Last week, I wrote about the exceptional rainfall we had in Arizona and how the wildflowers love it. Well, the same wet winter that showered our land with nature’s colorful confetti also brought heavy mountain snowfall. Since the predicted snowmelt and runoff would overflow our reservoirs, the Salt River Project began releasing water into the river. It’s been quite a while since we have had water in our ordinarily dry riverbeds. While some may scoff at the idea of water in Arizona’s riverbeds, I was thrilled that I might get the chance to shoot some whitewater rapids in the desert.
I convinced Queen Anne to go-for-a-ride(?) a couple of weeks ago. We drove down the west valley to the Gillespie Bridge, excited at the prospect of capturing the raging torrents of water. However, upon arrival, we were met with disappointment. The river was spent and lethargic when the artificial flood passed through Phoenix. The snowmelt’s aftermath left us with sluggish, murky water oozing through the tamarisk. It looked more like effluent than a river. Feeling disheartened, we started to return home when I noticed the stunning light falling on the machinery at the Arlington Cattle Company. When I stopped the car and grabbed my camera, Anne responded, “Hurry up! I’m Starving.”
The Gila River begins its journey in New Mexico’s Gila Mountains. It collects water from its tributaries, including the Salt River, the Verde River, the Santa Cruz River, the New River, the Agua Fria River, and the Hassayampa River. The Gila River embarks on an audacious westward journey, carving its path through untamed landscapes. Just after the confluence of the Gila and Hassayampa rivers, the Gila turns south for thirty miles towards Gila Bend. As the river flows past the Buckeye Hills, it enters a natural pinch point several miles down old US 80. It passes between a formidable silhouette of a volcanic sentinel and the edge of Gillespie Shield Volcano. The black rock lava flow rises two or three stories above the road and river and is known for its impressive pictographs, visible along the cliff of lava rock when examined closely. At this pinch point, pioneers attempted to build three versions of the dam. After they all failed, the highway department erected an all-season bridge to cross the river. Local farmers plant the dam’s old flood plains in summer with deep green cotton, making the little valley a desert oasis.
I’ve been to the Arlington Cattle Company before, so this wasn’t my first time photographing this abandoned equipment. The last time I photographed there was over a decade ago; the massive boom that sent grain over the road to the feed lots there had collapsed into the canal flowing along the roadside. Someone has cleaned that mess up since then. As I stood and framed the shot, I could hear the ghostly sounds of machinery banging, gears meshing, and belts squealing in protest. The equipment stands as a testament to the relentless march of time, bearing the scars of decades past, with the weathered vestiges of industry adorned in hues of faded silver and rust contrasting against the intense blue sky. However, what catches my eye in this photo is the tall silver elevator, which towers above all else, and with the sun’s reflection, it appears as a beacon against the bright blue sky. The wispy white clouds in the background are a bonus and provide a nice contrast to the earthy tones of the equipment.
The Arlington Cattle Company was established in the early 1900s by a group of investors led by William W. Clemens, who also served as the company’s president. The company purchased approximately 55,000 acres of land in the Arlington Valley and constructed a state-of-the-art cattle feeding facility. The company aimed to fatten cattle for the market using a combination of locally grown grains and hay from nearby farms.
The facility stood as a cathedral of innovation, a testament to the audacity of human endeavor, featuring a grain elevator that could lift and store thousands of bushels of grain at a time. The elevator was powered by an extensive motor and conveyor system that could move the grain from the elevator to the various silos and feedlots throughout the property. The company also built a vast network of canals and irrigation ditches to ensure a reliable water supply for the crops (and cattle).
Despite the initial success of the operation, the Arlington Cattle Company struggled to turn a profit. The company faced several challenges, including drought, floods, and fluctuations in the price of beef. In addition, the company’s location in a remote part of the state made transportation difficult and expensive. As a result, the company was forced to declare bankruptcy in the early 1920s. After the default, the land and equipment were sold to various buyers. Today, the rusting equipment seen along the roadside in the Arlington Valley are the only remnants of the Arlington Cattle Company.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s photo and reading about the Arlington Cattle Company and the old farm equipment that still represents Arizona’s ranching history. Don’t forget to check out the larger version of Arlington’s Abandoned Feed Mill Cattle on our website by clicking here. Join us next week for more fascinating stories and photos of farming equipment, from the old to the new. And who knows, maybe we’ll even find something borrowed and blue. Thanks for reading!
Till next time