Answer: I still find myself in awe when I drive through the Dreamy Draw — a mountain passage between Piestewa Peak and North Mountain. To me, It’s one of the finest mountain settings in the Valley because you drive right through it — and it’s smack-dab in the heart of Phoenix.
Was it the “dreamy” views that inspired such a label for the area?
I asked City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation spokesman Gregg Bach that very question. He explained that the name “Dreamy Draw” can be traced back to the mining operations that were active until the 1940s.
“Cinnabar, or mercury sulfide, was found in this area in the mid-1900s,” Bach said.
What were they doing with this stuff? At that time, mercury had many valuable uses, one of which was “curing of animal pelts in the manufacture of felt hats,” he explained.
However there was a drawback.
“Mercury is highly toxic and can cause neurological issues,” Bach said. “That is where the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ comes from. That also is why it was named Dreamy Draw — as those who were working in the mines and coming in contact with that element were in a ‘dreamy’ state afterward.”
Travel through area
Traveling through this area was no cupcake at that time. So a freeway was proposed.
The planning of SR 51 dates back to 1955, with actual construction starting in 1986.
“State Route 51 (Piestewa Freeway) was first opened to Shea Boulevard in summer 1994,” Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Doug Nintzel said. “The Shea Boulevard bridge over the freeway was opened two years later, in summer 1996.”
It was a big deal. With each new exit added, the community celebrated. It quickly became a driving staple when needing to get to and from the north or south parts of the Valley.
Of course the main feature of this freeway was finally being able to drive through the Dreamy Draw mountain pass with ease.
Dreamy Draw’s namesake isn’t the only question that has been asked regarding the area. A while back someone wanted to know if there was any truth to the rumors of a UFO crash in this particular area.
Bach said a book written in the early 1950s by Frank Scully titled “Behind the Flying Saucers.” In this book, it “suggests that a UFO crashed in Dreamy Draw in 1947,” Bach said with a laugh “Jokingly, I can neither confirm or deny this.
“I suppose it’s urban legend dating back to when aliens and flying saucers were a trendy topic.”
Sounds like a fun story to pass down … even if it is more than likely fiction.
Popular recreation area
Here’s the nugget of truth in all of this — Dreamy Draw is … DREAMY! And beyond the beauty, there are other benefits to this area as well.
”The Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area (Piestewa Peak) and Dreamy Draw Recreation Area provide some of the city’s most popular hiking and outdoor recreation property,” Bach said.
From bike trails to hiking, from areas to sit and ponder to horse trails for trail riding, there’s a little something for everyone.
So go out and enjoy what’s right in our back yard.
For information, go to phoenix.gov: https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/lo cations/piestewa-peak.