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Retaque Fences

Retaque FenceDescription

The massive retaque fence system at Canoa Ranch is one of its most unique features, and considered to be one of the finest remaining examples of retaque fence in Arizona.

Derived from the Spanish word retakar, meaning to “stack-up,” the horizontally-laid wood fences were built sufficiently thick and high to contain heavy, unruly cattle. Each wall is approximately 24 inches wide and between five and six feet high. The wood was cut from mesquite trees found nearby.

The method of construction is simple. Pairs of spaced vertical stakes are driven into the ground.  Carefully selected straight logs of similar diameter are laid tightly inside the stakes, and overlap to form a continuous, closely-linked wall. Every few vertical feet, thick wire is tied horizontally between each pair of vertical stakes to keep everything tight.

Hand-Made GateThe hand-made gates exhibit great ingenuity, often doing “double duty” to close one area while opening another. Made from thick planks of wood reinforced with stout hinges and hand-made metal hardware, the gates swing from steel posts located at the ends of the retaque walls. A system of levers kept the gates closed and secure.

Other types of Fencing

There are at least two other types of fencing used within the main corrals. 

One of the most interesting involves the use of riveted hollow metal pipe. The pipe may once have belonged to the then town of Tucson, where Levi Manning was its mayor between 1905 and 1907. When Tucson replaced its old riveted water pipe, Manning is said to have acquired the old pipe for use at Canoa Ranch. To secure the pipe, its ends were cut and flared so they could be nailed to vertical posts to form railings.

Another employs the use of old railroad ties embedded vertically in the ground to form additional sub-divisions of coral spaces.Railroad Tie EnclosureMetal Fence

Function per 2007 Master Plan

The coral system will be repaired to its former operating condition, and continue to hold cattle and horses for demonstration purposes.

Excerpt from the Canoa Ranch Master Plan Final Report, Poster Frost Associates, 2007:

"The word retaque comes from the Spanish verb, retakar, meaning to “stack up.” In this case, horizontal lengths of mesquite wood are carefully fitted and laid on top of one another to a height that cattle cannot jump.

The southern edge of the Heritage Area is defined by the ranch’s massive corrals. The historic corrals will be used to work heritage breed cattle and to share other cowboy and ranching skills and activities with the visitor. The corrals are one of the finest examples of retaque corral construction remaining in Arizona. The Canoa corrals are still in excellent condition, well suited for working with cattle, horses and other livestock. To preserve their condition, they could be lined with pipe rail panels for protection."