Pipe Spring National Monument

Arizona > Pipe Spring National Monument

Pipe Spring National Monument may be the least well-known of over 20 National Park Service units in Arizona, due in part to its isolated location at the edge of the wide, empty Antelope Valley in the Arizona Strip, cut-off from the rest of the state by the Grand Canyon. This stretch of high desert has long provided a route for cross-country travelers who pass between the great canyon to the south and the high cliffs and mountains of Utah to the north. Historically, the remote far north west corner of Arizona has more in common with Utah, and this region was (or is) the last outpost of polygamy as practised by breakaway groups of the Mormon church.


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 Indian Reservation. 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.

Visitor Center

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.

The Gardens

Pipe Spring - one of the 20 least visited national monuments in the West
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.

The Fort

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.
PDFPipe Spring area map (136 kb).
Pipe Spring site plan (224 kb).
Highlights: 19th century Mormon fort with an isolated location at the edge of Antelope Valley in the remote Arizona Strip district
Nearest city with hotels: Kanab, 20 miles
Management: NPS
Location: 36.862, -112.737
Seasons: All year

Pipe Spring - Photographs

19th century stove
Table with utensils

Old wagon
First floor of the fort
Nearby places Similar places

Tuweep (70 miles) - remote part of the Grand Canyon National Park

Zion National Park, Utah (69 miles) - huge cliffs and deep canyons
Nearby places Similar places

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas - well preserved military outpost, on the lonely road between El Paso and San Antonio
Pipe Spring NM is part of the Grand Canyon itinerary


Comments powered by Disqus
Back to Top

All Contents © Copyright John Crossley | Comments and Questions | Site Map

Arizona California Colorado Idaho Nevada New Mexico Oregon Texas Utah Wyoming Slot Canyons Travelogue