Fort Huachuca and Fort Bowie are intertwined in the history of the southwest United States. Both were established during the Indian Wars although Fort Bowie was founded 15 years earlier. Today, Fort Bowie is just a shadow of its former self while Fort Huachuca is a busy, modern military post. On Saturday, B Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry (Memorial) will join the National Park Service is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Fort Bowie.
Little is left of the fort that was the command-and-control center during the final Geronimo campaign. Hidden away in a valley in the Chiricahua Mountains, a two-hour drive east of Fort Huachuca, only a few building foundations are left of the once busy Army post. Abandoned in 1894, the buildings were scavenged of their materials by locals, leaving only a few adobe walls to mark the site of the fort. In 1964, the fort site was acquired by the National Park Service which preserved what was left and began to rebuild what they could. Over the years they have built a museum on the site and have renovated the remains of the old cemetery which once held up to 112 graves.
Fort Bowie is as much a part of the history of B Troop as Fort Huachuca. In May 1886, B Troop left Fort Huachuca under the command of Capt. Henry Lawton in pursuit of Geronimo. Tracking the famous Apache warrior through Arizona and Mexico for four months, it was at Fort Bowie where he was finally compelled to surrender. To commemorate that event and celebrate the history of Fort Bowie, the men and woman of B Troop (Memorial) will ride through Apache Pass and conduct a short ceremony at the old cemetery at about 11 a.m. Afterwards, they will ride up to the old fort ruins to answer questions and pose for photos. History buffs and cavalry enthusiasts will want to be there with camera in hand.
Visitors are also invited to join a National Park Service ranger at 1:30 p.m. at the Fort Bowie visitor center for a tour of the second fort ruins.
Other special events scheduled for the month of September include ranger-led hikes into the site on Sept. 9 and Sept. 23. A park ranger will meet participants at the Fort Bowie trailhead on Apache Pass Road at 10 a.m. The hikes will focus primarily on the chronology of events that led to the establishment of the fort, including the Bascom Affair and the Battle of Apache Pass. All events are free and open to both individuals and groups.
Fort Bowie NHS is open daily and does not charge an entry fee. The site is unique in that visitors must hike to reach the visitor center, as well as to see the cemetery and fort ruins. The distance from the trailhead parking lot to the cemetery is approximately ¾ mile, one-way, and the distance from the trailhead parking lot to the fort ruins and the visitor center is approximately 1½ miles, one-way. Hiking times vary, but visitors wishing to watch the memorial service at the cemetery on Sunday should depart from the Fort Bowie trailhead on Apache Pass Road by at least 10:30 a.m. The trail is well-marked and includes easy to moderate terrain.
Visitors are encouraged to bring picnic lunches and spend the day exploring and enjoying the area. The visitor center and bookstore are open daily. Western National Parks Association, the non-profit organization that operates the bookstore, will offer a 15-percent discount on all items in the store on Saturday.
To get to Fort Bowie from Sierra Vista, take State Route 90 north to Benson and then head east on Interstate 10. Get off at exit 362 at Bowie and then follow Apache Pass road out to the Fort Bowie parking lot. It is about a 1.5-mile hike to the fort ruins from the parking lot. The cemetery is about half way between the parking lot and the fort ruins. It is an easy trail and has many points of interest along the way.
To learn more about the park, go to http://www.nps.gov/fobo/index.htm.