Strategic Relocation Briefing: Pacific SouthWest: Northern Arizona: The Makings Of Some Good Retreat Country
Editor’s Note: This week’s strategic relocation briefing focuses on the southernmost tip of the Expanded Western Relocation Zone as defined by survival expert Joel Skousen. Water is obviously of great concern just about anywhere in the Western part of the United States, but that doesn’t have to stop you from finding a safe and remote location outside of highly populated metropolitan areas. For those living in populous areas of Southern California, Southern Nevada and Arizona, staying in the city during a large-scale emergency could prove deadly. But, having a retreat location in Utah or Idaho may not be a possibility because of the sheer distances involved, which makes northern Arizona a location worth considering. It can be accessed in an emergency on a single tank of gas for most of those living in or around Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Phoenix, and it is remote enough to keep you out of the way of the golden horde as it makes its way out of cities in search of resources. In the briefing below, provided by the Strategic Relocation Blog, Skousen identifies the safest spots in Northern Arizona by highlighting, among other things, security considerations and how to find water with ease.
Whether Northern Arizona is your destination or not, Joel Skousen, as always, provides a wide array of information, ideas, concerns and solutions applicable for anyone looking to make a strategic relocation move.
When you’re ready to start searching for your perfect home or retreat visit the For Sale By Owner listings at the Strategic Relocation web site. Real estate is available for those living in any part of the United States and most listings include survival ratings provide by the Survival Retreat Consulting team and/or Joel Skousen.
Northern Arizona differs in many important ways from the Phoenix area, with its high population density, and extreme summer heat. The higher altitudes of northern Arizona allow for more moderate summer temperatures as well as beautiful fir and pine forests at the higher elevations. This mountainous and hilly region also provides more privacy from long distance views on passing highways that is not possible in a flat desert landscape. Best yet, the population densities are much lower and there are a lot of prepper minded people in northern Arizona.
From a strategic point of view, northern Arizona provides a very important niche in my view of safe areas in the West. This is why I have included this area as the southernmost anchor of my expanded recommended Western Relocation Zone—see the link here. Purists complain that this area is too close to Phoenix and even Southern California to be safe, but that reasoning cuts both ways. Compared to the other choices, it’s a great compromise.
It is precisely because it is so difficult to get from Southern California and Phoenix to the safer areas farther north in Utah, Idaho and Western Colorado that northern Arizona provides a key solution to avoiding those choke points. Let me quickly describe the problem:
Because of the massive blocking effect of the Grand Canyon, there are only two major roads leading north to the safety of the Intermountain West—I-5 going the Vegas (not good) and US-89 leading north out of Flagstaff, Arizona (better—but it’s only a two lane road). Yes, you can go a lot farther east to US-191 and then go north to southeastern Utah but now you’re getting beyond a day’s drive and running out of fuel.
Betting on a bug-out plan that involves getting north through those two choke points is foolhardy at best, if not impossible unless you get out with advanced warning. So, for people in the populous areas of So. California and the Phoenix/Mesa area, who can’t permanently relocate, but must have a retreat strategy as their main option, northern Arizona is a much more doable destination within a day’s drive and a correctly designed and outfitted bug-out bag, than the more distant safer areas which may be impossible to get to, regardless of supplies and planning. Making these kinds of wise compromises is the essence of good strategic planning.
The major objection to northern Arizona as a retreat destination (after proximity to dangerous urban area) is the lack of water. But it’s not productive to complain about low amounts of water in the Intermountain West in general or in Arizona in particularly—you aren’t trying to feed the whole world, nor get water for the whole state—just enough to serve your particular retreat. Arizona may be a desert but there are many places in northern Arizona where impermeable subterranean rock layers cause water to pool underground in large aquifers or move horizontally, creating year round springs and streams. In places where you can find good water supplies, combined with Arizona’s abundant solar potential and the right alternative energy package, northern Arizona has the makings of some good retreat country.
The Holy Grail of information on water in Arizona is this map that catalogs every water well in the state. It is interactive, so zoom into the area you are interested in, and then click on the individual red dots in that area and it will give you the depth of the well and the flow rate—just the information you need to have some idea of what kind of water resources exist, and how costly it will be to drill.
