Boyce Thompson Arboretum


I was left in a quandary this past week.  Despite what I wrote in my last entry, the Superior Home and Building Tour is next Saturday (January 27th), as opposed to the current weekend.  Therefore, another Friday came and I had to figure out where to go and what to see!

Although I considered a change of scenery, I ultimately decided to explore another desert locale while the weather is nice enough to do so.  I headed off east once again and ended up at a place I’ve been meaning to visit for some time, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park.

The park, located on Highway 60 just west of Superior, was established in the mid 1920’s by Colonel William Boyce Thompson.  Thompson was the founder and president of Magma Copper Company in Superior as well as Inspiration-Consolidated Copper Company in Globe-Miami.  The Colonel used the fortunes he made from mining to build himself a large house overlooking Queen Creek, known as Picketpost Mansion (image below), and a few years later established the arboretum on the same property.


The park features a visitors center, gift shop, research offices, greenhouses, a demonstration garden, picnic area, and a looping 1.5-mile main trail that leads visitors through various exhibits and natural areas.  The arboretum came under the management of the University of Arizona in 1965 and became an Arizona State Park in 1976.

I chose the main trail which is named, appropriately enough, Main Trail and set out to discover the scenery.  The trail starts behind the visitors center and leads past the historic Smith Building, built in 1925 as the park’s first administrative building, to Ayer Lake.  The lake is named after Charles F. Ayer, a business associate of Thompson’s and one of the original members of the park’s Board of Directors.  Water is pumped into the lake from nearby Queen Creek and used to irrigate various plants around the arboretum.  The lake also serves as a riparian habitat.


Soon after leaving Ayer Lake, the trail starts to climb and Picketpost Mansion comes into view.  Unfortunately, the mansion is rarely open for tours so I had to settle for photographing the impressive structure from below.

The Main Trail eventually ends up alongside Queen Creek passing through an area of lush vegetation before dramatically hugging the side of the cliff, just above the water.  Once the shoreline widens again, the Main Trail intersects with the east end of the High Trail  This trail crosses a suspension bridge over the creek, then runs along the hillside through an area of natural desert.  I had other sights to see along the Main Trail, so I saved the High Trail for another visit.

One of the aforementioned sights still to come was the Clevenger House.  The three-room stone house was built against the cliff wall back in 1915.  A family of five, who farmed along the creek, once called it home.  Eventually they moved on and Colonel Thompson purchased the property.  The house has been preserved and is now used as a drying area for the surrounding herb garden.


After the Clevenger House, the Main Trail winds through a forest of eucalyptus and palm trees before intersecting with several other trails.  I was starting to tire a little from the hike, so I chose the shorter Magma Ridge Trail which looped past its namesake ridge and through the cactus garden back to the Main.  From there I stowed my gear and headed out to my truck.

I had heard a lot of great things about the Arboretum and it definitely lived up to all my expectations!  I do planning on returning at some point to explore the other trails and see what other pictures are waiting to be taken.

Next week (For real this time), the 10th Annual Superior Home and Building Tour!

My enter gallery from Boyce Thompson Arboretum can be found here:


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