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Fort Bowie National Historic Site

Welcome


3203 South Old Fort Bowie Road
Bowie, AZ 85605

Phone
Headquarters
(520) 847-2500

Area 999.45 acres
Established: July 29, 1972

Website: Fort Bowie National Historic Site

Fort Bowie commemorates the bitter conflict between Chiricahua Apaches and the U.S. military - a lasting monument to the bravery and endurance of U.S. soldiers in paving the way for settlement and the taming of the western frontier.


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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 existence.

Fort Bowie

For more than 30 years Fort Bowie and 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 Battle of 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 visitor center.

Things to Do

  • Activities include Bird Watching, Hiking, and Wildlife Viewing.
  • 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 Center.

Nature

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 southwest. 

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 found here.

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.

Directions
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 soldiers.

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