Douglas is in Southern Arizona. It is in Cochise County. The town is located on State Highway 80 near the Mexican border. You can get to Douglas from Phoenix and Tucson by taking Interstate 10 south out of town. It is approximately 120 miles southwest of Tucson. After you pass through Tucson, you will find that Interstate 10 gradually heads east toward the New Mexico border. You will need to continue until you come to the town of Benson. Take State Highway 80 south, at Benson. You will travel on State Highway 80 until you come to Douglas. You can get to Douglas from Nogales by taking State Highway 82, northeast out of town. When you come to State Highway 80, turn left and head south down to Douglas.
Douglas is a great spot to learn about the Old West. There are many adventures that are close to this town. It is a small town that began as a mining town and then on to cattle ranching. Today Douglas has three manufacturing plants. These plants produce items ranging from clothing to auto parts. The location of Douglas, near the Mexican border, has made it an international commerce point. Agua Prieta is the name of the town across the border. These two towns use each other’s strengths to prosper. With colorful Mexico at its back door and a host of scenic areas only a few hours away, Douglas has much to offer the vacationer. The population of Douglas is 13,784. The town sits at an elevation of 3,990 feet. Douglas has a pleasant year-round climate. The town has low winter temperatures near 39 degrees and summer highs around 99 degrees.
There are many attractions in and around Douglas. The Gadsden Hotel is a historic and elegant place to see. This hotel holds many tales of the past. Agua Prieta is a small Mexican town full of shopping and restaurants. You won’t want to miss an opportunity to go across the border to take in the culture.
Douglas has a variety of outdoor spots for visitors to see during a trip. The Chiricahua Wilderness is in the Chiricahua mountain range in the Coronado National Forest. Visitors will have a choice of camping spots and hiking trails. The Chiricahua National Monument is a part of the Chiricahua Mountain Range. It is a wonderful place to see. Here at the visitor center, you will learn about the history of the mountain range. The San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge is a special place to see beautiful plants and water life, along with the home of one of Arizona’s great cattle barons. Douglas combines the charm of the Old West with the comforts and pleasures of today.
The town was originally named Black Water. In the beginning, the water was so bad that many wouldn’t look at it when taking a drink. In those days, water wasn’t easy to come by and the town’s people got used to it. Although, the city on the other side of the border from Douglas still holds the original name, Agua Prieta meaning black water.
In the 1880’s and 1900’s the land around Douglas was perfect for cattle. The open grassy valley became the spot for roundups. Ranchers would gather their cattle to brand and haul them out.
In the early 1900’s, the Phelps Dodge Company discovered the Bisbee smelter was too small. It was also inconveniently located. The company began looking for a new spot to locate its smelter. Douglas was founded in 1901 as a mining site for a copper smelter. The town was then renamed after Dr. James Douglas, the president of Copper Queen Consolidated. It was Douglas, who developed some mining techniques that improved the process. Dr. Douglas also built his own railroad, after the Santa Fe Railroad raised their rates. His El Paso and Southwestern railroad line traveled from Bisbee to El Paso, along with the line from Bisbee and Nacozari, both of which came right through Douglas.
As the town grew, a hospital and homes were built for the many employees at the smelter. During the town’s peak more than 375,000 tons of ore a day was brought to the smelter to be processed.
During the early beginning of Douglas, the town became known for its lawlessness. In the same year that the town was founded, in 1901, the Arizona Rangers were sent to Douglas to establish their headquarters. The rows of saloons in town were a problem and so were the cattle thieves. It took some time to get the town under control.
From 1911 to 1935 the airport in Douglas served as an army airfield by helping smooth over border troubles with Mexico. In 1928, the first international airport in the United States opened in Douglas. The runway was part in the United States and part in Mexico. Famous pilots flew into the airport, such as Amelia Earhart. Commercial flights discontinued several years ago, although private flights are welcome.
The smokestacks stopped in 1987, but Douglas continues to grow with the help of the sister city across the border, Agua Prieta. Both of the towns have turned to manufacturing and tourism and continue to prosper.
