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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Willow Lake Heritage Park

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/19/2021
Occurred: 7/4/2009
Topics/Keywords: #Arizona #Photography #Places #Prescott #WillowLakeHeritagePark Page Views: 434
When Michael and I were invited by our friends Eddie and Carl to visit them in Prescott, we took them up on it.

When the 4th of July approaches, my thoughts turn to celebrating it anywhere but Phoenix. It's too hot, too crowded, and too expensive. So, this year, when Michael and I were invited by our friends Eddie and Carl to visit them in Prescott, we took them up on it.

We left for Prescott on Friday, which I had off from work. We did not take the shortest route there. Years ago, I drove north on State Road 89 to Prescott, on a very curvy, mountain road. I didn't get to see the view because it happened to be about 2 am at the time. I've always wanted to take that road in the daytime, and this trip we did. So our route went through Wickenberg and some impressive storm clouds that never actually rained on us. From door to door, the drive took us about 3½ hours.

From AZ-89 heading north to Prescott. Rain threats off AZ-89 never materialized.

Our friends live in North Prescott, so we passed through the old-town/downtown area, where "Pioneer Days" was in full swing. So much for avoiding crowds and traffic! Still, it wasn't so bad. And soon we were pulling into the parking lot at Eddie and Carl's apartment building. The guys made us some bacon-wrapped steaks for dinner, and then we watched Dark City (an excellent film I'd never seen) on the DVD player.

The next morning the guys brought us to Waffles-N-More, a locally-owned breakfast spot where we all had one of the great brunches of all time. I really do like eating at non-chain places, not only to support local businesses, but also because the food tends to be a lot better where corporate accounts aren't the ones doing the shopping.

Then we set out to take a couple of short, local hikes. Our first stop is called Pioneer Park. It's a small wayside off Pioneer Parkway that serves as a trailhead. We just took a short stroll down one of the trails, an old wagon road, to enjoy the view and the day.

Carl and Michael in Pioneer Park.






Old wagon road in Pioneer Park.

The trail was decorated from one end to the other with wildflowers.

After our stroll in Pioneer Park, we got back in the SUV and drove a few miles to Willow Lake Heritage Park.

Willow Lake Heritage Park, Prescott, Arizona

This park includes a scenic lake, boating, nature trails and even archaeological sites, as well as more of the ubiquitous wildflowers.


Eddie spotted a dragonfly on a stem. The digital macro lens caught it!


About 1100 years ago, a native people made their village on the shore of Willow Lake. Some of the foundations of their dwellings have been uncovered and protected from the elements so that visitors to the park can see them and learn about these ancient ancestors.

A collection of covered areas protect the archaelogical site. Archaeological remains of an 1100-year-old house.

Humans aren't the only visitors. Here we caught a fat lizard taking a break from the hot sun.

A lizard checks out the archaeological site.

Outside, we slowly made our way toward the lake.

Willow Lake Willow Lake Waterfowl on Willow Lake More wildflowers at Willow Lake. A tree at Willow Lake Willow Lake

As you can see, a lot of vegetation grows in the lake. Eddie and Carl often come here to fish in their motorized pontoon boat, but lately the weeds have grown so thick they've had to row, since the weeds get tangled in the motor.

I'm told that fishing here is pretty good, even though the lake is not stocked. It used to be, which introduced popular fishing species to it; but they took hold and now thrive here.

Carl at Willow Lake

The water is currently running low, about three feet lower than it was in the winter, according to Eddie. We could see the high water mark on the cliff walls, which supported his estimate.

Eddie points out a ribbon snake.

At one point in our stroll Eddie pointed out a ribbon snake, which was frantically trying to get away from him. Michael asked him if he were afraid of snakes.

"Not that kind!" he snorted.

It was really nice that, in a park (as opposed to wilderness), located fairly close to a small city, we could see so much wildlife in a quasi-natural setting.

I had originally asked the guys to take us here because I had noticed its unique granite formations from the road on an earlier trip. They really give the lake a special look.

Willow Lake Willow Lake

The clouds continued to roll in and we decided to call it a day. Michael and I returned Eddie and Carl back to their apartment, said goodbye and promised to call when we got home. We then headed west towards I-17, which finally passed us through the driving rain that had been threatening us for two days. No matter, though, as we were safe and dry inside the Expedition. And by the time we got to the Interstate, we were out from under the cloud anyway.

On the way home I decided it was time to sample the "world-famous pies" I'd been told awaited us at the Rock Springs Café just south of Black Canyon City. They'd been recommended to me some time earlier but this was my first opportunity to try them.

Rock Springs Cafe, Black Canyon City, Arizona

The complex is a fairly typical touristy place with gifts, drinks, BBQ and roasted nuts. In fact, they were celebrating their "Hogs 'N' Heat" BBQ when we arrived. "Hogs" referred both to the pork they were cooking and the motorcycles they hoped to attract. Frankly, the place wasn't as busy as I imaging they'd hoped—it certainly wasn't as busy as they deserved to be. I had blueberry crumb pie and Michael had apple crumb, each a la mode. And each was, in fact, the very best pie we'd ever tasted.

We got home around 6 pm, in time to feed the dogs (the rest of the family had left that morning on a trip of their own), and to write this epic. No, we did not see fireworks.

But we had pie!