The Fort Apache Indian Land is in the White Mountains. It is 75 miles long, 45 miles wide and includes parts of Apache, Gila, and Navajo Counties. The Tonto National Forest, the Sitgreaves National Forest, and the Apache National Forest form the Indian Lands western, northern and eastern boundaries. The land ranges from an elevation of 2,700 feet at the Salt River Canyon to 11,000 feet at Mount Baldy. The Apaches live on close to 1.5 million acres. Currently, the White Mountain Apache Indian tribe has 11,000 members.
The first fort built in this area was called Camp Ord. Later, the name was changed to Camp Thomas, in honor of the Civil War General George W. Thomas. Then, in 1870 the name was changed one last time to Fort Apache. The name was chosen after a visit from the Apache Indian chieftain, Cochise.
The Indian Land was established in 1897 and was named after the fort. When the White Mountain Apaches first began to live here, their number was only 2,000. Prior to the placement of the tribe on the Indian Land, the Apaches had been the most independent and determined Indian tribe in Arizona. The Apaches call themselves, “DiNeh” meaning “The People.”
The Fort was manned up until 1924 when the fort was turned into a school for Indian children. During the 1950’s, the White Mountain Apaches decided to make themselves self-sufficient and improve their standard of living. In order to do this, the tribe designed a plan to make their Indian Land the largest privately owned recreational area in the United States. This was accomplished by building a number of dams to create lakes and constructing access roads and campgrounds. Throughout the process, the tribe did not lose sight of maintaining nature’s natural beauty by treating the land with respect.
Today, the Fort Apache Indian Land is a recreation enthusiast and vacationer’s destination spot. Whiteriver is the center of the Indian Land and the seat of tribal government.
Fort Apache Indians are known for their burden baskets and beadwork.
The land has been turned into an outstanding recreational area. The tribe is proud of its Sunrise Ski Resort with its excellent varying ability levels of trails covering three mountains. There are six chair lifts and several lodges located nearby.
Hawley Lake is one of 25 lakes available for fishing. There are also 420 miles of streams that are stocked regularly. This makes them a fisherman’s paradise. With more than 7000 campsites, vacationer’s can always find a spot to spend the night.
The Salt River’s waters originate where the White and Black Rivers join on Fort Apache Indian Land. The Salt River offers water fun for kayakers and canoers or if white water rafting is more your speed tours are available. The river forms the Salt River Canyon, which is a spectacular sight. There are several lookout points along U.S. 60, north of Globe, which allow visitors a glimpse of this beautiful canyon.
Kinishba Ruins are a few miles southwest of Whiteriver. The ruins are of a large Indian apartment complex. It is believed that Kinishba or “The Brown House” was developed sometime around 700 A.D. and the community reached its peak around 1200 A.D. Today, the ruins are a national historic landmark.
Fort Apache National Historic Park is world famous. The Fort was the headquarters for Apache Scouts in the late 1800’s. The scouts were charged with the task of locating renegade Apaches and Navajos. The park also has a recreation of an Apache Village. There are several unique buildings at the fort. The gift shop is housed in General Cook’s log cabin. The fort is located just seven miles south of Whiteriver and walking tours are available.
The land is home to Hon-Dah Casino.
White Mountain Apache Tribal Fair and Rodeo September