Huerfano Butte (Arizona)

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Huerfano Butte
Huerfano Butte Pima County Arizona.jpg
Huerfano Butte from the northwest.
Country United States
State Arizona
Region Sonoran Desert
District Tucson, AZ
Location Santa Rita Mountains
 - coordinates 31°51′32″N 110°49′57″W / 31.85897°N 110.83259°W / 31.85897; -110.83259Coordinates: 31°51′32″N 110°49′57″W / 31.85897°N 110.83259°W / 31.85897; -110.83259
Highest point
 - elevation 3,992 ft (1,217 m)
Topo map USGS Helvetia, AZ
Huerfano Butte (Arizona) is located in Arizona
Huerfano Butte (Arizona)
Location of Huerfano Butte in Arizona

Huerfano Butte (English: "Orphan Butte") is a small rocky butte located on the western flank of the Santa Rita Mountains in southeastern Pima County, Arizona. With an elevation of 3,992 feet, Huerfano Butte is one of the dominant landmarks in the 52,000 acre Santa Rita Experimental Range, as well as an important prehistoric archaeological site.[1][2]


Huerfano Butte and the surrounding area were utilized by the Hohokam as early as circa 1100 CE. Shallow bedrock forces ground water to surface in a small pool located in a wash on the south side of the butte. Exposed outcrops of granite on either side of the wash have about fifty bedrock mortars, at least two small bedrock metates, and numerous smaller cupules. Along the same wash is a vertical stone surface with approximately two dozen weathered pictographs painted in red hematite. The pictographs include human and animal life forms, as well as concentric circles, all of which are coated in "desert varnish."[2][3]

In 1965, Huerfano Butte gained public notoriety when a young girl discovered an extensive prehistoric jewelry cache while on a picnic with her family. While exploring cracks and crevices on the butte, the young girl discovered a small pottery jar filled with about 1,500 turquoise and glycimeris shell beads and pendants. The pottery jar and lid containing the jewelry were turned over to the Arizona State Museum upon discovery, and were dated to approximately 1100 CE. The pottery was identified as Gila plainware from the Rincon phase.[2][3]

Today, Huerfano Butte is only open to those with permission, in order to help protect the site's cultural resources.[2][4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Huerfano Butte, AZ". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Santa Rita Experimental Range: 100 Years (1903 to 2003) of Accomplishments and Contributions" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  3. ^ a b "A Cache at Huerfano Butte". Mark Bahti. 36: 17–22. 1970. JSTOR 30247132. 
  4. ^ "The Treasure of Huerfano Butte - Southern Arizona Guide". Retrieved 2013-04-12.