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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.