Duncan is in Eastern Arizona. It is in Greenlee County. The Gila River flows along the east side of town. The town is located near U.S. Highway 191 and State Highway 75. Duncan is just a few miles from the New Mexico border, 166 miles northeast of Tucson and 204 miles southeast of Phoenix. Duncan has many natural resources such as copper, zinc and contains the largest fire-agate field in the nation. Today Duncan has a population of 500. The town sits at an elevation of 3,535 feet. The climate is mild all year round with a winter low temperature of 31 degrees and a summer high temperature of 100 degrees.
One important attraction that you won’t want to skip is the Greenlee County Historical Museum, which is located at the west end of Chase Creek in Clifton. The museum is packed full of interesting memorabilia from the surrounding area. Visitors will discover Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Apache warrior Geronimo and Ted De Grazia were all born nearby. The museum has artifacts that make the west come alive. It is a stop worth taking.
There are a couple of outdoor activities nearby. The Coronado Trail Scenic Byway travels between the towns of Morenci and Springerville, along U.S. Highway 180 or 191. Francisco Vasques de Coronado first used the trail in 1540, during his search for the Seven Cities of Cibola. The drive passes by gorgeous landscapes and through dangerous switchbacks. The Black Hills Rockhounding Area is north of Duncan off of U.S. Highway 191. The road off the highway is not regularly maintained. Therefore, visitors should come prepared. Many rockhounds have found fire agates in this area. It is an adventure.
The land in and around where Duncan is today was originally called Purdy. As the town grew, it became a marketing center for farming and shipping point for cattle and ore. The town was a rail stop along the Arizona and New Mexico Railroad. In the 1880’s, the town’s name was changed to Duncan.
There are a variety of opinions as to how the town’s name originated. One story says it was named after James Duncan, who was the director of the Arizona Copper Company. The other story refers to Duncan Smith, who owned the property on which the rail stop was located.
During Duncan’s early years, it was known as a “tough town.” The town was always protecting itself from attacking Apaches and notorious outlaws. It was believed that “Black Jack” Ketchem and his gang used Duncan as a stopover. “Black Jack” and his gang were known stagecoach robbers.
In 1880, Henry Clay Day homesteaded a piece of land just a few miles from Duncan. He named his ranch “The Lazy B.” Henry eventually turned the ranch over to his son Harry. Harry married Ada Mae Wilkey and they had three children, Sandra, Ann and Alan. Sandra went to college, became a lawyer in Phoenix and held the position of Arizona Senate Majority Leader. Sandra Day O’Connor went on to become the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. The Lazy B Ranch is also known for having the largest fire-agate field in the nation.
The town of Duncan was incorporated in 1938.
Places To Visit
Coronado National Memorial
Coronado National Memorial was created in honor of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s exploration of the Southwest. The memorial is a great spot for history buffs, hikers, and nature lovers. It covers 4,750 acres of natural habitat.
Coronado set out in 1540 in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola (Gold). His expedition was the first European to cross the United States and Mexico border. The expedition included 1,400 soldiers and 1,500 animals. In 1542 after many months of travel, Coronado gave up his search of gold. The journey had taken the group up to Kansas, where they retraced their trip back to Mexico.
Even though gold was never found, Coronado did see many things. The Grand Canyon, Indian tribes (Hopi and Zuni) and the Rio Grande River were just some of his discoveries. This memorial park was established in honor of his expedition.
The Coronado National Memorial is located in the southern part of the Huachuca Mountains, within sight of the San Pedro River Valley. Oak woodlands surround the memorial park. Visitors will find a variety of plant life such as yucca and bear grass. Unique animals also live in the park. Bobcats and eagles roam the area.
The visitor center should be your first stop when entering Coronado National Memorial. The center is also a museum. It has displays of authentic 16th-century armor, weaponry and Spanish replicas of cultural items. Visitors can also try on period costumes in the center. At the visitor center, you will find a nine-minute video on the story of Coronado and his expedition. The center also has maps and books for sale. Here you will learn about the variety of activities you can do during your visit. The visitor center/museum offers so much you will likely need to plan on a couple hour stay.
If you are interested in hiking, you can stop by the visitor center for a run down on the various hikes in the area. Hiking trails range from an easy 0.4-mile hike on the Coronado Peak Trail. This hike is very special because it has benches near the path, along with markers telling about Coronado’s journey. Or you may want to take the 5.3 strenuous hike to Miller Peak.
Many visitors take the driving tour. By taking Montezuma Pass, travelers will experience a scenic drive and overlook. Montezuma Pass is at an elevation of 6,575 feet. This trip can be done by car, only by way of a narrow road. The trip offers spectacular views of Mexico and the San Pedro and San Rafael Valleys.
