Chiricahua Mountains

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Chiricahua Mountains
Chiricahua mtns-kmf.JPG
Chiricahua Mountains – northeast flank (from Portal, Arizona)
Highest point
PeakChiricahua Peak
Elevation 9,759 ft (2,975 m)
Coordinates 31°50′47″N109°17′28″W / 31.84639°N 109.29111°W / 31.84639; -109.29111
Length35 mi (56 km)NW, then SW
Width21 mi (34 km)(arc-shape)-N-S
USA Arizona relief location map.svg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona
CountryUnited States
Regions Madrean Sky Islands, Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert
County Cochise
Communities Willcox, Douglas, Rodeo and Portal
Range coordinates 31°55′47″N109°22′56″W / 31.9298117°N 109.3822849°W / 31.9298117; -109.3822849 Coordinates: 31°55′47″N109°22′56″W / 31.9298117°N 109.3822849°W / 31.9298117; -109.3822849
Borders on Dos Cabezas Mountains, San Simon Valley, San Bernardino Valley, Pedregosa Mountains and Sulphur Springs Valley

The Chiricahua Mountains massif is a large mountain range in southeastern Arizona which is part of the Basin and Range province of the west and southwestern United States and northwest Mexico; the range is part of the Coronado National Forest. The highest point, Chiricahua Peak, rises 9,759 feet (2,975 m) above sea level, approximately 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above the surrounding valleys. The range takes its name from the Chiricahua Apaches native to the region.


The Chiricahua Mountains and other associated ranges, along with Sulphur Springs Valley on the west and the San Simon Valley on the east, form the eastern half of Cochise County in southeast Arizona. The Pedregosa Mountains are found at the southern end of the Chiricahua Mountains, while the Swisshelm Mountains are located to the southwest. The northwest end of the Chiricahua mountains continue as the Dos Cabezas Mountains beyond Apache Pass and the Fort Bowie National Historic Site. Access to the Chiricahua Mountains and Coronado National Forest is through Willcox from the north, Douglas from the south, and Rodeo from the east.

Most of the range lies within the 87,700-acre (35,500 ha)Chiricahua Wilderness, managed by the Coronado National Forest. [1]


The earliest evidence of humans in the vicinity of the Chiricahua Mountains are Clovis archeological sites such as Double Adobe Site in the Whitewater Draw tributary of Rucker Creek north of Douglas. Subsequently, the Cochise culture another pre-ceramic based culture spanning 3000–200 BCE was defined from sites around the Chiricahua Mountains, including Cave Creek Canyon. [2]

Following the transition to ceramics, [3] artifacts characteristic of both Mogollon culture and its local variants, the Mimbres culture, are found. These relics span the period from 150 BCE – 1450. The influx of other indigenous peoples, such as the Chiricahua Apaches, including the leaders Cochise and Geronimo occupied the area until forced removal in the late 19th century.[ citation needed ]

The name Chiricahua is believed to originate from the Opata name for the mountains, Chiwi Kawi, meaning "Turkey Mountain". [4] [5] [6] The Chiricahuas were once known for an abundance of wild turkeys.[ citation needed ]

The first recorded mining claim in the Chiricahua Mountains was the Hidden Treasure claim filed in 1881, and mining has continued intermittently to the present with the greatest periods of activity occurring in the 1920s and 1950s. [7]

More recently, the Chiricahuas have fallen into use by people smugglers and drug cartels, who position lookouts on their peaks to warn of Border Patrol activities. [8] [9]

Geology overview

Wulfenite specimen from the old Hilltop Mine, Rustler Park Wulfenite-245194.jpg
Wulfenite specimen from the old Hilltop Mine, Rustler Park

The Chiricahua Mountains are an uplifted structural block of the Basin and Range. The mountains contain Precambrian basement rocks, Paleozoic and Cretaceous sedimentary rocks around a caldera complex formed by volcanic eruptions and intrusions 35–25 million years ago. [10] [11] The last major eruption, 27 million years ago, created the Turkey Creek Caldera and laid down 2,000 feet (610 m) of volcanic ash which fused into welded rhyolite tuff. [12] Subsequent erosion has created mountain ridges covered in stone spires and stone columns, hoodoos, that rise up out of the forest. These natural features, preserved in the Chiricahua National Monument, are composed of Rhyolite Canyon Tuff.