In certain areas of northern Arizona, people even haul water because the aquifer is over 2,000 feet deep—way too deep to drill economically. There are a lot of these areas around Ash Fork in the Flagstaff area that can only afford cheap land without water, and choose to haul water. It’s more common than you might think:
More than half of the people who live on the Navajo Reservation haul water, and so do hundreds of others in the areas around Flagstaff, Williams and Kingman. Only a big developer has the resources to drill for deep water and provide the storage tanks for community water systems. But at least we ought to be grateful that Arizona allows people to build a house without a well. Most jurisdictions do not. “It’s a way of life in these areas,” says Tom Whitmer, manager of statewide water resources planning for the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
While I would only choose a no-water site as a last resort, it’s not particularly expensive to haul water in this area. According to a local website, “The water-filling stations in Ash Fork, a tiny town west of Williams in northern Yavapai County, draw lines of trucks all day on the weekends. The town is served by a small water system, but most residents beyond a square mile or so must haul water or have it hauled in. Most people know what they’re getting into and would rather haul water than pony up the assessments needed to build a community system.”
Of course, thinking strategically, that water hauling system completely breaks down without electricity to run the city pumps and gasoline to fuel the water trucks. So, don’t make these kinds of decisions based upon current conditions.
Here are some of my comments in Strategic Relocation about various northern Arizona locations to consider:
Flagstaff: This is a beautiful area but it is a major exit route from Phoenix, and will also collect everyone coming north from Phoenix on I-17 and west from California trying to avoid the Las Vegas bottleneck. Collector towns like Flagstaff actually serve a beneficial purpose in absorbing refugees for a period of time, giving those not in town more time to react. So, pick locations in this area that are not visible from paved roads. Fortunately, there are many forested home sites in the Flagstaff area to choose from.
Sedona: We used to recommend Sedona, but it has become very expensive now, and puts you in the path of everyone coming from the south on hwy 89. If you have retreat property in the immediate mountains around Sedona and don’t have to leave, that’s acceptable. A good compromise area away from Sedona proper is the farm land and homes along Oak Creek between Cottonwood and Sedona. It does flood once a year, so make sure the land is out of the flood plain. This year round river valley has good water and year round growing potential.
While Sedona and Flagstaff do have mountainous areas in the vicinity which offer potential retreat sites, the best areas are farther away from the future refugee flows that will come out of Phoenix. Most of the good farm/ranch retreat areas were former Mormon colonies in Arizona. The pioneers always picked areas with good water supplies for irrigation. Mormons no longer are the majority in these areas, but their heritage of preparedness gives the area a good base, combined with a lot of evangelical Christians, which make up the new majority. Between Prescott and Sedona along the Verde river you will find Cornville. North of town there are lots of irrigated farms that make fairly good retreat sites.
Payson is a fine ranching and farming community at the base of Arizona’s northern mountains, but it too is the first major town refugees traveling up highway 87 will meet, thus pick retreat property in the Star Valley area or farther north up into the mountains. Off of Hwy 288 you find the small town of Young which is in a small valley surrounded by rugged mountains.
The towns across northern side of these mountain ranges offer the best survival potential because the mountains block the arrival of most refugees: Heber and Show Low, deep into the mountains and the closest to pine forests, are the favorites, but the altitude is too high for many warm weather crops. Snowflake is a farming community at lower elevation near the mountains but in territory fairly barren of trees. As in most places in the high desert you’ve got to get above 6 or 7 thousand feet in order to get enough snowfall staying on the ground to grow forests. Springerville farther east is also a farming town but closer to the mountains.
In summary, there are a lot of potential retreat sites to choose from—just do your homework about ensuring a good water supply. This area is a good choice for people in the Phoenix area or So. California looking for part time retreats. But if you are coming from the East Coast out west for a permanent relocation site, based on safety criteria rather than sunshine alone, the more northern areas of the Western Relocation Area are better in the long term. Check back next week as I review yet another relocation destination.
Survival Retreat Consulting: Having lived in Prescott the area is a great place to live. Unfortunately, it’s directly in the path of the Phoenix refugee flow, so not highly recommended for a retreat locale. In an extreme event, downtown Prescott would succomb quickly, however, there are many parcels near town and into the National Forest that may offer a compromise between the ‘Local / Remote’ rule and defensibility. Check out the Groom Creek area, as well as southwest of Prescott off highway 89 towards Yarnell and Kirkland. Southeast of Prescott on Forest Service Road 28 (Lynx Creek) and into Walker. These areas are well off the beaten path yet allow those that want to be closer to Prescott the ability to come into town within a reasonable commute. Moving to the North of Prescott, follow North Williamson Valley Road to find a few gems in the rough. To the east. Cottonwood, just down the hill from the old mining town of Jerome, has the Verde River flowing through it. A few nice parcels may be available on the river.