Places To Visit
The Gadsden Hotel was first built in 1907. The architect H.C. Trost created its design. The Gadsden is an elegant 5-story, 160 room hotel. Nothing was held back during its construction. The Gadsden became the best hotel in the west.
When the Gadsden Hotel was being built, the area around it was in a battle with the Apaches and cattle rustlers. Arizona was not even a state yet. The Gadsden was named after James Gadsden, who negotiated the purchase of land that later became part of Arizona and New Mexico. The Gadsden Purchase took place in 1853 for a price of $10 million dollars.
The hotel was known to be the place for the wheeling and dealing of cattle and mining barons. It was also a home and place to rest for many cowboys and miners. The Saddle and Spur Saloon offered cattlemen an opportunity to place their brand on the wall.
There are tales about how Douglas residents climbed to the roof of the hotel to watch the Mexican Revolution being fought across the border. Another tale describes an impromptu ride up the marble stairs by Pancho Villa himself. You can even see the chipped surface on the seventh stair where this ride took place.
Then in 1927, a fire destroyed the original hotel. But, in 1928 the new owners the Mackeys rebuilt the hotel. The hotel was built as a replica of the original hotel. This time, however, steel and concrete were used instead of wood.
In 1988, the hotel had fallen into disrepair. In the same year, the Brekus’s family purchased the hotel. Their love and care of this building has made the hotel a success once again. Today the Gadsden Hotel is a National Historic Monument and nearly every Arizona Governor has stayed in the hotel. The hotel includes a lobby with a sweeping Italian marble staircase, Victorian chandelier, a gold leaf ceiling, marble columns, a Tiffany vaulted sky light and stain glass mural.
Guests in the hotel have a variety of services to chose from during their stay. The Gadsden offers wedding services, tours, convention facilities, banquet rooms, a dress shop, a beauty shop, suites, a dining room, a coffee shop and a tavern. Visitors can view over 200 registered cattle brands in the famous Saddle and Spurs Tavern.
The Gadsden Hotel is located in Douglas at 1046 G Avenue.
The Chiricahua Wilderness includes much of the Chiricahua Mountains. The Chiricahua Mountains are Arizona’s most southeasterly mountain range. The highest point in the Chiricahua’s is 9,700 feet. The Chiricahua Mountains are an amazing sight to see. The spectacular views, rock formations, diverse plant and animal life make it a terrific spot to visit.
The range offers a network of trails and gorgeous hiking country. If you are interested in making a hike, it is advisable to head to the Chiricahua National Monument on the west side of the mountain range. There is a visitor center located at the national monument that has maps and personnel to give suggestions on hiking trails.
The history of the Chiricahua Wilderness began with the Chiricahua Apaches, who made this area their home. When European settlers began to move in on their land, war broke out. The Apaches were very good at knowing the land and using the rocks as lookout points. It wasn’t until 1886 when Geronimo, one of the last Apache leaders surrendered and eventually the tribe left the wilderness.
On your way out to the east side of the Chiricahua’s from Douglas, you will take State Highway 80. Along with your drive, you will come across a sixteen-foot high pyramid. It is approximately 40 miles northeast of Douglas. The pyramid is in recognition of the final Apache surrender. It is in Skeleton Canyon and represents the 25-year war with the United States and the Chiricahua Indians. The pyramid was dedicated in 1934.
After passing the pyramid, you will continue on State Highway 80 east and into New Mexico. You will travel through the town of Rodeo, New Mexico. Then just north outside of town, you will turn left and head up to the Chiricahua Wilderness. You will need to look for signs along State Highway 80 to direct you to the Wilderness. In the Chiricahua Wilderness, you will pass through several ghost towns like Portal and Paradise. Once you are in the area you will discover its beauty.
If you would like to go to the visitor center in the Chiricahua National Monument to find out about hiking trails in the area, you will need to take U.S. Highway 191 north out of Douglas. You will continue on the highway until you come to the town of Sunizona. Here you will head east on State Highway 181. The State Highway eventually veers off to the north and then to the east again where it dead-ends in the Chiricahua National Monument.
