Willcox is in Southern Arizona. It is in Cochise County. The town is located on Interstate 10 near the New Mexico State border, halfway between Phoenix and El Paso, Texas. You can get to Willcox from Tucson or Phoenix by taking Interstate 10 out toward New Mexico. Willcox is between Tucson and the New Mexico border.
Willcox is a great spot to begin a trip through Cochise County. Its great location along Interstate 10 makes it convenient for traveling. Willcox began as a cattle shipping town and continues to be a cattleman's town today. Willcox also serves as the major center for agriculture and tourism in the county. You will find apple orchards, pistachios, grape vineyards, pecans, along ostrich farms. Today Willcox's population is 3,100. The town sits at an elevation of 4,167 feet. The climate is mild all year round. The low temperatures in the winter are near 39 degrees and the summer highs are around 99 degrees.
There are some attractions in Willcox that will pique your interest. The Rex Allen Arizona Museum is a terrific place to learn more about the famous cowboy and his career. The Museum of the Southwest is another spot that you must see when visiting Willcox. The museum will give you directions for taking a self-directed driving tour of the county. "Travel the Magic Circle of Cochise" is a beautiful, informative drive. Fort Bowie is a unique spot back in time. The fort once housed men to protect the settlers from the Apache Indians. You can still see remains of the fort still standing today. A visit to the Amerind Foundation, just west out of town is a great museum. You will learn so much about the Native American cultures. Willcox has several outdoor activities near the town. The Chiricahua National Monument is a beautiful area filled with wildlife and beautiful geological formations. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area has a variety of migratory birds for you to see. Cochise Stronghold is a place to see the rock formation of the great Apache Indian leader's profile looking skyward. It is a wonderful sight.
Wings Over Willcox January
History Fest May
Magic Circle Bike Challenge August
Rex Allen Days October
Christmas Apple Festival December
The Museum of the Southwest allows guests an opportunity to look at Cochise County. Visitors will learn about the Indians of the area, ranching, mining, and military history. It is a unique spot to stop and explore.
You will also see Apache artifacts, photos, and numerous displays describing Cochise County. The museum is a starting point for a self-directed driving tour of the county. The tour is called the "Magic Circle of Cochise". The museum will give visitors a map and directions to go on this interesting tour.
The tour begins at the Museum of the Southwest and continues along Interstate 10 west by Texas Canyon. Texas Canyon has some amazing rock formations that are a treat to see. Then you will come upon the turn off for the Amerind Foundation.
The Amerind Foundation is a great place to take in the rich history of the Native American people. You can take the road to these spots by heading east off Interstate 10 and following the signs for Amerind and Dragoon. After making your visit, continue to U.S. Highway 191, turn right and head south to the turn off for the Cochise Stronghold Recreational Area. After a look at the Stronghold, head back to U.S. Highway 191 and travel past Pearce, a ghost town to State Highway 181.
At State Highway 181, head northeast to the Chiricahua National Monument for a spectacular view of rock formations and wildlife. Then continue back on State Highway 181, where there is another turn off on the right to Fort Bowie. The historic Fort Bowie once gave protection to settlers in the area from the Apache Indians during the 19th century. You will have to take a hike to get to the remains of this fort.
Then return to State Highway 181, which later changes to State Highway 186 and head back up to Willcox. The "Magic Circle of Cochise" does take you on a circle tour of the county. It will be a tour you won't forget. The Museum of the Southwest is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Admission to the museum is free of charge. You can get to the museum by exiting Interstate 10 at exit 340 on to Rex Allen Drive. The exact address is 1500 North Circle I Road in Willcox. If you would like more information on the museum, call 520-384-2272.
In 1862, Brigadier General James Carleton and his men were passing through Southern Arizona to meet the threat of the Confederates invading New Mexico, when Apaches attacked them. This attack prompted Carleton to build a fort in the area. Fort Bowie became the fortress for the men, who protected the early settlers from the Apache Indians.
The problems in Southern Arizona actually began in 1858, with the Butterfield Stagecoach line building a station at the spring near Apache Pass. This station was in the middle of Apache land, however, the Indians allowed the line to pass through without any trouble. Unfortunately, this changed in 1860 when Second Lieutenant George Bascom falsely accused the Apache Indian leader, Cochise of kidnapping and theft. The troops eventually captured Cochise, yet the Apache leader escaped. This caused the war to begin with anyone crossing the Apache land.
Fort Bowie went through the peacemaking process with Cochise. Peace was made after Cochise was promised land for his tribe. After Cochise died and the land promised to the Apaches was stolen back by the government, a new Apache leader Geronimo appeared. Geronimo led his warriors in a series of raids. After years of fighting, Geronimo surrendered and the fort was abandoned in 1894. Fort Bowie has seen many struggles. It was the site of the Bascom Affair, a wagon train massacre, and the battle of Apache Pass. The fort stands as a symbol to those men who lost their lives and the clash of cultures. Today, the fort is crumbling away. All that remains of Fort Bowie are pieces of adobe walls.
Visitors need to walk to the fort, in order to preserve what is left of history. The hike into the fort gives visitors an opportunity to experience the isolation that soldiers must have felt long ago. The trail also winds past the remains of the Butterfield Stage Coach Station and the post cemetery. The National Park Service staffs a ranger station near the fort.
