What do you think of when you hear the words, “Dreamy Draw?”
When I first heard of the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area in Phoenix, I pictured a peaceful castle, high up in the sky floating in a sea of big white puffy clouds and a huge draw bridge emerging from it.
And while I knew there was no way a scene like this would exist in Phoenix….I did find that while hiking on the trails, the views were beautiful and one could say, “dreamy”. Which lead me to ask the question, “How did Dreamy Draw get its name?”
I soon discovered, that the views had nothing to do with the dreaminess factor. Instead, a bigger and unique piece of Phoenix history revealed itself.
This name was first given to this area in the early 20th century. During this time, a mineral known as cinnabar was in high demand because when processed mercury can be extracted from it.
As we now know, mercury is toxic and negatively affects our health and mental state of mind.
Residents in this area would observe miners acting in a “dream like” state and refereed to the area as “Dreamy Draw” which is how it got its name.
Due to health concerns, the mining operations were closed down in the 1940s and in the 1980s the surrounding freeway was built. The area of this mining operations reached from Piestewa Peak to Shea Boulevard off of the 51 Freeway.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality confirmed in 2003, that this is no longer health risks, as samples did not show traces of cinnabar or mercury in the soil.
However, remnants of the mining operations can still be found today. Appropriately named, Mercury Mine Elementary School (off of 28th St and Shea Blvd) plays softball on a field that is actually a filled in mine.
This history is a good reminder that our mountains are more than a series of hiking trails for us city folk. They have a full rich history themselves and pieces of that past still appear if you look close enough.