Your adventure in the Chiricahua Wilderness will prove to be one you won’t forget. The sights will dazzle your eyes.
Chiricahua National Monument
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 the Mount St. Helens. This eruption called the Turkey Creek Caldera eventually laid down two thousand feet of highly siliceous 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 is 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.
Agua Prieta is a town across the border from Douglas on the Mexican side. It is the sister town to Douglas. There are nearly 100,000 residents in Agua Prieta. These two towns use each other strengths to prosper. Douglas has three manufacturing plants and Agua Prieta has thirty-three. These plants make items like clothing, seatbelts and plastic injection molding. It is estimated that 80 percent of the personal income from Agua Prieta is spent in Douglas.
However, Agua Prieta does lure shoppers and sightseers. Visitors can walk across the border to see the Old Mexico town. Agua Prieta has quaint streets filled with shops, plazas, and restaurants. The authentic Sonoran Mexican cuisine is delicious and modestly priced.
When making a visit to Agua Prieta, U.S. citizens should carry proof of citizenship. A valid U.S. passport is the best because it serves both as photo identification and works well when using cashiers checks. A U.S. birth certificate that is a certified copy is also acceptable. Visitors should be aware that a driver’s license is not proof of citizenship. If you are planning on staying in Agua Prieta for more than 72 hours, you need to get a tarjeta de turista (a Mexican government tourist card). Please check with U.S. customs at the border, if you have any questions or concerns. The U.S. customs office is open 24 hours a day.
Your short walk across the border into Agua Prieta will prove to be a great day full of culture, shopping, and delicious food.
The San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge
The San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge is in the bottom of a wide valley, just 16 miles east of Douglas. The wildlife refuge sits at an elevation between 3,720 and 3,920 feet and includes 140 acres. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintain the refuge. The refuge includes a portion of the headwaters of the Yaqui River. This river flows through the Chihuahua and eastern Sonora, Mexico.
The establishment of the refuge was in part to protect the endangered and threatened native fish of the Yaqui River. Black Draw flows through the refuge. This river has a riparian forest of Fremont cottonwood and black willow. The biggest portion of the refuge consists of desert scrub and mesquite bosque.
The water in the area caused a unique history to form. This history began back in the 1700’s, with the Jesuit priests. The priests came to the area for missionary purposes. Then in 1822, the San Bernardino Land Grant was established to encourage more settlers. Unfortunately, Apache Indian attacks forced the grant to be abandoned. Later on, in the mid-1800’s the area became a stopover for prisoners.
Then in 1887, John Slaughter bought the land grant. John Slaughter was a former Texas Ranger. Slaughter brought in a huge herd of Texas Longhorns to start his ranch. He eventually built his ranch on the land. John Slaughter and his second wife branded their cattle with a Z. This brand was one of the first brands registered in Cochise County. The Slaughters believed in using a gun and a rope when working with a herd. As time passed, word got out that no one should mess with his herds of cattle. In 1886, he ran for sheriff and won. He enforced the law in the country with a firm hand. In 1892, he retired from office and was an honorary deputy sheriff until he died in 1922. He was one of Arizona’s cattle kings. Today you can visit the John Slaughter Ranch, which lies within the refuge. This ranch is now a National Historic
Landmark. The main house has been restored. Visitors will see family photos and furnishings. The ranch also has several outbuildings to see like a barn, ice house, granary, commissary, car shed, and washhouse.
You might also see an early 1900’s military outpost near the ranch. The outpost was once occupied during Mexican and Native Indian raids.
The San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge offers a picnic area. The Slaughter Ranch Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00 pm. The admission cost is $3.00 and children under 12 are free. For more information on the museum, call 520-558-2474.
If you would like more information on this trip into the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, you may call 520-364-2104.
You can get the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge from Douglas by taking 15th Street east out of town. The street later becomes Geronimo Trail. You will follow this road out to a gate with a “Z” on the front of it. The “Z” is the brand symbol for the Slaughter Ranch. Please do not attempt the drive under wet conditions.