National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
Landscape Architecture Month Feature 2012
Chiricahua National Monument Historic Designed Landscape, Cochise County, Arizona

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

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Cochise Head rises above snowy hills
NPS Photograph: Chiricahua National Monument

Located within the Chiricahua National Monument, the Chiricahua National Monument Historic Designed Landscape consists of approximately 10,000 acres of stunning wilderness. Administered by the National Park Service, this scenic wilderness is 120 miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona, and located in the northwest portion of the Chiricahua Mountain range in southeastern Arizona. The Chiricahua National Monument is best known for the rock pinnacles for which the monument was created to protect. Rising sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, many of these pinnacles are balancing on a small base, seemingly ready to topple over at any time. The geological formations, enormous rhyolite columns in strange, eroded shapes, were created 27 million years ago from a series of eruptions from the Turkey Creek Caldera, an ancient volcano located eight miles south. The Civilian Conservation Corps, during their occupation here in the 1930s, named many of the rock formations that can be seen today.

Other natural features related to the geology of the monument include shallow caves, faults, mountain formations, soils, the Turkey Creek Caldera, and lava flows. As well as the exceptional geological aspects of this park, the monument hosts a biological crossroads, a meeting-place of four different ecological regions. In the Chiricahua Mountains the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, and the Rocky Mountain and Sierra Madre ranges, all meet. The convergence of these four biomes makes this area unusually rich in both floral and faunal biodiversity. Rocky Mountain representatives such as the Ponderosa pine and Engelmann spruce co-exist beside the Soap tree yucca from the Chihuahuan desert. Stately Arizona sycamore and various types of oak dot the well-watered canyons. Apache pine grows at the most northern end of the Sierra Madre range. Chihuahua pine is found, as are Douglas and White fir, Arizona cypress, Cane cholla, Prickly pear and several species of ferns, mushrooms, and fungi.  Arizona white-tail deer, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, grey foxes, and various lizards and snakes all dwell here. Birds vary with the seasons.

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Snow covered rhyolite columns
NPS Photograph: Chiricahua National Monument

Despite the local wildlife, it was the unique geographic features that captured attention. The monument was established by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 to protect and preserve these geological features. Edward M. Riggs (1885-1950), owner of the adjacent Faraway Ranch, constructed numerous trails during its early years so that visitors at his ranch might view the features within the "Wonderland of Rocks".  The Chiricahua National Monument Historic Designed Landscape was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 21, 2008.

The period of historic significance for the Chiricahua National Monument Historic Designed Landscape spans 1924 to 1940, which mark the time of the founding of the park through its early development by the US Forest Service and Edward M. Riggs. The primary features that exist today from this period are Bonita Canyon Highway and portions of the early trail system. In 1934 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp NM2A was established and the men housed there continued the construction of the remaining features of the monument.  Ed Riggs, as a foreman at the CCC Camp, designated and developed most of the modern trails. The CCC camp terminated in 1940.  Since then, there has been modernization of some structures, and in 1976, the US Congress decided to further preserve the land, designating 87% of the monument as Wilderness. This precludes any further development, thus ensuring the preservation of the geological formations for future generations and the continuation of undisturbed space and habitat for the many unique plants and animals that are found in this special region.

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Faraway Ranch
NPS Photograph: Chiricahua National Monument

Major development of the monument began in 1932 during the Great Depression and continued until 1940. In 1932 the US Forest Service (USFS), the administrating agency, in conjunction with the Bureau of Public Roads, constructed the Bonita Canyon Highway. After the transfer of administration to the National Park Service (NPS) in 1933, NPS architects, engineers, and landscape architects planned the layout and development of the monument’s other structures and buildings using principles of naturalistic landscape design and rustic architecture, taking into account the natural environmental landscape and aesthetics to produce the roads, trails, buildings and other sites that would help people enjoy the natural beauty of the monument. The Civilian Conservation Corps camp, NM2A, which housed the young men, provided labor to build hiking trails, upgrade the USFS road, and construct administration, residential utility and visitor service buildings. The Trail System represents the primary recreational opportunity at Chiricahua National Monument. Most of the individual trails are located in the southeastern portion of the monument.. The trails encircle and enter the area of greatest scenic value known as the "Wonderland of Rocks".

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Turkey prints
NPS Photograph: Chiricahua National Monument

The history of the region, supplied by archaeological evidence, shows that the Chiricahua Apache used the area as part of their home range during Spanish, Mexican, and later American historic periods.  The Chiricahua Apache viewed the monumental area as a sacred site.  They also used Bonita Canyon as an east-west transportation route and utilized the local environment to procure water and food materials—items necessary for survival.  The Chiricahua Apache were permanently removed from the area in 1886.

The name Chiricahua is an Opata Indian word meaning “wild turkey,” according to Jesuit Juan Nentvig, writing from northwest Mexico between 1750 and 1767. Dwelling in what is now Sonora. Mexico, the Opata found many wild turkeys in the mountain range. Most of the wild turkeys had vanished from the region by the mid-1900s. Gould's wild turkeys, one of two subspecies of wild turkey dwelling today in Arizona and south of the border in Mexico, were released in 2003 back into the Chiricahua Mountains by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation. 

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Bridge in Campground
NPS Photograph: Chiricahua National Monument

Development of the monument occurred during the height of the naturalistic landscape design and rustic architectural styles. National Park Service landscape architects and engineers directed many of the individual construction projects.  Construction was accomplished using hard labor provided by Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees.  These enrollees were taught technical skills and trained by locally employed men who were highly skilled in each of their crafts. Construction materials for buildings were collected from the local landscape.  Rubble boulders or stone cut from a quarry on the south side of the monument provided most of the building material.  Plants were also collected from the immediate area and transported to cover any landscape damage that occurred during construction.  The integrity of the buildings and structures is high.  The original design styles, construction techniques and materials are readily apparent.

 

Exerted from Robin Lothrop Pinto (with assistance from R. Brooks Jeffery and Mike Lovato), Chiricahua National Monument Historic Designed Landscape NRHP nomination, Arizona SHPO, August 8, 1997 and Chiricahua National Monument National Park Service website, http://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm