Historic Canoa Ranch Self-Guided Tour

Raúl M. Grijalva Canoa Ranch Conservation Park

The Raúl M. Grijalva Canoa Ranch Conservation Park comprises 4,800 acres of the original San Ignacio de la Canoa Grant. Hacienda de la Canoa is the name given to the 30-acre ranch headquarters in the 1920s by Levi Manning. People from all periods of time have contributed to the special history of this place.



Native Peoples
2,000 BCE – CE 1600s

People have lived here since around 10,000 BC. About 2000 BC, maize (corn) was domesticated and people settled in villages. Pottery was first developed around 200 BC. The Hohokam developed irrigation near the river and built numerous homes here from AD 650 to 1450.

Spanish Period
1690s – 1821

In the late 1690s Father Eusebio Francisco Kino traveled by La Canoa on his way to establish San Xavier del Bac. In 1775, Juan Batista de Anza and his expedition of 240 people stopped over at the “paraje,” or camp. La Canoa did not have flowing water but travelers could obtain water by digging small pits in the ground.

Mexican Period and San Ignacio de la Canoa Grant
1820 – 1853

To encourage settlement in the northern part of New Spain, grants of land were offered to potential farmers and ranchers. Tomás and Ignacio Ortiz paid $250 for the 17,000-acre San Ignacio de la Canoa Grant in 1820. They received title to the land from Spain but after Mexican Independence in 1821 they faced a complex legal process to receive final ownership. After the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 the final resolution of the grant by the United States government took an additional 40 years.

American Territorial Period
1853 – 1900s

After the Gadsden Purchase, Indian warfare continued to hinder American occupation of the southwest during this period. The Canoa Hotel (site of the Tarbox massacre), Crossroads Tavern, and lumber sales operation are believed to have been located in the southeast corner of the current 4,800 acres. Frederick Maish and Thomas Driscoll purchased the property from the Ortiz family and began running cattle on the Canoa Grant in 1875. In 1887, they formed the Canoa Canal Company and expanded irrigation and agriculture. In 1880, the Southern Pacific Railroad crossed Southern Arizona and in 1910 Canoa Ranch was linked to towns to the north by the Tucson-Nogales Railroad.

Manning Period
1908 – late 1960s

In 1910, the Canoa Ranch Company was incorporated with Levi Manning as president. Levi Manning and his son Howell Manning Sr. enlarged the range holdings and built many of the structures seen today. Canoa Ranch was known as one of the most progressive ranches in the Southwest with extensive holdings and purebred cattle and horses. After the death of Howell Manning Jr. much of the property was sold and the property started to decline.

Sign marking the Hacienda de la Canoa

Corporate Ownership
1967 – 1997

Canoa Ranch was sold several times for its valuable water rights. The sale to Phelps Dodge changed how the land and water rights could be used. In 1995, Fairfield Homes bought the property and Pima County approved the development of 300 acres. In 1997, voters approved bonds of $2 million to purchase Canoa Ranch and an additional $200,000 to rehabilitate structures.

1997 – Present

The Canoa Ranch Master Plan was developed with community input and finalized in 2007. Ecological and archaeological assessments were conducted during Phase I. The most badly deteriorated buildings were stabilized and rehabilitated during Phases II and III. In June 2012, Phase IV construction began with additional structural repairs and the reestablishment of historic landscapes. Adaptive reuse of an existing garage provided an ADA accessible restroom and the site’s well was rehabilitated. Historic Canoa Ranch is now open to the public with tours and special programs.

Crumbling Canoa Ranch House
The rear view of the Tack Room and Grijalva Home prior to restoration.


Tradesman’s Home (Visitor Center)

Exhibit you will find in this building: Introduction to Historic Canoa Ranch
This modest Spanish Colonial Revival style structure is possibly the newest structure to have been built in the ranch headquarters area and likely dates to the 1940s. Its design appears to blend the Anglo-styled residences to the north with the older Hispanic-styled buildings to the south. Walls are 11 feet high and made from 12-inch adobe with a flat roof draining to canales.

The 1,124 sq. ft. interior was wood-framed and covered in metal lath and plaster. The flooring was linoleum over concrete. It was divided into a small, yet relatively comfortable, duplex with bathrooms and kitchens.

