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People have an almost childlike perception that nothing much happened before they arrived in the Canoa Heritage Area... That's why we're here!

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Have a passion for history and people?

Join our board for 2024-25!  


2022 - 23 Board of Directors

Dawn Morley President

David Tenario Vice President

Carol Dunkel Treasurer

Jennifer Paulos Secretary


2017 Canoa Ranch Highway Cleanup Board Volunteers

From left:

Cindy Brocious, Nancy Williams, Dan Brocious, Ralph Ellinwood/President, Bill Kurtz, Mel Williams, Lee Kurtz, Ellie Kurtz/Vice President, and Sandra Stone/Treasurer. 



     Our mission is to preserve, protect, restore, interpret,

and share the land, cultural influence, and history of the Canoa Heritage Area.

 Celebrating the peoples of the Santa Cruz River!

   Canoa is the land of the Hohokam, O'odham,

Yoeme (Yaqui), Apache, Spanish, Mexican, and

Anglo-American - from pre-Columbian times to the present.

     Since 1994, Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation (FOC)

has dedicated their efforts to preserving the land,

history and culture located within the Canoa Heritage Area.


    Learning and Sharing is a Tradition!

    Lending a hand to your neighbor and sharing resources has always been essential to survival in the rural communities of the Canoa Heritage Area.  


     Incorporating in 2010, FOC is an all-volunteer organization, recognized as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization under the U.S. tax code, so donations and sponsorships are tax-deductible up to amounts specified by law.

     The Character of Affairs of the corporation is to

engage in fundraising that continues our outreach efforts, and in the collection of historic personal property, memorabilia, preservation of photographic and written records, and preservation of the memories of persons that shared the land in the Canoa Heritage Area.


     The Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation is dedicated to tourism industry economic, and workforce development in our rural and underserved communities within the Canoa Heritage Area.  Our “VISIT CANOA” campaign and outreach projects educate and engage the public, while providing leadership and workforce training for youth ages 18-24.

     Tax deductible contributions to Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation can be mailed to: 

Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation, Inc.

7877 N. Sendero Uno

Tucson, AZ 85704

Please click on the Donate button to make a contribution! 

Your donations help us continue serve our communities

with outreach efforts, hands-on

education programs in leadership, preservation,

history & culture for children and adults regardless 

of age, race or income levels.



We appreciate your support!

History of our Foundation

In 1994, a large land developer intended to put a massive housing project on an important historical site, the 4,800 acre Historic Canoa Ranch headquarters, just south of Green Valley, AZ.


Local ranchers, tribal members, descendants, and stakeholders were determined to protect this land, and won the battle.  The land was purchased by Pima County as a cultural restoration project.  The Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation was incorporated in 2010, to help create a master development plan for Pima County.


Co- Founder Ellen Kurtz, along with her husband Bill acquired collection of rare books, maps, art and artifacts for what was to become the Salcido-Amarillas Western Research Library (SAWRL) to be housed at the Historic Canoa Ranch. 


Politics, the need to store the collection securely, and be available to the public for research purposes determined that the Tohono O’odham Cultural Center & Museum was a better fit for this donation.  The SAWRL collection transfer is in progress, complete with a searchable online catalog.


The ongoing “Canoa Speaks” video preservation project captures the stories of the people who lived, worked and dreamed in the Canoa Heritage Area.  Hollywood introduced the Old Wild West to the public, the Canoa Speaks project preserves the stories of the people who came before, and lived here after, from a local perspective.  We’re not Hollywood, but the stories are important to capture and preserve for future generations.


While engaging in our bi-annual highway cleanup, we saw an opportunity for a collaborative preservation project at the Canoa Ranch Rest Area on I-19.   Reaching out to ADOT we were allowed to engage in this effort. 


In partnership with the Cultural Affairs Department of the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui (Yoeme) Nations, Old Pueblo Archaeology, and around thirty recognized experts, the “Evolution of Canoa” art/history display was created and has become one of Southern Arizona’s newest Attractions.


Opening May 25, 2019, the project was dedicated to the Tohono O’odham Nation in recognition that the area is their motherland.  The Canoa Heritage Area defines the location of the communities we serve.


Partnering in this project has created a different perspective, and new resources for tourism industry economic and workforce development for our rural communities, where there is little or no access to the resources that are available to the more populated communities.


The “Visit Canoa” campaign was launched to a previously untapped international tourism market creating a sharable resource that benefits all of our rural communities.  


The 33 local attractions and supportive small businesses who serve our visitors in the open spaces of Canoa Heritage Area were hit extra hard during COVID.  Many are not recognized by state or county tourism entities, but popular with visitors to our area.


