A reliable water source is a rare feature in this generally dry and rather barren country, but early Mormon settlers found such a supply in the mid nineteenth century, about 15 km from the Utah/Arizona border on land which now forms part of the Kaibab-Paiute
. Over the next few decades the spring became the focal point for various buildings and eventually a small fort (named Winsor Castle after its constructor, one A.P. Winsor), intended to protect the spring and neighbouring cattle grazing lands against Navajo Indian raids from the south, although this threat never materialised. Now, the fort, outbuildings, and various agricultural relics are preserved and serve as an interesting illustration of pioneer life.
Few people visit Pipe Spring National Monument, perhaps not surprisingly as the national narks nearby are rather more exciting. For those passing along nearby AZ 389 though, the fort is worth a diversion for an hour or so. First stop should be the visitor center, where guests are encouraged to watch a 10 minute video that explains the history of the Pipe Spring area. The staff are friendly but give the impression they would welcome a more prestigious posting elsewhere.
A path leads through gardens and past areas of crops to the fort and to several other buildings and exhibits. These include a blacksmith's shop, poultry and riding sheds, two ponds with resident geese, an orchard, old wagons, a corral and riding equipment. Other animals include Texas longhorn cattle, chickens and horses. Pipe Spring itself is covered by the fort; the water runs underground through pipes and across one room in an open trough before emerging to supply the ponds.
Regular half hour guided tours are offered through the rooms in the fort, which are all fully furnished with period fixtures and fittings. The guides are commendably enthusiastic despite presumably giving the same tour several times each day. There are about 10 main rooms on 2 levels, in 2 sections with doors and windows facing inwards to a central courtyard, all enclosed by a high wall. The defensive capabilities of Pipe Spring were never tested, and the fort was instead used as a ranch and later as a private residence, before the collection was created a national monument in 1923.
Pipe Spring Maps
PDF format maps from the National Park Service.
Pipe Spring area map
(136 kb).Pipe Spring site plan