River of Time Museum and Exploration Center: for kids and history buffs of all ages

Fountain Hills’ rich history isn’t immediately apparent in its current landscape, which is why curious visitors of all ages will enjoy exploring the River of Time Museum and Exploration Center.

The museum began when the Fountain Hills and Lower Verde River Valley Museum and Historical Society incorporated in 1991. In the beginning, the museum shared a trailer near the World-Famous Fountain where they kept a small history display. In the late 1990s, the Society worked with the Town and Maricopa Library System to secure a bond to build its current building, located at 12901 N La Montana, next to the Fountain Hills Library, which opened in 2001.

Director Cherie Koss, who has been the director since 2017, says kids enjoy the augmented reality table, where they can create a river, build a mountain, and dig for dinosaur fossils (including the ever-popular dinosaur poop).

Adults, especially those who are history buffs, most enjoy the interpretive texts that accompany the displays while families enjoy working together to load a wagon with no more than 200 pounds of essential items for their cross-country journey.

“This area is so rich in history,” Koss said. “For every story we tell, we could tell 40 more. The goal is to continue expanding so we can share more of our history.”

Visitors will notice an emphasis on water conservation, a topic Koss says is critical to a desert community like Fountain Hills. While it’s always been a focus, a recent renovation redesigned the exhibits to show the transition between prehistoric and current times and how water resources have been used throughout the ages.

Another museum emphasis is the history of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

“They’re a really dynamic tribe,” Koss said. “This culture was here for thousands of years, and I believe it’s important for people to understand who was here before us, what they’ve gone through and what they’ve risen above. It’s why we study history… to learn, to grow, and to move beyond what has happened.”

Of course, no visit to the museum would be complete without a trip to the museum’s store, where carefully cultivated items relating to the exhibits, sourced locally and regionally, are available for purchase.

Exhibits in the museum are family friendly, but Koss recommends adults without children tour with a docent, typically available during museum hours, to get the best experience. She said the most important thing visitors will learn is the richness of history in the area and an enhanced awareness of the importance of water resources in the desert.

“I think we’ve hit the mark,” she said. “The founders really set us up well. People do not expect what we have for such a small museum yet there is so much we can do.”

For current hours and to purchase tickets, visit the Museum’s website: www.riveroftime.center.

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