American History in Arizona is quite recent, although the history of the Native American, Spanish and Mexican occupation periods are much older. Encampments of Native Americans were drawn to the creeks, which offered a fairly reliable source of fresh water, and the Anglo settlers followed suit. The first known Anglo-Americans to camp in the vicinity of Prescott were the Walker and Weaver parties in 1863. The Walker Party camped on the banks of Granite Creek in what is now downtown Prescott. Granite Creek quickly became a magnet for explorers, miners and settlers, and later, farmers. Activities and development along Granite Creek included panning for minerals, particularly gold; picnicking; the location of the first store and school in Prescott and a conglomeration of shanties and lean-tos; saloons; and Chinese and Mexican settlements. Later, substantial residences along with warehouses, a gas plant, bottling works and farms were developed. among the drinking establishments was the Quartz Rock Saloon, owned by a nose-less military deserter. It sported a plank bar with two bottles of whiskey and one cup. The sight of water purportedly make the patrons sick, so the business was moved to South Montezuma Street. Local legend is that saloon patrons kept falling into Granite Creek, thus diminishing a booming business. As a result, many of the saloons moved to "Whiskey Row, which was safer because of its further distance from the creek.
In addition to supporting human uses, Granite Creek gives life to many species of trees, shrubs, and grasses. Approximately 75 percent of our local wildlife are dependent upon Granite Creek and its tributaries. Over the last 150 years Granite Creek has seen many changes. The broad "gallery" of cottonwood and willow trees seen here was once up to a 1/4 mile in width, and it stretched from what is now downtown Prescott all the way to the Granite Dells, 5 miles to the northeast. The Granite Creek channel has been straightened, mined, filled, and built upon over time, resulting in a substantial loss of riparian habitat. In the 1990s, local organizations were formed to preserve and restore what riparian (streamside) habitat was left. The trail you can see below was the first effort toward this end. Since then, riparian habitat has been protected at West Granite Creek Park, Watson Woods Riparian Preserve, Watson & Willow Lakes, and the Yavapai-Prescott Tribal Lands.