May 2005 Thanks to a steady series of winter rains, the Deem Hills had a spectacular spring wildflower display as did the rest of the Sonoran desert. As spring warms to summer, it is now high time for cactus flowers. Showy white saguaro blooms, hot pink hedgehogs, rose-colored nipple cacti, and crowns of yellow barrel cacti flowers beckon to pollinators. Bats, bumblebees, beetles, moths, and birds all share the wealth of pollen and nectar in the desert. From this abundance will soon come the succulent cactus fruits that feed so many others in the desert, from ground squirrels to people who harvest them. The hills are alive!
The Deem Hills are an icon for our neighborhood, thoughtfully crafted into a calligraphic logo at our entry. Of all the benefits we enjoy in making our homes in Stetson Hills (including neighborhood parks, book clubs, nearby schools, Halloween parades, and a nifty newsletter…), the land around us offers the richest rewards. Whether you view Deem Hills as a healthy asset to your real estate investment, a peaceful place to hike, a wild island where native plants and animals continue to thrive amidst the rising tide of suburban sprawl, or merely as pleasant scenery (or all of the above!), this narrow slice of desert is invaluable. The Deem Hills are our homeland.
As part of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, Deem Hills is one of several mountain preserves, and comprises about 640 acres of native Sonoran desert stretching 2 miles long and about a mile wide. There is currently a network of nearly 5 miles of trails that loop around the hills and link Stetson Hills with neighborhoods to the north. When fully developed, the natural area open space will most likely have trailheads at the Skunk Creek park to the east, and the Deem Hills park to the west, both of which are currently in planning phases.
Right now, access into the Deem Hills is a lightly guarded secret. Although I hike up there sometimes 3 or 4 times a week with my family, only rarely do we encounter other people. We do, however, see many others who call this their homeland: javelina, Gambels’ quail, owls, coyotes, lizards, beetles, and bats among others. Over one hundred of species of wild plants call this land their home. There is also plenty of evidence to show that a thousand years ago and more, ancient peoples raised families here, farming the bajadas, gathering fruits, building pots, and knapping arrowheads.
If you have any special sightings, information, interests, or questions about the natural history of the area, please let me know! A special prize will be awarded to anyone who can reveal the source of the name “Deem” for these hills!
Since May 2005, I have written a natural history column for a neighborhood newsletter published by Jennifer Moore called "Our Big Backyard: Natural History of the Deem Hills," and since 2010, "A Suburban Naturalist."All of these columns are reproduced here. Deem Hills is a City of Phoenix Desert Preserve located just north of Happy Valley Road in north central Phoenix, and just west of I-17. The Preserve and adjacent hills comprise over 900 acres of open space with several miles of hiking trails. For more perspectives from the Deem Hills and suburban Phoenix, also check out my companion blog, Kat Tracks.
As a naturalist with a special interest in botany and plant ecology, some of my greatest passions are to explore, photograph and write about native plants. If I can spark an awareness or interest in natural history in others along the way, that is my greatest reward.