The Black Mesa Forest Reserve lies in central-eastern Arizona, and contains 1,658,880 acres, is about 180 miles long in a northwesterly and southeasterly direction and a direct continuation southeasterly from the San Francisco Mountain Forest Reserve. On the north it contains a part of the Mogollon Mesa, which is covered with a magnificent open forest of Arizona yellow pine (Pinus ponderosa) in which there is an abundance of bunch grass and here and there are beautiful grassy parks. To the southeast the reserve covers a large part of the White Mountains, one of the largest areas of generally high elevation in Arizona. The yellow pine forest, similar in character to that on the Mogollon Mesa, is found over a large part of the reserve between 7,000 and 8,500 feet altitude, and its general character is shown in the accompanying view.
The Black Mesa Reserve is irregular in outline. The large compact areas at each end are joined by a long, narrow strip, very irregular in outline and less than a township broad at various points. It lies along the southern border of the Great Colorado Plateau, and covers the southern and western borders of the basin of the Little Colorado River. Taken as a whole, this reserve includes some of the wildest and most attractive mountain scenery in the West.
Owing to the wide separation of the two main areas of the reserve, and certain differences in physical character, they will be described separately, beginning with the northwestern and middle areas, which are similar in character.
With the exception of an area in the extreme western part, which drains into the Rio Verde, practically all of this portion of the reserve lies along the upper border of the basin of the Little Colorado. It is a continuation of the general easy slope which begins about 5,000 feet on the river and extends back so gradually at first that it is frequently almost imperceptible, but by degrees becomes more rolling and steeper until the summit is reached at an altitude of from 6,000 to 9,000 feet. The reserve occupies the upper portion of this slope, which has more the form of a mountainous plateau country, scored by deep and rugged canyons, than of a typical mountain range. From the summit of this elevated divide, with the exception of the district draining into the Rio Verde, the southern and western slope drops away abruptly several thousand feet into Tonto Creek Basin. The top of the huge escarpment thus formed faces south and west, and is known as the rim of Tonto Basin, or, locally, “The Rim.” From the summit of this gigantic rocky declivity is obtained an inspiring view of the south, where range after range of mountains lie spread out to the distant horizon.