Smithsonian’s Water/Ways exhibit in Black Canyon City through January 26

By Tracy Demetropolis

BLACK CANYON CITY – Water is an essential part of life on earth. But how often do we consider water’s importance and how we need to manage it properly to ensure it’s available in the future?

Visitors tour the interactive Water/Ways exhibit on display at Cañon Elementary School, 34630 S. School Loop Road in Black Canyon City. Photo courtesy of Ann Hutchinson.

The Smithsonian’s Water/Ways exhibition, in Black Canyon City through January 26, “dives into water – an essential component of life on our planet, environmentally, culturally and historically.” The exhibit is part of a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations.

The Black Canyon Heritage Park (BCHP) and Cañon School District 50, in cooperation with Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University, will examine water as an environmental necessity. The exhibition and community-engagement program explores the centrality of water in our lives.

Ann Hutchinson of Black Canyon Heritage Park interacts with a display that explains how much water it takes to make things like a car or cheese. Photo by Tracy Demetropolis

BCHP will coordinate open hours and activities until the last day of the exhibit on January 26. The exhibit is at the Cañon Elementary School in Black Canyon City, 34630 S. School Loop Road. It will explore the economic efforts to ensure access to water and how human creativity and resourcefulness can provide new ways to protect water resources and renew our relationship with the natural environment. 

Bob Cothern, BCHP Chair, said people of all ages need to understand how water impacts life on Earth.

“Water is an important part of everyone’s life, and we are excited to explore what it means…in our own community,” Cothern said.

Literature provided by Arizona Humanities and other organizations explained, “In societies across the globe, water serves as a source of peace and contemplation. Many faiths revere water as a sacred symbol. Authors and artists are inspired by the complex character of water – a substance that is seemingly soft and graceful that is yet a powerful and nearly unstoppable force.

“Water also plays a practical role in American society. The availability of water affected settlement and migration patterns. Access to water and control of water resources have long been a central part of political and economic planning. Human creativity and resourcefulness provide new ways of protecting water resources and renewing respect for the natural environment.”

Ann Hutchinson of the BCHP said the exhibit and student projects have had an impact on students’ lives.

“These kids have learned a lot about water, and that’s great. They need to know about the important of water and the importance of caring for Riparian areas,” Hutchinson said.

Students at Cañon Elementary School not only toured the exhibit, but they constructed dioramas and other pieces of art to help them learn the importance of water to animals, plants, humans and the environment. They were also provided with water-themed coloring books and quizzes to help them to better understand water.

“Water and riparian areas are significant parts of everyone’s life. We are excited to be part of the Water/Ways exploration and what it means culturally, socially and spiritually in our own community,” said Angela Jangula, superintendent, Cañon Elementary School District 50.

Before it came to Black Canyon City, Water/Ways stopped in the following Arizona towns: Bisbee, Fort Apache, Miami, Florence, Sierra Vista, Dragoon, Winkelman, Page, Camp Verde and Tubac. The final stop in Arizona is Lake Havasu City from February 8 to March 22.

“We thank our sponsors for enabling us to create Arizona Water/Ways companion exhibits, community events and educational programming for engagement within our schools and communities,” Hutchinson said. “We also thank the Cañon Elementary School District 50 for hosting us.”

In addition to visiting the Water/Ways exhibit, the public is also invited to attend WinterFest and BookFest on Saturday, January 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Black Canyon Heritage Park, 33955 S Old Black Canyon Highway. WinterFest and BookFest will feature more than 30 conservation, water and history exhibits. 

People are also invited to stop by BCHP to visit the Riparian Preserve with interpretive displays. It is open year-round, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  

For more information, contact Black Canyon Heritage Park at or call (623) 374-5282.