A footpath weaves through Fort Bowie National Historic Site, roughly paralleling a historic military wagon road past ruins and reminders of the bloody fight for control of Apache Pass. Apache Spring -- an important source of water in this pass through the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona -- attracted settlers to the area. First came the Apaches, probably in the early sixteenth century. A few centuries later, white emigrants, prospectors, and soldiers began arriving in ever-increasing numbers. AS settlers moved farther west, a mail and stage route was needed through the mountains.
©National Park Service
While at the Fort visitors can tour the
ruins of Fort Bowie.
The unfailing water supplied by Apache Spring made Apache Pass the logical place for a stage station, even though it was in the heart of the Chiricahua Apaches' homeland. A station for the Butterfield Overland Stageline was built in Apache Pass in 1858, and its ruins can still be seen there. The national historic site, which was established in 1964, also contains the ruins of Fort Bowie, built after the peace between the Apaches and whites ended when the Apache leader Cochise was wrongly accused of kidnapping a rancher's stepchild.
By 1869, a second, larger fort was built to serve as a base for more ambitious military operations against the Apaches. The fort's cemetery is evidence of the difficult life at the isolated fort, where the food was generally bad and the soldiers were often sick. After the surrender of Apache leader Geronimo at the fort in 1886, the Indian wars ended, and the fort was soon abandoned.
The backdrop of scenery today is little changed since the days of the fort. Apache Pass separates the Chiricahua Mountains to the south from the Dos Cabezas range to the north. Desert grasses and chaparral cover the lower slopes, giving way to oaks, junipers, and pinyon pine on the upper slopes. Willows and cottonwoods follow water sources, and wildflowers explode with color after good winter rains.
Fort Bowie National Historic Site Information
Address: From the town of Bowie, the trailhead is located on Apache Pass Road, 13 miles south, Bowie, AZ
Hours of Operation: Ruins and trail open from sunrise to sunset; visitor center open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily
Learn more about these other national historic sites:
To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- Arizona State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Arizona as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.