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June 1933Volume 8, Number 3


Ranger Naturalist Hugh H. Waesche.

IT seems strange that the name "Pipe" should be given to any body of water, yet examples of this are found in Arizona. They are Pipe Spring and Pipe Creek. Pipe Spring, now a National Monument, is famous for its connection with early Mormon history. It is located in northwestern Arizona near the Utah line. Pipe Creek is a tributary of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and is seen daily, yet seldom given any particular attention, by park visitors. Indeed, there is nothing unusual about this small canyon-bound stream. It is the origin of its name which adds the touch of human interest.

Many of the names given to features of the Grand Canyon and surrounding country are legacies left by some early explorer, trapper, or prospector. These men either named the objects concerned directly, or the name became attached through some anecdote. Pipe Creek is no exception.

Some of the early pioneers in Grand Canyon country were certain that such a wonderful natural phenomenon as the Canyon must contain vast riches in valuable ores, so much prospecting for gold, copper, lead and zinc was a natural result. The large number of prospect holes to be found at several localities along the Canyon walls is mute evidence of their activities. These men often traveled along the Tonto Platform which was the only practical way to follow the course of the Colorado without resorting to the plateaus along the rims. Good showings of copper were discovered in the Red Wall limestone near Grandview. Considerable prospecting was done at a locality near what is now known as the "Corkscrew" on Bright Angel Trail.

One day in 1894, four of these hardy prospectors came along the Tonto Trail from Grandview, headed for the "Corkscrew" locality. The names of all these men have since become very familiar in the vicinity of Grand Canyon. They were R. H. Cameron, his brother Niles, James McClure and Pete Berry. R. H. Cameron, for some reason, went on ahead of the other members of the party. When he reached the point where the stream now known as "Pipe Creek" is located, he discovered an old Meerschaum pipe lying on the ground. He picked up the pipe and scratched on it a date of about one hundred years previous, then placed it on a willow twig in such a way that the members of the party following could not miss it as they came by. His little joke worked perfectly since the three others discovered the pipe when they came along. One can well imagine the speculation as to how the pipe got there and what the fate of the original owner might have been. It seemed evident that there had been some traveler along that very route many years before. Cameron enjoyed the joke by himself for a while, but it was too good to keep so the story finally leaked out. It was this little incident which was responsible for the name, Pipe Creek, which the stream continues to bear.

Pipe Creek flows into the Colorado from the south side of the Grand Canyon, nearly opposite Bright Angel Creek. It may be seen from the Yavapai Observation Station as the canyon directly below and to the right - the next tributary canyon east of the one containing Garden Creek.

*Information obtained from Mr. Emery Kolb, Grand Canyon.

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