Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona



Rhyolite formations - The Chiricahua Apache called them Standing Up Rocks

That’s the only word that seems to fit.  Chiricahua National Monument, located in the southeastern corner of Arizona, within the Coronado National Forest, and surrounded by the Chiricahua Wilderness Protection Area is one of those special places that make you glad that someone in the past saw fit to set it aside as a National, Natural Resource , available to all in perpetuity. That someone was President Calvin Coolidge who, in 1924, used the Antiquities Act to establish this area as a National Monument.

As an aside, the difference between a National Park and a National Monument is only political.  Both are administered by The National Park Service (or occasionally by the National Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management) and both enjoy protections that attempt to maintain them as close as possible to their natural state, while still allowing public access in the form of hiking, picnicking, camping, and various types of lodgings and amenities as required.  The political difference is significant. National Monument are created under the Antiquities Act, by decree of the President.  National Parks are created by an act of Congress and are protected by the law of the land.  Monument’s protection are somewhat weaker, but don’t require the political wrangling of an act of congress.  As an example, it took years to establish the Grand Canyon (hard to believe, I know) as a National Park because of the usual competing interests.  Thankfully, the Grand Canyon eventually became a National Park.  Many National Monuments continue to strive for Park status and some do make it.  Joshua Tree National Park in California is an example…Joshua Tree became a National Monument in 1936 and was finally elevated to Park status in 1994.

I must mention that while I hope all Americans recognize the importance of our National Parks and Monuments, I know that many people from around the world do. It is not unusual to see as many foreign visitors as American. Ask them why they come here, and they will tell you that the American National Park system is second to none. We were lucky, being a new country in a modern era, and got the chance to protect these fabulous areas before they were developed or destroyed.

Chiricahua sign

Chiricahua National Monument, southeastern Arizona

Chiricahua National Monument suffered a devastating fire in May and June of 2011 and the much of the forested area of the park was severely burned.  The park’s beauty is significantly diminished by this, but there are still a few areas that give one an idea of how beautiful it was before the fire.  Chiricahua is a Sky Island, a mountain range that rises above the flat desert due to a combination of uplift and erosion over millions of years.  About 90 percent of the park was involved in the 2011 “Horseshoe 2” fire.

In the burned forest

The fire burned extremely hot in some areas, sterilizing the soil and shattering rocks

Natural bridge

Natural Bridge - An area of little or no fire damage

The Turkey Creek Caldera blew it’s top 27 million years ago and laid down a blanket of hot ash over 2000 feet deep.  Over time the ash melted together and fused under pressure to form Rhyolite a hard, but brittle rock, similar to granite.  The rock was uplifted by geological forces, and eroded away to form the fantastic “Standing Up Rocks” of Chiricahua.

Chiricahua is a great park for hiking and most of the hikes take you into the heart of the rock formations.

The TALL family

Endless Formations

Totem pole

Totem Pole

Punch and judy

Punch and Judy

Big Balanced rock

Big Balanced Rock

Kissing rocks

Kissing Rocks

Duck on a rock

Duck on a Rock

Walking around through these phantasmagorical features is absolutely magical, like being in a labyrinth of ancient rock beings.  I took some video with sound which helps capture the experience.  I will post it here when I can so check back if the link is not established yet.

Lauri s Lizard

Yarrow's Spiny Lizard

Yarrow s spiny lizard

Yarrow's do have an attitude.

The Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard is one of the few southwester lizards that bears it young alive.  They mate in the fall, yet the embryo does not start to develop until spring and the young are born in June.  This saves the mother from having to nourish the developing embryo during the sparse winter.

Along the hailstone trail

Volcanic Hailstones, so named because they form from molten lava in a manner much similar to hailstones in a thunderstorm.

Sunset Massai pt

Sunset at Massai Point

Chiricahua is a very special place and I’m sure only the fact that it so out of the way keeps it from becoming one of the most popular parks in the system.  We found that many of the people we met had been there many times before, we’re just glad we found it.  Here’s some more pictures.

The apache fox squirrel

The Apache Fox Squirrel

It s all about balance

More Balanced Rocks

A nice corner


3 responses »

  1. Hey T&C,, Greetings from London as we visit the grand kids. We even went to Paris on the Eurostar through the Chunnel for 4days with the family. Had a great time.
    Deb and I love the Chiricahuas! And over the back mountain is Cave Creek and a super campground where campers put out hummingbird feeders, pull up the camp chairs, snd watch several kinds of hummers come charging in. April is a special month! Visit the Cave Creek Inn which is a photo shoot paradise. We plan to spend some camping time there on our next trip.
    Love your blogs and all the interesting info……thanks for sharing!!
    Love, Diand &Deb

  2. Hey Guys, looks like you’re in an amazing part of the country–the phallic energy living among those formations must be extraordinary…! Hope you’ll be heading to Maine with us in August. All’s well back east, rain finally came and everything is GREEN! at last. Breezy sends her regards. Best, Tom and Coleen

  3. Sunset at Mas. Point is an amazing photo. Rock formations dazzle the imagination don’t they?

Leave your comment here. Please Note: We moderate all comments for appropriateness so it may take as long as a week for your comment to publish if we are Out In De Woods. Please include your name and email address (email address will not be published). Any personal information we feel should not be published will be edited out for your protection.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


art therapy in India

Winter in the Desert, Summer in the Mtns

Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders


Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders