brush, Gambel oak, sagebrush, and cliffrose. Within the Forest there are irregular areas entirely free of tree growth. These "parks" are found in canyon bottoms, dry southern exposures, and ridge tops near the forest's exterior limits.
Charles C. "Buffalo" Jones was an Indian fighter, scout, mountain man, and buffalo hunter. True to his name, he killed a great many buffalo; but unlike most of his contemporaries, he realized the buffalo would disappear completely if efforts were not made to save the few remaining herds. Shortly after the establishment of the Grand Canyon Game Preserve in 1906, Jones acquired a small herd and brought it tothe Kaibab Plateau, a land the species had never inhabited. He then formed a partnership with four local men whom he persuaded to invest in a "cattalo" experiment. The buffalo and cattle were pastured near Bright Angel Point (now part of Grand Canyon National Park) and the cross-breeding efforts began. A few hybrids were produced, but the venture failed because of problems with birth and sterility. The buffalo and cattalo were eventually sold in 1926 to the State of Arizona (and later moved to House Rock Valley) where their offspring exist today.
The buffalo at House Rock Ranch afford a unique opportunity for tourists to observe free-ranging buffalo in natural habitat. This interest results in 20 to 100 or more visitors per month at the ranch, depending on the season and road conditions. In light of this, it is the stated objective of the Arizona Game and Fish Department to maintain the buffalo on House Rock Ranch, in balance with forage supplies, for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
The Buffalo Ranch is located 21 miles south of US 89A in House Rock Valley and 41 miles from Jacob Lake. The range consists of approximately 60,000 acres of Forest Service land, grazed under permit to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. A herd of 75 to 100 buffalo is maintained by harvesting the surplus. The State of Arizona owns about 30 acres on which the ranch manager's residence, outbuildings and corrals are constructed. Round trip from the Kaibab Plateau Visitors Center to the Ranch is about 82 miles and takes about 3 1/2 hours. There are no developed campsites at the Ranch.
Although primarily managed as a buffalo range, House Rock Buffalo Ranch is also home to antelope, bobcat, coyote, fox, mountain lion, rabbits, squirrels and a variety of birds. At current levels of reproduction, a management goal is to harvest 24-30 buffalo each year in order to maintain a stable population of about 100 animals.
Vegetation over most of the ranch is primarily a shrub-grassland typified by stands of sagebrush and saltbush. Pinyon juniper woodland is scattered along the upper reaches of the shrub community and becomes dense at the base of the plateau.
Elk, deer, and antelope are such popular game animals in Arizona that drawings are held annually to determine which hunters will receive permits to hunt them. Permits for wild turkey (fall season only), bear, and mountain lion are obtainable from most license vendors upon payment of the appropriate fees. Permits for spring "bearded turkey" hunting are also allotted by drawing.
At present Arizona Hunting Regulations do not treat mule deer and whitetail deer as separate species. In this area, the archery deer season is usually held in August and September and is open to anyone who purchases the appropriate licenses. The firearms season is usually in late October and early November and permits are issued after a random drawing. The deadline for application is late June or early July. Generally, only antlered deer are legal game for both bow and gun hunters. However, in some years a very limited number of any deer permits may be available.
Small game hunting in the Southwest has been continually increasing in popularity. However, it has never been as popular in the southwestern states as in the eastern states. Rabbits are usually hunted with shotguns or 22-caliber rifles. Although they suffer from many diseases and parasites, the meat is safe to eat if it is well cooked. Tularemia or rabbit fever can be avoided by taking only healthy, active animals during cold, freezing weather; wearing rubber gloves while cleaning them; and thoroughly washing your hands afterwards. Again, the meat is safe to eat if it is well cooked.
Arizona has a split season on mourning doves. The first half of the season usually begins on September 1 and lasts for about three weeks. The second half is usually in December for about four weeks. On the Chalender and Williams Ranger Districts, mourning doves are fairly common during the first half of the season, but are almost nonexistent during the second half. They are hunted by pass-shooting as they fly to water, or by flushing them as they feed in the open prairies or in the more open pinyon juniper woodlands.
The bandtail pigeon hunting season in Arizona reopened several years ago after a closure of nearly 20 years. An approximately four-week season usually opens in early October. A special permit is required to hunt this pigeon. The permit is available to everyone at no charge and is obtainable in person or by mail from offices of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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