Self-Guided Tour - Acequia

icon of water droplet
icon of water droplet

Quick Facts
Tumacácori mission grounds

For the O’odham living in the desert, it was the job of young girls to run each day in the early morning, often for many miles, to bring home water for their family. As the monsoon season approached, families would move to locations where shallow irrigation channels delivered rainwater to their fields.  

The O’odham living along streams channeled river water directly into rich fields of corn, beans, squash, agave, and melons. 

With the Spanish came European ideas of irrigation. The fired adobe structure before you is part of the acequia madre, the main irrigation channel that brought water to the mission from the Santa Cruz River a mile or more to the south. The narrowed end could be closed, raising the elevation of the water to serve various functions. As a compuerta, or diversion box, it turned water from the ditch into the orchard to the east. As a holding tank, it was convenient for filling ollas, earthen jars, to carry water back to the houses for drinking and cooking. Because it had a polished, red surface, it was probably also used as a lavandería, or place for washing clothes and dishes, and possibly even bathing.  

Tumacácori National Historical Park

Last updated: March 5, 2021