A one to two mile wide band of sedimentary rock running southeast to northwest from south of Portal through Paradise and up to the Dos Cabezas Mountains is the source of mineralized deposits. [7] The largest of the mines developed in the California district of the Chiricahua Mountains was the Hilltop mine which consisted of 3 interconnected levels totaling 6,098 metres (20,007 ft). [13]

Flora and fauna

A male eared quetzal in the Chiricahua Mountains. Euptilotis neoxenus 98997337.jpg
A male eared quetzal in the Chiricahua Mountains.

The Chiricahua Mountains are a bio-diverse area which is composed of numerous sky islands. [14] Five of the 9 life zones [15] are found in the Chiricahua Mountains. Three hundred and seventy-five avian species have been recorded from the Chiricahua Mountains; some are largely Mexican species for which southern Arizona is the northern limits of their ranges. [16] Other animals of note include ocelots, jaguars, mountain lions, black bears, and white-tailed deer.

With the base of the Chiricahuas at about 3,600 feet (1,100 m), [17] the range covers about 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in elevation. Grasslands and desert cover the base of the range, with ponderosa pine and Douglas fir at the highest elevations. Cave Creek Canyon on the east side is home to the American Museum of Natural History Southwest Research Station and the small towns of Portal and Paradise. [18]

Species associated with the range

See also

Related Research Articles

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Chiricahua National Monument National monument in southeastern Arizona

Chiricahua National Monument is a unit of the National Park System located in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. The monument was established on April 18, 1924, to protect its extensive hoodoos and balancing rocks. The Faraway Ranch, which was owned at one time by Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson, is also preserved within the monument.

Coronado National Forest Managed forest in southern Arizona and New Mexico

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Apache Pass

Apache Pass, also known by its earlier Spanish name Puerto del Dado, is a historic mountain pass in the U.S. state of Arizona between the Dos Cabezas Mountains and Chiricahua Mountains at an elevation of 5,110 feet (1,560 m). It is approximately 20 miles (32 km) east-southeast of Willcox, Arizona, in Cochise County.

Dragoon Mountains Landform in Cochise County, Arizona

The Dragoon Mountains are a range of mountains located in Cochise County, Arizona. The range is about 25 mi (40 km) long, running on an axis extending south-south east through Willcox. The name originates from the 3rd U.S. Cavalry Dragoons who battled the Chiricahua, including Cochise, during the Apache Wars. The Dragoons established posts around 1856 after the Gadsden Purchase made it a U.S. territory.

Pinaleño Mountains Mountain range in southeastern Arizona, United States

The Pinaleño Mountains, are a remote mountain range in southeastern Arizona, near Safford, Arizona. The mountains have over 7,000 feet (2,100 m) of vertical relief, more than any other range in the state. The mountains are surrounded by the Sonoran-Chihuahuan Desert. Subalpine forests cover the higher elevations. According to The Nature Conservancy, they traverse five ecological communities and contain "the highest diversity of habitats of any mountain range in North America." The highest point is Mount Graham at 10,720 feet (3,267 m). Locals often refer to the whole mountain range as "Mount Graham", in which case the peak is referred to as "High Peak". The mountains cover 300 square miles (780 km2) and are part of the Coronado National Forest, Safford ranger district.

Miller Peak (Arizona) Mountain in Cochise County, Arizona

Miller Peak, at 9,470 feet (2,886 m), is the second-highest mountain in Cochise County, Arizona. Located approximately 10 miles south of Sierra Vista, Arizona, it is the highest mountain in the Huachuca mountain range and a popular local hiking destination. The Miller Peak Wilderness encompasses 20,190 acres and is managed by the Coronado National Forest. This is also the most southerly peak and land area to rise above 9,000 feet in the continental United States. The area was affected by the 2011 Monument fire and most of the pine trees seen in older photographs were burned and destroyed. Scrub oak are beginning to replace the areas that were previously covered by pine.

Boot Heel volcanic field Landform in Mexico and United States

The Boot Heel volcanic field is located in the Bootheel region of southwest New Mexico, adjacent areas of southeastern Arizona, and northwest Mexico. The field covers an area of more than 24,000 km2. The field includes nine volcanic calderas ranging in age from 26.9 to 35.3 Ma. Extrusive products include rhyolitic ignimbrites along with basalt, andesite, and rhyolite lava flows. The major ash flow tuff sheets produced, range in volume from 35 to 650 km3.

Chiricahua Peak Mountain in Cochise County, Arizona

Chiricahua Peak is the name of a 9,763 feet (2,976 m) peak located in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona, located about 35 miles (56 km) north of the United States–Mexico border. It is the highest summit in the Chiricahua Mountains and the highest point in Cochise County.