Visitors can see exhibits describing the past. You may get to Fort Bowie from Willcox by taking State Highway 166 south out of town. When you get to Apache Pass Road turn left and head east to the parking lot. If you are coming from Bowie, take Apache Pass Road south out of town. Be on the lookout for signs for parking. If you would like to find out more about this national historic site, you may call 520-847-2500.
Your visit to Fort Bowie National Historic Site will be a real treat, especially for those interested in Western history.
The Cochise Stronghold Canyon is a lovely canyon in the Dragoon Mountains. The canyon is set in a wooded area in the Coronado National Forest. This canyon was once the land of the Apache Indians. Cochise Stronghold Canyon was named after the famous Apache chief, Cochise. The Apache leader was legendary for his battles. He never lost one. One of the tactics of the leader was to use his 250 Apache warriors by hiding them in the canyon and then attack without warning. The rugged landscape and tall bluffs were perfect for lookouts for the warriors. Then in 1872, Cochise did agree to peace, only after he was promised land for his tribe.
When you visit today, you will find hiking trails, a campground and picnicking. The campground has water available from April to September. The cost to stay is $6.00 a day. The hiking trail is very interesting. It is a self-guided nature trail that explains the plant life and the different aspects of the area. The hike is approximately 6 miles long. It goes past Cochise Spring up to the Stronghold Divide.
A tough driving tour of the canyon can be done on the west side of Cochise Stronghold Canyon. The drive begins at Tombstone, where you head north out of town on State Highway 80 to Middlemarch Road. Turn right and travel east on Middlemarch Road, until the road forks. At the fork, turn right and head east on 345 Forest Service Road, which continues on to the ghost town of Pearce. The drive is approximately 24 miles across the base of the Dragoon Mountain range.
If you are interested in finding out more about this beautiful canyon, call 520-364-3468. If you would like to see this piece of history head west out of Willcox on Interstate 10. Then take State Highway 191 south to Sunsites. At the small town of Sunsites, take Ironwood Road left and head west toward the mountains. The pavement will end after a mile, but continue down the road for approximately 9 miles.
You will enjoy your trip to the Cochise Stronghold Canyon. It has something for every outdoor lover.
President Coolidge signed the bill in 1924, making the most scenic section of the Chiricahua Mountains a national monument. The Chiricahua National Monument covers approximately 12,000 acres. The Chiricahua Mountain range is part of the Coronado National Forest. This land was once the home of the Cochise and Chiricahua Apache Indians. The area has the nickname "Standing-Up Rocks." This is not surprising, because many of the rock formations found in the Chiricahua's are quite impressive. The Chiricahuas are noted for the rock spires and boulders balancing on top of smaller rocks.
Geologists believe that the formations were made from volcanic eruptions.
The theory is that twenty-seven million years ago, a volcanic eruption shook the land around the Chiricahua National Monument. This eruption was one thousand times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. This eruption called the Turkey Creek Caldera eventually laid down two thousand feet of highly silicious ash and pumice. This mix of ash and pumice fused into a rock called rhyolitic tuff. After years of erosion, the unusual rocks that are in the monument were formed. The Chiricahua National Monument has also filled wildlife and a variety of plants. You will find this spot great if you are a birder. There are hummingbirds, Zone-tailed hawks and trogons in the area. The Chiricahua's also have both Southwestern and Sierra Madrean flora and fauna.
The first stop to the national monument is the visitor center. Here you will learn about the history of the area. There are a slide show and exhibits detailing the geology, wildlife and the numerous sightseeing spots in the monument. The rangers are happy to answer questions and recommend hiking trails. The visitor center also offers books, videos, and maps for purchase. The visitor center is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. There is a $4.00 charge to cars on your way into the center. If you have any questions about the monument, you may call 520-824-3560.
Visitors can get an overview of the park by taking a drive. The Bonita Canyon Drive travels along a paved 6-mile winding road. The mountain road goes through oak-juniper and pine forests up to the top of the Chiricahua Mountains. Here, at the top, on Massai Point, you can see the park, valleys and Cochise Head. The point also has a geology exhibit and a variety of hikes begin at this spot. Hikers can see the beauty of the area by taking one of the many trails in the Chiricahua National Monument. There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails to choose from during your visit. It is important to be prepared when embarking on a trail. The visitor center is a great place to make your hiking plans. Hikes are best made during the months of March to May or October to November.
Camping is available at the Chiricahua National Monument. The campgrounds can be found a half-mile from the visitor center. There are no showers or hookups at the grounds. Campers will be charged $6.00 a day. The Chiricahua National Monument requires all dogs to be on a leash. Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails, except the Faraway Trail. Horseback riding is permitted, but rangers would like to be aware of their presence.
You can get the Chiricahua National Monument from Willcox by taking State Highway 186 south until it turns into State Highway 181. There are several entrances into the National Monument from State Highway 181. If you are coming from Douglas, you will take State Highway 191 north out of town. When you get near Sunizona, you will head east on State Highway 181 to the Chiricahuas.
If you are coming from Tombstone or Bisbee, you will head south out of town on State Highway 80 to Douglas. Then you will head north on 191 through Douglas. When you get near Sunizona, you will head east on State Highway 181 to the Chiricahua's. This National Monument is a real treasure. You should plan quite a bit of time for your visit. There is so much to see and do, that you will want to make a return visit.