When Canoa Ranch came under County ownership in 1997, this residence was in a state of partial collapse. Efforts were concentrated on repairing exterior damage and making the building structurally sound.

In 2020, the Tradesman’s Home became the Historic Canoa Ranch Visitor Center. The Introduction to Historic Canoa Ranch Exhibit presents the history of the ranch through time and is the start point for your visit.


Grain Room, Blacksmith’s Shop and Tack Room

Exhibits you will find in these buildings: Anza Expedition; George Redondo Proctor Western Heritage Collection; Ranching Tools and Barbwire Collection
This 2,150 sq. ft. building is one of the oldest at Canoa Ranch and was added onto over time. It is at the heart of the historical working section. The building was essential to daily operations and provided a number of key functions including the constant repair and upkeep of ranch and horse-related equipment.

Architecturally, it represents a transition from Sonoran vernacular traditions to Arizona Territorial building forms. It was constructed sometime between 1901 and 1915 of 15-inch-wide mud adobe bricks with walls 14 feet high. Like other adobe structures at Canoa, it is covered in lime plaster and lime-washed for protection.

The building contains five chambers; a Grain Room to the north, two small storage rooms, the Blacksmith’s Shop, and large Tack Room to the south. Doors and windows are made from wood and the foundation and floors are concrete. Flat roofs drain to canales.


Grijalva (Cattle Bosses) Home

Exhibit you will find in this building: Mexican Vaquero Families
Constructed in 1915 and added onto over several decades, the original portion of the Cattle Bosses Home contained barely 280 sq. ft. and may have been a combination of bedroom, living room, and kitchen.

After 1935, the courtyard between this structure and the building to the west was enclosed to make a bedroom with a cold water shower stall. Later, the toilet room was added to the east to complete the 890 sq. ft. building. The walls are lime plastered adobe and the floor is concrete.

During World War II, Canoa Ranch participated in the U.S. Government’s Bracero Program, which allowed the owners to employ immigrant Mexican workers to help offset the loss of American ranch labor serving in the armed forces. One of these workers, Raúl Noriega Grijalva, lived in this building. His son, Raúl M. Grijalva, was born in the U.S. in February 1948 and lived here until he was about five years old. Raúl later entered public service as a member of the U.S. Congress.

Back of the Tack Room and Grijalva Home.
The rear view of the Tack Room and Grijalva Home.

Retaque Corral

The massive retaque corral is one of Canoa Ranch’s most unique features and is considered one of the finest remaining examples in Arizona.

Derived from the Spanish word “retakar,” meaning to “stack-up,” the horizontally-laid wood fences were built sufficiently thick and high to contain heavy, unruly cattle. Each wall is approximately 24 inches wide and between five and six feet high. The wood was cut from mesquite trees found nearby.


Foreman’s Home

Exhibit you will find in this building: Scotch Farms McLean Family
Possibly the oldest surviving building on the ranch, this traditional Sonoran- style building was common in the latter half of the 1800s, although the date of construction of the Foreman’s Home is not known.

The building contains an original portion and an eastern addition constructed sometime prior to 1924. The result is a linear residence made up of a series of single rooms containing 1,565 sq. ft. of interior living space.

Earliest photographs published in 1924 show the building with a full-length, north-facing shade ramada structure covered with palm thatch. After this, the earlier ramada was replaced with a deep, full-length shed roof enclosed with screen on all sides, providing a protected outdoor living area for the foreman and his family. The house also had its own chicken-coop, orchard, and vegetable garden. Concrete floors and interior plumbing came later. The size of the house is, perhaps, indicative of the importance placed by the ranch owner in having a ranch foreman responsible for successfully carrying out ranch operations.

Although being only one story in height, the walls are some 18 feet tall. The purpose of such wall-height was to aid in cooling the building during summer months. Even today, the temperature inside the Foreman’s Home can be 5–8 degrees F. cooler than outside, aided by the thickness of the adobe.


Canal Head Gate

From this location the expansive Canoa Canal can be seen. In the late 1890s Maish and Driscoll developed the canal to deliver water to Tucson, but this project never was completed.

Continue on the trail up to the berm to take in the view of the Santa Rita Mountains and see where the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail runs along the eastern edge of the Raúl M. Grijalva Canoa Ranch Conservation Park.


