There is evidence that the early Spanish and Mexican settlers prospected in the southern Huachuca Mountains prior to the 1850's. Early 17th century mining efforts by the Spaniards were poorly document, however they did officially report silver mines in Montezuma Canyon, where Coronado National Memorial is now located. Traces of their workings were found by the miners of the Tombstone era and recorded within the county records as part of the 19th century mining claim descriptions.
An 1880 article in the Tombstone Epitaph described the beauty of the Huachuca Mountains and mentioned Montezuma Canyon as having eight or mines. Most miners were searching for gold and silver prospects. Assay reports from one of the better-documented mines showed the ore was usually spotty and localized. Initial samples were often rich, but played out without the expected bonanza. Although the property was considered "decidedly promising" in 1903, by 1906 the mining company had liquidated its holding in the canyon. Over the next forty years the mines changed hands numerous times and sold for as much as much as $20,000 in 1920, and as little as $10 in 1942. From 1943 to 1946 1,784 tons of ore was processed into 330,000 pounds of zinc valued at nearly $40,000. This was the largest zinc mining operation in the Huachuca Mountains during World War II.
By the mid 1970's, many of the claims on Coronado National Memorial had been evaluated by the Department of Interior and determined to have no significant mineral value. Coronado National Memorial was closed to mining by the Mining in Parks Act of September 28, 1976. In 1978 the memorial was expanded through a land trade with the Forest Service. The trade extended the northern boundary of the Memorial from the Montezuma Canyon Road to the crest of the Montezuma and Bob Thompson Peaks. The Forest Service was given land west of Montezuma Pass.
The new lands included 21 patented mine claims totaling 969 acres. Some of the mine owners sold their holdings to private individuals who attempted to construct roads and residential housing in the Memorial. Because of the impact on the beauty and tranquillity of the memorial, the National Park Service acquired these lands by 1985. Some of the most dangerous shafts and adits were closed with cable nets and a few have had bat friendly gates put across the entrances. There are close to 70 sites in our inventory of abandoned mineral lands. Most of these have been posted with warning signs, as they are dangerous and off limits to the public.