Coronado National Memorial
20 Jan 2012
|After we arrived at Fort Huachuca and gathered information of things to see and do in the local area, we were both quite surprised we would be able to knock off four additional national park visits to our list of things we want to see while traveling around the country.
We managed to see the Tumacacori National Historic Site yesterday and today we thought we would drive the short distance to visit the Coronado National Memorial to see what was available to see and explore. As we drove south on Hwy 92, we both thought the views of the Huachuca Mountains to our right were spectacular, complete with snow covered peaks along the range and past Ramsey Canyon.
The turn off was right off the highway and a short windy drive to the park entrance. We stopped at the National Park Service Visitor’s Center and picked up the requisite map and information about the park. We also watched the short video about Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition and the cultural influences of 16th century Spanish colonial exploration in the Americas. The Memorial preserves and interprets the natural and human history of the area.
We were both surprised to hear the park had recently reopened after a devastating fire in June 2011 destroyed over 29,000 acres within the Huachuca Mountains. No structures were lost in the park, but 100% of the park’s acreage was burned to some extent. Some areas burned intensely, while other areas are still green. The park was initially called the International Memorial and opened in August, 1941. It subsequently was renamed in November, 1952 to its present name, Coronado National Memorial (CNM).
CNM is the only unit in the National Park System that commemorates the Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Expedition of 1540-1542. When reporting to Congress in 1940 on the establishment of the Memorial, the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys noted: “Coronado’s expedition was one of the outstanding achievements of a period marked by notable explorations. It made known the vast extent and the nature of the country that lay north of central Mexico, and from the time of Coronado, Spaniards never lost interest in the country. In no small measure their subsequent occupation of it was due to the curiosity so created.”
There are no tangible artifacts related to the expedition, but the Memorial was created to provide visitors with an opportunity to “reflect upon the impact the Coronado Entrada had in shaping the history, culture, and environment of the southwestern United States and its lasting ties to Mexico and Spain.” The Memorial has two sister parks in Mexico also named in honor of the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. The location was chosen for the panoramic views of the US-Mexico border and the San Pedro River Valley, the route believed to have been taken by Coronado.
Stories of ‘Seven Cities of Cibola” filled with gold prompted a band of Spanish explorers into a two year journey through unknown lands of western and central North America. Coronado led the expedition with over 330 Spanish soldiers and 1000 Indian allies and slaves, north from Mexico to conquer new lands for Spain, find wealth in the seven cities of gold, and convert any Native Americans they encountered to Christianity.
Coronado did not find any cities of gold, but his journey established the route for the exchange of languages, technologies, and religion between the Spanish and Native Americans of the north, creating the dynamic culture of the southwest we know today. His exploration took him through present day Gallup, Taos, Santa Fe and ended up near Salina, Kansas before he returned to Mexico.
After the film and browsing through the small museum dedicated more to the wildlife found in the local area, we proceeded up the windy, rocky mountain road to Montezuma’s Pass where we saw the beautiful windswept views of the San Pedro and San Rafael valleys and Mexico. There are also numerous hiking trails in the area and the Coronado Cave for those spelunkers who enjoy that sort of exploration.
So, two down, two more to go: Chiricahua National Memorial and Fort Bowie National Historic Site before leaving here next Saturday. The weather continues to be positively wonderful, cool temps in the morning and getting up to the mid 70s under sunny and clear skies.
Till the next time . . .