Those visitors who like caving will enjoy the natural limestone cave in the park. The Coronado Cave is down a steep trail, approximately ¾ of a mile from the visitor center. Once you are at the cave, you will discover two large chambers and several tunnels that lead out from the chambers. The cave is in its natural state. You will not find guard rails or lighting. If you want to see the cave, you will need to get a free permit from the visitor center and you must bring a flashlight. Visitors that would like a tour of the cave will need to call and make arrangements in advance. You should plan on two hours to take in the cave and the hike down and up.
The most popular time of the year to visit the memorial is January through April. The off-season is from September to December. You will find in the summer months thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence, especially in July and August. The wintertime can be cold. The memorial has had snowfall in the winter season.
The visitor center at the Coronado National Memorial is open daily 8:00 to 5:00 pm. The memorial is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is free. Pets are not allowed on the hiking trails and are not to be left unattended in parked vehicles. If you would like more information on the memorial, you can call 520-366-5515.
You can get to the Coronado National Memorial by taking Highway 92 south out of Sierra Vista or Fort Huachuca for approximately 20 miles. Then take Coronado Memorial Road to the park. You will see signs for the memorial. The memorial is 5 miles off of Highway 92. Commemorating the first major exploration of the American Southwest by Europeans, Coronado National Memorial lies on the United States-Mexico border within sight of the San Pedro River Valley, through which the Coronado Expedition first entered the present U.S. in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. It is a cultural area situated in a natural setting comprised of 4,750 acres of oak woodlands.
Small museum with authentic and replica 16th-century arms and armor; nine-minute video on Coronado’s Expedition; period costumes for visitors to try on; wildlife and bird exhibits. History and nature programs and tours of Coronado Cave for groups when scheduled in advance and for the general public on weekends during the busy seasons. Allow two hours to visit the museum and scenic overlook at Montezuma Pass, and an additional half-hour to hike to Coronado Peak. Allow two hours for a visit to Coronado Cave and bring two flashlights per person. Pets are not allowed on hiking trails and should not be left unattended in parked vehicles, especially in warm weather.
The high season for Coronado National Memorial is January to April; low season is Labor Day to Christmas. Summers are warm with frequent thunderstorms in July and August. Winter temperatures often fall below freezing at night with occasional light snowfalls.
Roads East Montezuma Canyon Road is paved from Hwy. 92 to one mile west of the visitor center, then it is a narrow, unpaved mountain road (24 ft. vehicle length limit) to the scenic overlook at Montezuma Pass. The dirt road continues west into the Coronado National Forest. There are hiking trails from the visitor center west to Montezuma Pass (3.1 miles); from Montezuma Pass south to Coronado Peak (0.4 miles); from Montezuma Pass north to Miller Peak (5.3 miles) connecting with trails in the Miller Peak Wilderness; and from the visitor center to Coronado Cave (0.75 miles, permit required).
While you are in the area be certain to visit Coronado National Forest and Miller Peak Wilderness; San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area; Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Information concerning road conditions to Montezuma Pass is available at visitor center.
To get to Coronado National Memorial From I-10 exit south on Hwy. 90 to Sierra Vista then south on Hwy. 92 to Coronado Memorial Highway. (From Bisbee, take Hwy 92 west). The visitor center is five miles southwest of Hwy. 92.
Coronado National Forest
Coronado National Forest is located in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. The Coronado National Forest covers 1,780,196 acres. Elevations range from 3,000 feet to 10,720 feet in twelve widely scattered mountain ranges or “sky islands” that rise dramatically from the desert floor, supporting plant communities as biologically diverse as those encountered on a trip from Mexico to Canada.
Views are spectacular from these mountains, and you may experience all four seasons during a single day’s journey. Spend the morning wandering among giant saguaros and colorful wildflowers, have a picnic lunch under the brilliant golden leaves of a cottonwood tree, and play in the snow in the afternoon. Interpretive trails in and around historic and prehistoric sites allow you to experience the past in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. Eight wilderness areas encompassing 338,536 acres offer you solitude and primitive recreation.
Census 2010 Total Population 696
2015 Population Estimate (as of July 1, 2015) 799
2014 ACS 5-Year Population Estimate 655
Median Age 38.7
Number of Companies N/A
Educational Attainment: Percent high school graduate or higher 69.60%
Count of Governments N/A
Total housing units 394
Median Household Income 30,147
Foreign Born Population 20
Individuals below poverty level 30.40%
Race and Hispanic Origin
White alone 604
Black or African American alone 0
American Indian and Alaska Native alone 8
Asian alone 0
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone 0
Some Other Race alone 24
Two or More Races 19
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 211
White alone, Not Hispanic or Latino 426