Gillespie Dam Bridge

Arlington, Arizona.

On one of our hikes, I was visiting with a hiker friend about places to visit that are “off the beaten path”, places that avoid the hustle and fast paced Interstate highways. Our friend, Leenie told us about just such a place, the Gillespie Dam Bridge. She and her “biker friends” find many of these out-of-the-way places to simply enjoy the journey. Between our home in Buckeye and Gila Bend, the usual 40-minute drive on AZ-85 can be modified to only add 10 minutes yet take you back to an earlier era when US Highway 80 was part of the National “Ocean-to-Ocean Highway”. In 1956, US 80 was shifted to the east and this section of highway was decommissioned and eventually became a state route, then a Maricopa County highway.

Along the way, the small town of Arlington is barely noticeable except for the Co-Op Grill, a lunch destination of choice for our biker friends and a fitting stop for our Orange Pony Mustang. You can expect great bar food and a comfortable outdoor patio when the weather isn’t too hot. But I digress… this isn’t a restaurant review, so after a burger and fries, we hop in the Orange Pony and we are off to Gillespie Dam.

The dam itself was built in 1921 by a private rancher, Frank Gillespie. After failures of earth, stone and wood attempts to dam the Gila River, it took a concrete structure to provide the irrigation this rancher needed. In 1921, a highway was rerouted south from Phoenix to Yuma. The new Phoenix-Yuma Highway used a concrete apron on the downstream side of the dam to allow cars to cross the Gila River shortly after the dam was constructed. Due to the unreliability of access during high water, by 1925, the highway department was designing a bridge a short distance downstream of the dam.

At the time of its construction, it was one of the longest bridges in Arizona and its unique design for its time was more resistant to washouts than earlier bridge designs. By 1927, the bridge was open and officially became part of the transcontinental highway, US 80.

By the early 21st century, the bridge was getting tired and needed a face-lift. As part of the 2012 Arizona Centennial, an interpretive plaza was built that tells the story of the bridge that simultaneously underwent a $7.3 Million USD reconstruction. The view of the bridge from the interpretive center provides the closeup look at the bridge we see in the opening image. The gallery of images below features more of the bridge and interpretive plaza. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

The historical perspective on Gillespie Dam Bridge was gleaned from here.

John Steiner

Weekly Photo Challenge – Earth

Chinle, Arizona.

With Earth Day just around the corner, (Saturday, April 22), Cheri Lucas Rowlands asks us to celebrate this planet on which we live. There are lots of places that I could have chosen to share a “scene that honors the outdoors,” and I chose Canyon de Chelly. Continue reading

Spur Cross Ranch – Revisited in HDR

spur-cross-ranch-8Cave Creek, Arizona.

This year, the desert is awash with green. A layer of green grass is visible in the normally brown desert floor. The Phoenix metro has seen a lot of rain this winter. I am hoping I won’t be back in Fargo before what is sure to be a banner wildflower season. Recently our hiking club visited Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. Formerly the home of a dude ranch, the area is now a reserve where Cave Creek winds its way in a southerly path. One of the prominent peaks in Cave Creek is Elephant Mountain, as anyone with even a bit of imagination can probably note in the image above. Continue reading

Cellpic Sunday – 16 April 2017

Buckeye, Arizona.

For this Easter Sunday, I decided to share an image reflecting the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Most of the blossoms fell off the orange tree in our back yard leaving many, many tiny green “balls,” some of which will eventually become full-grown oranges. This year’s harvest from our tree was over 130 oranges on a single 5-year-old tree. Judging from the quantity of these orange buds, if the weather is good, we can expect another decent crop next March as well. It will take a year for them to mature. Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge – Surprise

Buckeye, Arizona.

For this week’s challenge, Jen H. suggests that “Much of photography is about discovery, and with discovery may come a surprise.” Her challenge is to share a surprise, as seen through the camera lens. You can read the entire challenge post here. It only took me a moment to realize that my share would require a gallery. Of course, I chose specific images to prove my point, and I can’t say my surprise was of a 100% consistency, but I had enough evidence to ask an expert, and my surprise was confirmed.  Continue reading

Hellzapoppin Rodeo – Buckeye Days Old West Experience

hellzapoppin-saturday-1Buckeye, Arizona.

In January each year, Buckeye celebrates their cowboy heritage with Buckeye Days. The two-day celebration features a parade, a cattle drive down main street Buckeye and among other attractions, a professional rodeo. As the proud owner of a new D500 Nikon camera, I needed an excuse to try sports photography, a class of photography that reviews of the D500 said the camera excels at capturing. I was not to be disappointed in either the rodeo or the camera’s operation. The camera’s ability to fire off 10 images a second allowed me to capture short collections of images, each sharply focused and at 1/2000 of a second, a small slice of time that is often measured in 8-second rides (or less in some cases.)


The rodeo features cowboys who belong to the NSPRA (National Seniors Professional Rodeo Association.) It’s an exclusive club open only to members who have achieved the elevated status of 40 anniversaries of their life on this planet. Point handicaps are offered for riders in their 70’s and 80’s, and the oldest participant in this year’s team roping event is 84 years young. (He is not necessarily either of the two cowboys in the image above.) Incidentally, there is a reason the gallery looks empty in the image above. When I mentioned going to the rodeo to photograph, a friend commented that if I go a day early, I can view their practice sessions. Very few spectators and lots of time to practice. Going a day early allowed me to determine the best place in the venue to be to capture action without being in the way of other people who came to watch the rodeo. It was a great idea. I found the best place to stand and shoot, below the level of people in the stands and a clear view of all the action.

hellzapoppin-saturday-6The rodeo, unlike the PRCA (Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association), allows amateur photographers to photograph their events. I recently learned, after bringing my camera to a PRCA rodeo, that only PRCA members with photography credentials are allowed to bring a camera into the arena. No matter, there is plenty of action available at an NSPRA rodeo as can be evidenced by the bull ride in the image above.

hellzapoppin-9Not all the participants are advanced in years at the Hellzapoppin’ Rodeo. Mutton Bustin’ (sheep riding) is an open competition for 5-7 year old cowboys and cowgirls in training. Each day, 20 mutton busters competed for the longest ride. Turns out that sheep don’t much like kids on their backs. Some rides were surprisingly short, but this young man hung on to be one of the top contenders.

hellzapoppin-12Barrel racing is a popular feature and several competitors vied for the best time around a short course with a 360-degree turn around each barrel. There are so many things going on at the rodeo and with the camera’s ability to capture so many precise moments in time, the gallery featured below is one of the largest I’ve shared. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.


Cellpic Sunday – 2 April 2017

Buckeye, Arizona.

On March 18, I led my last hike of the season for the Hiking Club of Verrado, a group of neighbors who enjoy hiking. My involvement with hiking when we elected to winter in Arizona came about when the folks at Arizona Tourism came up with the idea of hiking 100 miles in honor of Arizona’s centennial in 2012. We joined the gym at Verrado, one of the many community developments in the city and one of the trainers took up the hiking challenge as part of a regular exercise routine. Continue reading