Huachuca Mountains

The Huachuca Mountains are part of the Sierra Vista Ranger District of the Coronado National Forest in Cochise County in southeastern Arizona, approximately 70 miles (110 km) south-southeast of Tucson and southwest of the city of Sierra Vista. Included in this area is the highest peak in the Huachucas, Miller Peak, and the region of the Huachucas known as Canelo Hills in eastern Santa Cruz County. The mountains range in elevation from 3,934 feet (1,199 m) at the base to 9,466 feet (2,885 m) at the top of Miller Peak. The second highest peak in this range is Carr Peak, elevation 9,200 feet (2,804 m). The Huachuca Mountain area is managed principally by the United States Forest Service (41%) and the U.S. Army (20%), with much of the rest being private land (32%). Sierra Vista is the main population center.

Dos Cabezas Mountains Landform in Cochise County, Arizona

The Dos Cabezas Mountains are a mountain range in southeasternmost Arizona, United States. The 11,700 acres (4,700 ha) Dos Cabezas Mountains Wilderness lies 20 miles (32 km) east of Willcox and 7 miles (11 km) south of Bowie in Cochise County. The mountain range's name means Two Heads in Spanish, for the twin granite peaks, Dos Cabezas Peaks, that sit atop the range.

The San Simon Valley is a broad valley east of the Chiricahua Mountains, in the northeast corner of Cochise County, Arizona and southeastern Graham County, with a small portion near Antelope Pass in Hidalgo County of southwestern New Mexico. The valley trends generally north–south but in its northern portion trends northwest–southeast. The San Simon Valley separates the Chiricahua Mountains, Dos Cabezas Mountains and Pinaleno Mountains on the west from the Peloncillo Mountains and the smaller Whitlock Mountains to the east.

Sulphur Springs Valley Valley in Cochise County, Arizona

The Sulphur Springs Valley is a valley in the eastern half of Cochise County, Arizona. The valley covers an approximated vertical rectangle west of the Chiricahua Mountains–Dos Cabezas Mountains complex. The Sulphur Springs Valley is the large flatland to the west.

Swisshelm Mountains Mountain range in Cochise County, Arizona, United States

The Swisshelm Mountains are a small mountain range adjacent to the southwest corner of the Chiricahua Mountains of eastern Cochise County, Arizona. They are separated from the Pedrogosa Mountains to the southeast, the Chiricahuas to the northeast, and by Leslie Creek, bordering the south and east; the area is now notable for the Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge.

Carr Peak Landform in Cochise County, Arizona

Carr Peak is the third-highest mountain in Cochise County, Arizona and is the second-highest mountain in the Huachuca Mountains. It rises about 10 miles (16 km) south of Sierra Vista, Arizona. The summit is in the Miller Peak Wilderness on the Coronado National Forest and about 4 miles (6 km) south of the Nature Conservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve. The area is well known among birders because of the variety of hummingbird species seen in the area as well as the dozens of southwestern specialties such as Apache pine, Chihuahua pine, ridge-nosed rattlesnake, lesser long-nosed bat and elegant trogon.

Geological history of the Chiricahua Mountains

The Geologic history of the Chiricahua Mountains concerns the Chiricahua Mountains, an inactive volcanic range located in Coronado National Forest of southeastern Arizona, in the United States. They are part of an "archipelago" of mountain ranges known as the sky islands that connect the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico with the Rocky Mountains. The Chiricahua Mountains are home to a number of unusual geologic features associated with the Turkey Creek Caldera, some of which are protected by Chiricahua National Monument. The landscape has been dominantly shaped by faulting due to Basin and Range extension during the Miocene, volcanic activity, and erosion.

Bonita Canyon Canyon in the Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

Bonita Canyon is a box canyon on the western slope of the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona, which lies at 5,360 feet (1,630 m) in elevation and opens in a southwesterly direction into the Sulphur Springs Valley.


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  2. "Arizona Memory Project: Compound Object Viewer". Archived from the original on September 8, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
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  5. A Portal to Paradise by Alden C. Hayes, p. 337.
  6. Descripcion Geografica, Natural y Curiosa de la Provincia de Sonora, by Juan Nentvig, 1764
  7. 1 2 Brown, S. D. (1993), Mineral Appraisal of the Coronado National Forest Part 2, Chiricahua–Pedregosa Mountains Unit, Cochise County, Arizona. United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, 210 pp. (PDF)
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