Camelback Mountain, considered sacred by Native Americans, has long been a target for developers. In the late 1880s, the federal government reserved Camelback Mountain as part of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian lands, which originally stretched as far west as Glendale, Arizona. But when the reservation boundaries were redrawn, the mountain was released from that reserve.
By the 1940s, Camelback Mountains slopes and boulder fields were mostly held by private landowners. The next decade brought dreamers and schemers with bold plans, including a tram to run to the top of the mountain where a pool and restaurant would be built.
Fortunately, citizens were horrified. Led by Louise Woolsey who rallied her Garden Club, petitions were filed to protest development on the mountain above 1,600 feet. That outcry inspired the 1963-64 Arizona Legislature to arrange land exchanges to save the mountain. These efforts were not successful.
In May, 1965, The Valley Beautiful Council, led by powerful citizens like Time and Life founder Henry Luce, started the Preservation of Camelback Mountain Foundation. They enlisted Barry Goldwater to chair the effort. Goldwater convinced private landowners to donate land they owned to the preserve and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to finance purchasing and preserving the mountaintop. Three years later, with a grant from the federal Bureau of Outdoor Recreation and money raised by this public preservation effort, the most pristine parts of Camelback Mountain, all the land above 1,800 feet, was purchased for preservation.
In 1973, at the urging of Mayor John Driggs, the City of Phoenix acquired and preserved Echo Canyon Park, which saved these rocky slopes from development.