By increasing our volunteer efforts and leveraging sharable resources we have been able to engage the international visitors who are curious about the Canoa Heritage Area, providing uninterrupted services during the shutdown, at no cost to the struggling businesses and organizations who serve them.


Your contributions will go a long way to help us continue to share these resources until the communities we serve recover from the economic hardship that COVID has created.

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Stay and play!

Because you can't see it all

in a day!


Cash and donations solicited by the 

Green Valley Council (GVC)'s Friends of Canoa Parks, or  Pima County at the Historic Canoa Ranch property are not overseen by, and do not benefit the Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation.

Riding in Style in Lois's 1949 DeSoto Cu
Ginny Prest, Josephine Bryant, Maureen M

Community honors Ellie Kurtz at the White Elephant Parade 2019!

Left: Ellie and Bill Riding in Style in Lois's 1949 DeSoto Custom Convertible known as the "Honeymoon Car!"

Below: Volunteers Ginny Prest, Josephine Bryant, Maureen McCarthy, Bill Kurtz, Ellie Kurtz, Lois Sostarich, Dawn Morley, Nancy Williams 2019

2019 Co-Founder Ellie Kurtz
shares her accounting of the past, present, and future of the Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation...

I’ve been involved in saving and preserving the historic Rancho San Ignacio de la Canoa (Historic Canoa Ranch) since 1994, along with board members Nancy Williams, Ralph Ellinwood, Sandra Stone, Manning descendants, and community stakeholders.


As co-founders of the Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation (FOC) that we established in 2010, we continue to preserve, protect, and share the land, cultural influence, and history of the Canoa Heritage Area.


Located midway between Tucson and Nogales, the ranch was slated for development by Fairfield Homes, but because of the collaborative efforts of local residents, and stakeholder organizations, 4,800 acres of the original ranch headquarters were saved when voters awarded a bond in 1997 for the ranch to be preserved by Pima County.  100 acres were recently sold to make way for the new hospital.


This ranch has a long prehistory and history dating back over 14,000 years because of permanent available water. It was a land grant of 17,000 acres granted by Spain in 1819 and when Mexico gained its independence in 1820 the grant continued to be recognized. 


When the United States made the Gadsden Purchase of this area in 1852 the grant continued to be recognized by the U.S.

In 1912 Tucson’s first Mayor, Levi Manning, purchased the San Ignacio de la Canoa Land grant, and along with his son Howell Manning Sr., built a cattle ranching empire, encompassing 335,000 acres stretching west to Baboquivari Peak.  


It was a gathering place for many celebrities from Hollywood and all over the world. The scene in the movie "Oklahoma” of the "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" was filmed at the lake at the ranch.


When the heir to the ranch Howell Manning Jr., was killed two days before Christmas in 1952 by a drunken driver it went into decline and went through several owners. 


Today, Pima County continues the restoration project at the original hedquarters of the Historic Canoa Ranch (Hacienda de la Canoa) where the public has daily access to areas along the Anza Trail, and birders are enjoying rare sightings at the newly restored Canoa Lake.  Tours of the restored buildings are available by reservation through Pima County.*

My husband of over 58 years, Bill, a retired exploration geologist, and I have collected a sizeable library of over 2,000 books, maps and artifacts relating to the area.

At 88, we felt that donating our collection to the Tohono O'odham Cultural Center & Museum would be the right place to preserve and share these rare items.


With the help of Ray Harrison and other dedicated volunteers, we’ve nearly completed the electronic cataloging, so the collection is searchable by the public through the Pima County Library website.  Free e-books are already available on our website.


FOC Co-Founder Nancy Williams, Ann (Manning) Fiegen, husband Jim, and cousin Ralph Ellinwood continue to work on the Canoa Speaks video preservation project.  Videos are posted on our website as they are produced.


Another project is dedicated to the Tohono O’odham by the FOC, and was directed by President Dawn Morley.   The “Evolution of Canoa” is a colorful display that shares fun facts, and 14,000 years of everything Canoa on twelve interpretative panels.  Our area’s newest attraction is open to the public 24/7 and is located at the Canoa Ranch rest areas on I-19

*Notice:   FOC is all volunteer, and an Internal Revenue Service approved non-profit tax exempt 501[c]3 Arizona corporation, our EIN is 27-3296178.


FOC does not accept, or solicit contributions on behalf of Pima County for the Hacienda de la Canoa (Historic Canoa Ranch) property.  Cash and donations solicited by Pima County at the Historic Canoa Ranch property are not overseen by, and do not benefit the Friends of Canoa Heritage Foundation. 


For more information on how you can become involved with FOC, or to become a SAWRL volunteer, contact Ellen Kurtz at or go to

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