The Web of Life Sabino Canyon  
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Sabino Canyon

Imagine it is 150 years ago. Your horse died and you have been crawling across the hot dry desert for 2 nights. (You are smart enough to know that you should rest in the heat of the day and travel at night by the light of a half moon.) Unfortunately, your canteen has run dry. Just when you're about to give up all hope, the first rays of sunlight break over the desert and you see a beautiful mountain range in the distance. There is a darker green line that runs like a vein up the side of the mountain. "Trees," you whisper in a choking voice. You know where there are tall leafy *deciduous* trees there is water. You are saved. You have found an oasis in the Sonoran Desert. You have found Sabino Canyon!

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Sing along with the Fields Family Singers and learn from the lyrics of "Deep in the Canyon."

How did Sabino Canyon get its name? Most people believe that Sabino Canyon got its name in the 1700 or 1800s. There are many different ideas about where the name "Sabino" comes from.

  1. One story says that it was named for a man named Don Sabino Otero whose great-grandfather (or grandfather) received a land grant from the King of Spain in 1789. Don Sabino supposedly owned a ranch near the canyon but there is also a "Sabino Canyon" in the Baboquivari Mountains southwest of the Santa Catalinas. (This is the least likely of these three stories.)
  2. Another story says the canyon was named for the color of the rocks. "Sabino" is a Spanish name for a roan horse; roans are reddish-brown and sprinkled with white. Some rocks in the canyon are "roan" colored.
  3. The most likely story is that in the 1800s when the canyon was named, the climate in the area was colder and wetter. Juniper and cypress trees that now only grow high on the mountains once grew in the lower canyon as well. "Sabino" is a local Spanish word for juniper or cypress trees.

Do you want to learn more about this history of Sabino Canyon? Below is a timeline of major events in the life of the canyon. (This timeline is not drawn to scale.) The Sabino Canyon History Page has more details.

12 million
5 million


300 -1400
1854 1887 1905 1930s 1978
_______________ ______________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ______ _______ _______ _____
Santa Catalina Mountains
begin to form
Mountain Range
and Tucson
Basin form
(end of mountain

First Saguaros in Sabino Canyon

Trees in Sabino Canyon
Hohokam People
in Sabino
part of
Big Earth-
quake in

Service created - Sabino Canyon comes under its super-

Roads, dams, bridges, and picnic tables built in
Sabino Canyon
First Shuttlebus Service - cars
eventually banned

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Can you imagine what Sabino Canyon would be like today if people were still allowed to drive cars on the roads in the canyon?


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© 2001-2018 Judi Moreillon