Tassi Ranch is a rural historic district whose buildings, structures, and other
landscape features are comprised of a unique and intact ranch core in northwestern Arizona, dating back from the first half of the 20th century.
Located on the edge of the Grand Wash in the western portion of the Arizona
Strip, – which encompasses the lands north of the Grand Canyon – the surrounding desert topography is rough. Steep canyons rise hundreds of feet to flat tablelands above. Immediately to the east are the Grand Wash Cliffs, which rise in a series of steps over 1,500 feet to the Shivwits Plateau.
The current ranch house, unusual with its stone construction, was built in 1938 and occupied intermittently through the 1970s. Tassi Springs was an important stopover for both Native Americans and Mormon traders as they journeyed across the desert. In 1876, it became part of the Pearce Ferry Road that connected St. George, Utah and the Pearce Ferry Crossing on the
Colorado River, though use of the road soon declined.
In 1902, the land was withdrawn from public sale as part of the Reclamation Act in preparation for the construction of the Hoover Dam. However, within a year, settlers began to claim water rights at the springs and bring their livestock to graze. A stone house and well had been constructed by the spring of 1912.
After a series of fraudulent land titles, Ed Yates began occupying Tassi Ranch in 1929. Yates improved the springs and planted crops and shade trees. He
constructed the standing ranch house reservoir, corrals, and field irrigation
system, which provided a permanent base for a full range of stock-raising
functions. The system provided water for cattle and irrigation for pasturage and crops.
The ranch house is composed of rock rather than the log construction that was typical for the region at the time. It is likely that this same rock was used in the previous structure. The house was occupied periodically until 1981. In the 1990s, the National Park Service made a variety of improvements to stabilize the house and landscape.
In 1938, Yates built the stone house at Tassi at the base of the hill, near the Springs. He likely used stones from an original house that was built there in 1917.
Ranchers in the desert adapted to the dry climate by clustering development around available water sources. While outlying ranch features exist, the majority of Tassi Ranch developments are clustered around Tassi Springs, a system consisting of numerous spring heads at the center of the property.
Here, buildings, corrals, agricultural fields, irrigation ditches, a row of large cottonwood trees, and other vernacular ranch features, remain intact from the first half of the 1900s. Vernacular architecture is an architectural style that is designed based on local needs, availability of construction materials, and it reflects local traditions. These features are composed of a shady oasis located in the extreme desert environment of the Arizona Strip.
The ranch is organized in a way that best utilizes the natural springs. The core area, with its house, barns, corrals, and other features, is located adjacent to the springs and on a terrace above the wash, under the shady cottonwood trees.
Above both the core area and the fields, are large, generally open pastures enclosed with barbed wire fences. These pastures do not require irrigation and are therefore located upslope from the springs. The agricultural fields at the southwestern end of the site are located furthest from the springs. Thickets of native shrub species have overgrown portions of the site, as a result of spring channeling.
Many of these features remain today, and represent unique and complex elements that display local adaptations. These elements serve the needs of those living here and running a ranch in the desert environment of Northern Arizona.