Buckskin Mountain is the second most westerly mountain of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Pinal County, Arizona. Its closest neighbor to the west is Cerro Cabrillo to the north and east. The summit elevation is 3,612 feet (1,195m) above sea level. The mountain rises from an area that experiences cold winters with significant amounts of snowfall, averaging around 60 inches per year. Summertime temperatures are typically warm to hot, with daytime highs in the 90s Fahrenheit and nighttime lows in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit. Precipitation falls mainly in the winter season, but there is some rain during the summer as well.
Most precipitation falls in heavy, wet flakes at elevations below 2,500 feet (760 m), though a few thunderstorm clouds appear every summer. Winds on the mountain are typical for a desert environment; light, soft breezes coming off the mountains are tempered by the deep canyons and rock faces nearby. No specific threat exists beyond occasional lightning strikes. On clear days, views extend far into the distance, including many miles out into the Colorado River basin and southeast toward Tabletop Mountain near Tucson. Though seemingly barren, the peak hosts numerous wild-cave tour opportunities. Near the top of the mountain, park rangers offer trail information and sell firewood. Atop the mesa are several archaeological sites, two of which have been dated back to 300 BC and one of which has been dated back to 600 AD. This last site was occupied by ancestors of the Hohokam people who were hunter-gatherers, growing corn and beans, while also practicing horticulture.
They built small homes made of stone or adobe bricks, had domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, and turkeys, and may have even kept goats. Their numbers increased over time, so much so that by about 400 AD they dominated the region’s population and economy, building extensive irrigation systems and trading extensively with other tribes, both within the present state of Arizona and farther south. By about 700 AD, the Hohokam civilization was flourishing, and their descendants lived in what would become the present-day Hopi Mesas. Around 900 AD, this group would be conquered by the Desert People, whose advanced culture and technology overwhelmed the Hohokam. Archaeologists call these people the Hisat’sinom, meaning “Ancient Enemies.” Little else is known about them, although it is believed they settled along the Red Rock Creek shortly before 1000 AD. Notable features of the landscape used by the Hisat’sinom include natural springs, caves, and boulders. As time passed, the climate grew hotter and drier, and the Hisat’sinom began to vanish. First, the young men went away to hunt bison twice a year, returning with animal furs to make tipis.
Later, the entire tribe left, never to return. Presently, only a handful remain, living primarily in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In 1881, after years of mining silver, prospecting for gold, and farming, the homesteader LeGrande and his wife Lila decided to move to southern Arizona where he bought 160 acres of land just outside the town of Benson. There, in 1907, they started making plans to build their home, naming it ‘Buckskin’. A year later, they moved to the location with their son Lloyd, daughter Myrtle, and her husband Charles Huet. While working together, the father-son team completed construction of their house in less than three months, beginning on June 20th and finishing on October 26, 1910. It featured four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a large kitchen/dining room, and a wrap-around porch. After its completion, the family traveled to Prescott, stopping overnight on September 23rd. On September 24th, they continued on to Tucson, arriving safely home on October 27th. The following December, the elder LeGrande died at age 76, leaving behind his beloved wife and son. Shortly thereafter, tragedy struck again when Lloyd LeGrande died in a car accident. Following this loss, Myrtle and her husband C. W. Hartman moved to Yuma, California, taking little Lloyd Jr. With no children of her own, Mrs. Hartman adopted Lloyd III, giving him her maiden name of Hartman. She soon returned to live in Tucson, where she remained until her death in 1956. Upon learning of his adoptive mother’s death, Lloyd Sr. requested that his remains be scattered alongside hers on the side of Mount Lemmon, the mountain range overlooking the city of Tucson. He wanted to be buried next to his wife and child in the cemetery, but his body was too damaged by decomposition. Instead, he was interred beside his biological parents in the plot reserved for those without a grave marker.
When the cemetery was slated to be closed due to lack of space, friends and relatives donated money to create a memorial to Lloyd LeGrande. The community center formerly known as the Old Town Hall was remodeled to resemble a traditional frontier church, complete with pulpit, pews, and a steeple. Dedicated on May 21, 1960, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, it serves not only as a place of worship, but also as a meeting facility for civic organizations, school functions, business meetings, and receptions. Today, visitors can enjoy concerts, plays, movies, and other events throughout the year.
The park offers trails for hikers, horses, and all-terrain vehicles, camping facilities, and picnicking areas. Visitors can explore cave tours, go horseback riding, mountain bike, play disc golf, or participate in archery contests. Rangers conduct nature walks and teach outdoor activities each week. During the spring and fall migration, hawk watches take place nightly, offering easy access to viewing raptors. Other wildlife observed includes cacti, rabbits, ground squirrels, jackrabbits, kites, quail, ravens, roadrunners, turkey vultures, and various species of bats. Coyotes, bobcats, and kit foxes inhabit the surrounding wilderness. Mule deer, pronghorn, and porcupines reside inside the park grounds. Occasionally, black bears, cougars, and white-tailed deer roam through the park. Every November, since 1958, the park has hosted the annual International Wildlife Film Festival, screening films throughout the day and hosting special presentations at night.
Over 450 bird watchers converge from across North America to witness the migration of more than 200 different species. According to Naturalist John Muir, “The mountains themselves seem to breathe out peace and harmony.” That sentiment couldn’t be truer than in this case. Located just six miles northwest of central Tucson, the park preserves part of the Santa Catalina Mountains foothills ecosystem. Elevation ranges between 1,600 and 2,400 feet (490 and 730 m). Summers bring high temperatures in the upper 90s Fahrenheit and low temperatures in the 30s Fahrenheit. Winters average lower temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit, with occasional subzero nights.
Rain and snow fall usually from October until April, though there may be thunderstorm activity in the summer as well. Winds blow mostly from the northeast, except in late spring and early summer, when southwest winds predominate. Owing to the relatively high elevation of the park, sunrise and sunset occur quite early, about 6:20 and 17:00 respectively. Sunset appears orange because of the presence of the ubiquitous Mojave sunsets, caused by the thin atmosphere and intense sunlight reflecting off the surface of the water. Sunrise and sunset times vary slightly depending on your geographic location, but are fairly consistent everywhere within the park.