Outside the Empire Ranch

We took a walk through the iron gateHeritage gate b:w

This is the Hired Man’s House.


This two room house was in existence by 1920, most likely constructed by the Vails to house the families working on the Empire Ranch.

In 1924 it was the Estrada family that lived there.  In 1927 Mariano Ferra, his wife and granddaughter Eva, moved into the house.  Mariano first worked as a cowboy for the Vail’s, and later worked at ranch headquarters cutting and hauling wood.hired hands door

When the Boice’s purchased the Empire in 1929 the Ferra’s were allowed to remain in the house.  Eva began to help Mary Boice with her children, Bob and Pancho.  Eva later married Empire Ranch cowboy, Dick Jimenez, who worked for Frank Boice from 1933-1945.

Further down the trail we came to a frog pond, enclosed, where they raise threatened Chiricahua leopard frogs.  We didn’t get to see any since they just transported over 2,150 frogs & tadpoles to new locations in October.

frog encampment

They may seem little, but these guys play an important role in the delicate web of life in the areas wetlands, contributing to the overall health of the entire ecosystem.  By restoring the leopard frog populations, they provide an important food source  for many of southern Arizona’s most threatened and unique predators.



Chiricahua leopard frogs were historically abundant in SE Arizona, but with the decline of surface water, suitable habitat, and the increases of non-native predators (esp bullfrogs) and diseases have all contributed to the frogs’ decline.

These frogs grow to about 5 inches.  The breed from February through September, eggs hatching into tadpoles which take 3-9 months to metamorphose.  Some obviously morph over winter.

Adult males make a snore-like call that lasts up to 1-2 seconds long.

DSCN6687Further down the trail we headed to a grove of trees that lined where water flows some times but not currently.  The trees here are mostly cottonwoods, Populus fremontii.  We were fascinated to find out that they are self-pruning, dropping limbs sometimes weighing more than 1,000 lbs.  That makes them especially dangerous to be near or under on windy days.

That’s why we’re camped here:

van a far off


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