It provides insight into a
"clash of cultures," a young nation in pursuit of "manifest
destiny," and the hunter/gatherer society fighting to preserve its
For more than 30 years Fort Bowie
Apache Pass were the focal point of military operations
eventually culminating in the surrender of Geronimo in 1886 and the
banishment of the Chiricahuas to Florida and Alabama. It was the
site of the
Bascom Affair, a wagon train massacre, and the
Apache Pass, where a large force of Chiricahua Apaches under Mangus
Colorados and Cochise fought the California Volunteers.
Plan Your Visit
The hike in to the fort is part of
the Fort Bowie experience. Visitors can get a sense of the lonely
isolation that the soldiers experienced while stationed there. The
trail also winds past remains of a Butterfield Stage Coach Station,
the post cemetery, an Apache Wickiup, the Chiricahua Apache Indian
Agency, Apache Springs, the original fort and finally the more
elaborate Fort Bowie and the visitor center.
A minimum of two hours is recommended for the round trip visit. While at the fort, visitors can tour the ruins of Fort Bowie, view
the exhibits inside the visitor center, bird watch, and hike the
trails. Picnic facilities are located at the trailhead and the
Things to Do
- Activities include Bird Watching, Hiking, and Wildlife
- While at the fort, visitors can tour the ruins of Fort Bowie
and view the exhibits inside the Visitor Center.
- Picnic facilities are located at the trailhead and the Visitor
Fort Bowie National Historic Site
(NHS) is located in the southeast corner of Arizona. The park
includes most of
Apache Pass, which separates the Dos Cabezas
Mountains on the north from the Chiricahua Mountains to the south.
The Dos Cabezas and Chiricahua
Mountains were the home and stronghold of the Chiricahua Apaches,
and Apache Pass was an important travel route for the Indians,
separating not only the mountain ranges, but also the San Simon
Valley to the northeast and the Sulphur Springs Valley to the
Aside from being a convenient
crossroads, Apache Spring provided a reliable water source in an
otherwise dry area. Fort Bowie also lies at another crossroads -
that of four different "life zones" which occur in this region. The
hot and dry Sonoran Desert meets the milder Chihuahuan Desert, and
the southern Rocky Mountains abut the northern Sierra Madres.
This mixing of ecotypes results in a very diverse ecosystem,
which is reflected in the variety of plant and animal life that is
Elevations at Fort Bowie range from
4,550 to 5,250 feet, the upper elevation limit for the deserts, and
a transition zone from grassland to woodland habitat types. Desert
species such as creosote bush and mesquite are intermixed with the
grama grasslands, and a variety of cacti and succulent species dot
the rocky slopes.
Hillsides consist of a mixture of
chaparral and woodland species, such as mountain mahogany, manzanita,
oaks, pines and junipers. The canyon bottoms are lush riparian
woodlands of velvet ash and netleaf hackberry, fed by the perennial
flow from Apache and Siphon Springs.
Much of Fort Bowie shows the adverse impacts of human
disturbance. Development of the Fort itself changed the area, but
grazing, water diversion, mining and fire suppression have also
added to habitat degradation. Grazing and water diversion have
altered the riparian area and hydrology around Apache Spring.
Nonnative grasses have invaded much of the area, and suppression
of fire along with grazing has increased the intrusion of woody
species, such as mesquite, into the uplands. Roads in the area have
also altered the natural runoff patterns and provided a pathway for
the invasion of some exotic plant species.
Despite these disturbances to natural habitat, the area is one of
astounding diversity - some 30 species of reptiles, 65 mammal
species and over 150 species of birds are found in this area.
From Willcox, AZ drive southeast
for 20 miles on State Road #186 to the Fort Bowie turn off, then
drive another eight miles on the unpaved road to the Fort Bowie
Trailhead. Be prepared to walk the three miles round trip to the
ruins and back to your car.
From the town of Bowie, the trailhead is located on Apache Pass
Road, 13 miles south.
The park is 116 miles east of Tucson, AZ via I-10, and 227 miles
from Phoenix, AZ.
Did You Know?
Cochise visited Fort
Bowie, now a National Historic Site, socially on several occasions
after he made peace with General Howard. He would meet here,
at the Post Trader building, to talk, trade and drink beer with the