Chiricahua Mountains

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Chiricahua Mountains
Chiricahua Mountains

Chiricahua Mountains

Highest peak Chiricahua Peak ( 2985  m )
location Arizona (USA)
Chiricahua Mountains (USA)
Chiricahua Mountains
Coordinates 31 ° 51 ′  N , 109 ° 17 ′  W Coordinates: 31 ° 51 ′  N , 109 ° 17 ′  W

The Chiricahua Mountains are a mountain range in the extreme southeast of the US state Arizona and belong to the Sky Islands . Its highest peak is the Chiricahua Peak with a height of 2985 m. The mountain range was named after the Chiricahua Apache Indian tribe who were native to this area. They called it the land of standing rocks . The bizarre rock formations were formed from the deposits of a volcano that exploded around 25 million years ago. After the volcanic ash had cooled down, it formed a solid, 600 m thick layer of rhyolite , which eroded and, over time, gave rise to slender rock needles, massive towers and strangely shaped figures. In 1924 the Chiricahua National Monument was established in the middle of the Chiricahua Mountains.


The Chiricahua Mountains are located in the border area of ​​Arizona, New Mexico and the Mexican state of Sonora and belong to around 40 so-called Sky Islands in this region. In the tree-covered mountains, which are surrounded by dry, desert-like plains, the climate is relatively cool. They are surrounded by other mountain ranges, the Dos Cabezas in the north, the Peloncillo in the east, the Sierra San Jose in the south and the Dragoon Mountains in the west . The Chiricahua Mountains have a total length of 56 km, a maximum width of 34 km and reach their greatest height with the Chiricahua Peak at 2,975 meters. The other mountains are on average around 1,800 m high. The nearest larger towns are Tombstone, 64 km away, in the west and Douglas, 32 km away, in the south on the Mexican border. US Interstate 10 passes north about ten miles east-west.

Flora and fauna

The rock made of gray to brown-violet rhyolite is overgrown with orange to green lichens, which apparently find an ideal livelihood on the volcanic rock. At an altitude between 1,600 and almost 3,000 meters, numerous plant and animal species also find optimal conditions. The 169 species of birds that live here include hummingbirds and turkey vultures , which live in the forests of oak , poplar , cypress , ponderosa pine and Douglas fir . The undergrowth consists of bizarre shrubbery, including manzanitas with red-brown branches. Numerous wild flowers, cacti and yucca species thrive in a climate that is characterized by changing rainy and dry seasons. It differs fundamentally from the climate of the lower-lying deserts and semi-deserts that surround this so-called sky island.

The plain is characterized by typical desert vegetation. It includes sagebrush , agaves , mesquites , yucca, sotol and various grasses . It is the habitat for many reptiles, e.g. B. several rattlesnake species , the Gila crustacean , the California gopher tortoise and one of the largest land newts, the tiger salamander . An amazing density of different bird species can be found here, including the well-known road cuckoo , also known as the roadrunner .


The origin of the Chiricahua Mountains has not yet been fully clarified. Geologists suspect that a massive volcanic eruption occurred here around 25 million years ago and covered the land with a layer of ash that formed solid volcanic rhyolite rocks about 600 meters thick. This rock has been raised over the course of millions of years. Cracks and crevices appeared in the rock. Rain, wind and frost could attack the softer rock layers, ultimately creating bizarre rock formations that are hardly inferior to those in Bryce Canyon . The intense orange, yellow and green colors of the normally gray-brown rocks come from lichens that settle on the volcanic rock.


The earliest evidence of human life in the Chiricahua Mountains area is in the Clovis culture archaeological sites around 11000 BC. North of Douglas. One of the better known early cultures of the southwest was the Hohokam . Their name means those who have disappeared (without a trace) . In fact, nothing is known about their whereabouts. They were probably absorbed in other pueblo cultures . Around 200 BC The Mogollon culture developed with the Mimbres culture as a local variant, which lasted until 1450 AD. The Chiricahua Apaches reached this area on their migration south around 1500. Before the arrival of white settlers, their tribal area included southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northeastern Sonora, Mexico. The Chiricahua became famous through their tribal leaders Cochise , Victorio , Nana and Geronimo when they waged a hopeless guerrilla war for the freedom of their tribe against the army of the United Sates between 1862 and 1886 . In 1871 the Chiricahua was assigned a reservation in what is now Cochise County, but it only existed for five years. Attempts to settle them with other tribes of the southwest in Bosque Redondo and the San Carlos Reservation were also unsuccessful. After fleeing the reservations, they hid in secret hiding places in the Chiricahua and Dragoon Mountains. From there they attacked settler trains, stagecoaches and even railroad trains. The army eventually raised nearly 5,000 soldiers to hunt Geronimo with the last 17 free warriors and their families in the Sierra Madre . In September 1886 Geronimo surrendered with his Apaches. All men of the tribe, including those who were not involved in the wars, were brought to a prison camp in Florida as prisoners of war. One third of the approximately 500 Chiricahua captured did not survive the next three years. They died of hunger and disease, mainly caused by the unfamiliar climate. In 1894 they were transferred to a military prison in Fort Sill , Oklahoma . Geronimo himself was demoted to exhibit and appeared in President Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration parade in 1901 and at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 , the St. Louis World's Fair . He died on February 17, 1909 in Fort Sill without ever having seen his homeland again. In 1913, they had a choice of either staying or moving to the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico. Only 84 stayed, while 187 opted for the Mescalero Reserve.

National monument

The Chiricahua National Monument was established in 1924 and covers an area of ​​48.5 square kilometers, which is only a small fraction of the total area of ​​the Chiricahua Mountains. The Bonita Canyon Scenic Drive , which also has a small campsite, connects the visitor center with the Maasai Point . Various hiking trails start here, including the one leading to the Heart of Rocks with very spectacular rock formations and the varied Echo Canyon Loop Trail . A total of around 30 km of routes through rock sculptures and canyons is available to visitors. One of the first settlers in the area was a Swedish couple who set up a farm here in Bonita Canyon in 1888 . The Faraway Ranch is now a landmark within the National Monument . 47,000 visitors were counted in 2013 in the Chiricahua National Monument.


  • Heinz Staffelbach, Magda Rüegg: USA Southwest Nature & Hiking . Reise Know-How-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-89662-277-8 .

Web links

Commons : Chiricahua Mountains  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Road Map of Arizona , North Star Mapping, Flagstaff AZ, 1998.
  2. ^ A b Werner Neumayer: Hikes in the Southwest of the USA . Bergverlag Rother, Munich, 1995, ISBN 3-7633-3005-4 , p. 116-118 .
  3. a b Chiricahua National Monument. Retrieved on July 7, 2014 (German, travel guide for the southwest).
  4. Visitor report ( Memento of the original from April 15, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /