To be fair, places like the Agua Fria River, or Cave Creek, are not really marked all that well on road maps. When people need to travel around Phoenix, they need to know the roads, not the geography. And when I ask someone, I am usually referred to some historic map, or maybe I should go look at a book in the library. And with the huge amount of historic maps and documents that have become available on the internet recently (in only the past 2-3 years), I am getting the answers that I have been looking for. So I will stop asking people and hopefully I will get less “are you crazy?” looks.
Cave Creek (I'm talking about the creek now, not the road, or the town), flowed diagonally just to the west of the Phoenix Mountains. In modern terms, it's where the flood plain is today, just east of MetroCenter. And yes, there is a flood plain there, and that's why the freeway does that little jog right there. Take a look at a Google map Satellite view and you'll see it.
The map above, from 1892, shows Cave Creek in its historic location. Of course now it's all dried up, except when it rains, and the water flows through storm drains into the diversion channel (Thunderbird Paseo Park).
This was the trail, along the creek that took you to the gold mine areas north of Phoenix, especially F.A. Shaw's Maricopa Mine near Spur Cross Ranch. To get there, you just followed the creek past Shaw Butte. No need for a road map!
Where Cave Creek is in Phoenix, Arizona
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