They dominate the horizon, rising 12,633 feet (3851 m) to Arizona's highest point. Visible for miles from all directions, they stand guard over a land which has long sustained people in spirit and natural resources. All of the region's Native peoples revere them.
Spanish friars christened these peaks as San Francisco Mountain in 1629 to honor their St. Francis of Assisi. The first wave of Spanish explorers, surprised that such large mountains did not spawn lakes or streams, charted them the Sierra Sin Agua - mountains without water. Conversely, most Native names for the peaks are a reference to a mountain with life-giving moisture.
This immense stratovolcano captures large amounts of rain and snowfall, yet surface water is scarce. Moisture drains down rapidly through fractured bedrock and much is sponged up by porous volcanic rock. The closest river, the Little Colorado, is connected to the peaks by drainage but rarely receives water directly.
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San Francisco Mountain is sculpted into four peaks, from left to right: Agassiz, Humphreys, Fremont, and Doyle.
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San Francisco Mountain bounded many traditional homelands and was a landscape shared by all the region's indigenous groups.