Humans have inhabited the area south of the Grand Canyon for thousands of years. Hunters and gatherers lived a nomadic lifestyle here between 9,000 and 1,500 years ago; however, archeologists have found little evidence of their presence. Most archeological remains on the Kaibab National Forest south of Grand Canyon are between 1,200 and 850 years old, a period when people lived in semi-subterranean pit houses and stone houses, made pottery, and grew crops. The Cohonina culture was most prominent in what is now the Williams area. The Kayenta Anasazi shared the south rim of the Grand Canyon with the Cohonina. Both cultures first appeared in about AD 700 and disappeared, for unknown reasons, by about AD 1150. The Hopi Indians, who today live east of the forest, are believed to descend from the Anasazi, perhaps the Cohonina, and other prehistoric groups. After about AD 1350, other native groups appeared in the area, including the Havasupai and Hualapai from the west, the Yavapai from the south, and (later) the Navajo from the east. Several prominent landmarks on the forest are considered sacred to these tribes, including Red Butte, Bill Williams Mountain, Kendrick Mountain, and Sitgreaves Mountain. This region was probably always sparsely inhabited, primarily because of the lack of water.
When Spaniards first visited the area in 1540, they found aboriginal trade routes crossing the forest. The Spanish, and later Mexicans, found little use for this waterless area on their northern frontier. It wasn't until after the United States won the southwest from Mexico in 1848 that exploration and settlement by non-natives began in earnest. American expeditions of the 1850s followed the old trading trails. Several area landmarks received their names at this time. Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves led an 1851 expedition past the mountain that would eventually bear his name. An escort for his party, Bvt. Major H.L. Kendrick, also had a mountain named for him. The Sitgreaves party named Bill Williams Mountain for the famed trapper and mountain man, William Sherley Williams. Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale's 1859-60 expedition built the Beale Wagon Road, which opened the area to settlement.
In 1882, the transcontinental Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (now the Santa Fe) followed the route of the Beale Wagon Road, linking northern Arizona with the rest of the nation. The railroad brought about the establishment of communities like Williams, Ash Fork, and Parks. In 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway began service between Williams and Grand Canyon. Originally built to access mining claims, tourists soon became its main cargo. Wagon routes radiated out from the rail lines. Automobile routes came later; the most famous was US Route 66. In 1930, a highway to Grand Canyon was completed. The Civilian Conservation Corps helped to improve the Perkinsville Road (CR 73) south of Williams in the 1930s.
The well-watered open meadows of Spring Valley, Garland Prairie, Pittman Valley, and Red Lake were settled first by ranchers in the lates 1800s. After the turn of the century, homesteaders tried farming root crops, like potatoes, but were largely unsuccessful. Remains of some of these homesteads and ranches dot the landscape today.
The timber industry has always been important to the regional economy. Lumber mills were first built to supply the railroad with ties, and later the railroad transported lumber to a growing nation. In 1893, the Saginaw (later Saginaw-Manistee) Lumber Company was established in Williams. The company built railroad spur lines into the forest to access new timber stands. With the completion of railroad logging in the Williams area in the mid 1920s, operations moved to the Tusayan Ranger District between 1928 and 1935. After that time, trucks transported logs from the forest.
The natural resources of the area were first protected in 1893 with establishment of the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve; another Forest Reserve was established around Williams in 1898. These lands became the Tusayan National Forest in 1910. The Forest Service administered the Grand Canyon until it became a national park in 1919. In 1934, the Tusayan National Forest was combined with Forest Service land north of the Grand Canyon to become today's Kaibab National Forest.
Forest Service rangers began a program to regulate forest uses such as ranching, lumbering, and homesteading. They built lookout trees, and later towers, to help in the fight against fires. Many of the Forest's trails were built to access lookout points.
Today, the Kaibab National Forest provides stewardship for the traces of America's past. Significant historic and prehistoric sites are studied and protected from activities that could disturb them. Many have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Some are being developed for you to visit. If you find a historic or prehistoric site, please remember that they are fragile and non-renewable resources that belong to us all. Look at artifacts, but please put them back where you found them so that the next visitor can enjoy them as you do. Artifacts are also important for the information they can provide to trained archeologists. For these reasons, all sites and artifacts are protected by Federal Law.
Although our knowledge of North Kaibab prehistory is limited, archeologists have found evidence of human use dating as far back as about 7000 BC. Prehistoric groups who lived here during what has come to be known as the Archaic Period hunted game and gathered wild food on the Kaibab Plateau from about 7000 BC to 300 BC. They lived in small camps, often located on meadow edges or in small caves. Their transient lifestyle gave way to a more sedentary one after cultivated crops were introduced to the region from Mexico. These hunters and gatherers gradually became farmers between 300 BC and AD 500.