Howell Manning Sr. Residence

Designed by Tucson architect John Smith in 1935, the 4,700 sq. ft. adobe house was completed in 1936 for Howell Manning Sr. (1899-1966) and his second wife, Evelyn.

At the time of its construction, the house was considered state of the art and was featured in an edition of Architectural Forum. The design combines historical styles from California ranchos and Mexican haciendas but has a surprisingly modern appearance with an informal open floor plan, expansive walls of glass looking toward the Santa Rita Mountains to the east, and a low-slung, horizontal quality. The exterior was stuccoed and painted white to match the lime-washed structures in the ranch headquarters.

During Manning’s ownership, Hacienda de la Canoa as it was know as at the time, was a social hub of the Santa Cruz Valley. The house was well equipped to handle events of all sizes and, besides containing a large, modern kitchen and butler’s pantry, it had a walk-in cooler and freezer. Residents and guests enjoyed the large dining room and even larger living room with spectacular mountain views and marble fireplaces. Bedrooms and other private spaces were located in the north end.


Guest House

Built prior to 1925, this small adobe house contained a single room. Ranch owner Howell Manning Sr. kept his valuable saddles here. By 1948, the house had been upgraded as a guest house with an interior bathroom added around 1952. With all the changes, the Guest House contains 850 sq. ft. of interior space.

Earliest photographs show the Guest House with a shade porch covered in palm fronds on the east-facing side. Later, porches were added on the south and north sides, extending the shaded areas, and helping to cool interiors during summer heat.

The two interior rooms are paneled and trimmed in solid walnut, including the floors and ceilings. The bathroom was modern for the time, and this has been carefully refurbished to reflect the period. Earlier wood framed windows were replaced with steel casement windows.


Howell Manning Jr./Clare Schnaufer Residence

Exhibit you will find in this building: Manning, Schnaufer, and Gayler Ranching Life
The adobe residence is approximately 3,500 sq. ft. in size. It combines a house built in 1935 with a 1948 addition. Both portions of the building are believed to have been designed by the Tucson architect John Smith.

Howell Manning Sr. constructed the original house for his two sons, Marklan and Howell Jr., in 1935. It consisted of two bedrooms on either side of a shared bathroom and a deep, northeast-facing open porch.

When Howell Jr. married in 1948, the house was expanded to the north creating a family home for Howell Jr. and his new bride, Louise – or Deezie as she was known. The porch east of the bedrooms was enclosed to become a sunroom and a new main entrance was added with a breezeway to an enclosed courtyard located on the west side. Also added were a large living room, kitchen, and utility spaces.

After Howell Manning Jr.’s death, Clare Manning Schnaufer, her husband Bill, and their children moved into the house and took over management of Canoa Ranch. They ranched, farmed, and raised prize-winning horses and cattle until the property was sold in the 1970s.
Although the house is constructed from adobe, the foundation and floors are concrete and the window frames are steel. Like the Manning Sr. House opposite, the gable roof is a departure from the Sonoran style buildings elsewhere in the ranch headquarters and is covered with cedar wood shakes.


Canoa Lake

In 1921 Howell Manning, Sr. became the manager of Canoa Ranch. He installed an extensive irrigation system and constructed a 5-acre artificial lake. The lake was filled by a canal fed by pump-powered wells. The wells pulled water from the Santa Cruz River’s underground seepage.

The lake was stocked with catfish and surrounded by cottonwood trees. It attracted wildlife such as frogs and migratory waterfowl.
The lake was enjoyed year round but provided a shady, cool place to escape the summer heat. It became a source of delightful memories for the owners and staff at Canoa Ranch and other residents of Santa Cruz Valley. The surrey scene along the lake in the movie Oklahoma was filmed here.

After the property was sold in the late 1960s, the artificial lake began to dry up and the cottonwood trees started to die.
To minimize water use, in the Fall of 2017 the recreated lake was reduced to 2.5-acres. The lake was lined to further minimize losses. Soon after, it was filled using groundwater from a Pima County extraction well.

Planting of historic and native vegetation was completed in 2018. Immediately, native mammals of all sizes including deer, javelina, and raccoons, as well as insects and amphibians came to the lake.

View of the Canoa Ranch and Lake.
View of the Canoa Lake and Ranch.