At about AD 500 a group known as the Anasazi appeared. These people farmed crops such as corn, beans, and squash in addition to supplementing their diet with wild food and game. The more reliable food source allowed them to live in one place for longer periods, build surface houses, and live in larger groups than previous residents. Archeologists are still unsure why the Anasazi left the area in about AD 1200. They were succeeded by the Paiute, whose hunting and gathering lifestyle was similar to that of Archaic groups. The Paiutes, whose reservation headquarters today are at Pipe Springs, were the last Native American inhabitants of the North Kaibab before Europeans began settling the area.
In 1776, Spanish Friars Dominguez and Escalante led an expedition through the area of the North Kaibab and thus became the first non-Indians to visit and record observations of the region. However, Anglo use of the area was sporadic until the mid 1800's, when Mormon pioneers were sent to colonize in and beyond the remote southern perimeters of Utah. The adjacent lands of the Arizona Strip were first used for hunting and livestock grazing; settlements followed.
Jacob Hamblin, one of the more notable Mormon leaders of this period, explored much of Northern Arizona in his search for suitable settlements for Mormon colonization. Hamblin was largely responsible for seeking out the least difficult routes over this rugged terrain. Several Colorado River crossings were used before the most direct one at Lee's Ferry was discovered by Hamblin and John D. Lee in 1869.
Federal administration of the area began in 1893 with the establishment of the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve on land surrounding the Grand Canyon. The Forest Service was established as an agency in the Department of Agriculture in 1905; this new agency assumed control of the Forest Reserve at that time. The Kaibab Plateau received special status in 1906 when President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it the Grand Canyon Game Preserve. His action provided special management emphasis for the wildlife species found in the area. The Game Preserve remained within the Forest Reserve boundaries and under Forest Service administration. The Reserve was renamed the Kaibab National Forest in 1908. In 1919 much of the Forest adjacent to the North Rim became part of Grand Canyon National Park, managed by the National Park Service. The present Forest boundaries were formed in 1934 when the Tusayan National Forest, south of the Colorado River, was consolidated with the Kaibab National Forest. The land north of the Colorado River became the North Kaibab Ranger District.
Archeological evidence from the Red Butte area indicates that the earliest inhabitants of the Tusayan Ranger District were nomadic peoples of the Desert Culture who lived here over 3,000 years ago. Beginning about AD 700, another group of archeologists call the Cohonina arrived. The Cohonina lived in small groups, hunted game, gathered wild foods, and probably farmed in the drainages. Prehistoric peoples called the Anasazi migrated here from the east at about AD 1000. They probably followed a more sedentary lifestyle than the Cohonina, manufactured a different type of pottery, and had additional distinctive cultural characteristics. The two groups appear to have coexisted peacefully here; the Cohonina ranged over the entire Coconino Plateau while the Anasazi lived primarily on the north and east portions of it, near the Grand Canyon rim. Evidence suggests that both groups disappeared from the area by about AD 1200. They may have left because of a drought, but archeologists are still searching for clues to their disappearance. The Anasazi and perhaps the Cohonina moved to the east, where their descendants, the Hopi, live today.
The ancestors of the Havasupai probably arrived in the area around AD 1400 from the west and south. They continue to live in Cataract Canyon, within the Grand Canyon.
The Navajo Indians are relative latecomers to the area. This tribe migrated to the Southwest from Canada, arriving in New Mexico at about AD 1500. They gradually moved west and established themselves east of the district in the late 1800s. They are frequent visitors to the district, particularly during the fall months, when they gather pinon nuts to eat and herbs for religious ceremonies.
Although the Spanish "discovered" the Grand Canyon in 1540, the area was not settled by non-Indians until the late 1800s. The Grand Canyon attracted tourists and prospectors first, followed by ranchers and loggers. The Grand Canyon Railroad arrived at the South Rim in 1901, connecting it with the major east-west Santa Fe Line at the town of Williams. The railroad proved to be a major factor in the development of the area. The Grand Canyon Forest Reserve was established here in 1893, and became part of the Tusayan National Forest in 1910. It finally was named the Tusayan District of the Kaibab National Forest in 1934.
Located in northern Arizona, lies the Kaibab National Forest. The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River divides the North Kaibab and Tusayan Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. Elevations within the forest are as low as 5,500 feet in the southwest to a high of 10,418 feet on Kendrick Mountain near the east boundary. Most of the terrain is relatively level, except for numerous small knolls, a few mountains, the Mogollon Rim that cuts diagonally across the southwest portion of the forest, and Coconino Rim on Tusayan Ranger District. Pinon-Juniper woodlands are at lower elevations, Ponderosa pine forests are at middle elevations, and mixed conifer interspersed with aspen are at the higher elevations.
From Williams, go north on State highway 64 to access the southern portion of the forest. The portion of forest located north of the Grand Canyon is accessible from Page via US highway 89, 89 Alt and State highway 67.