National Park Week celebrations planned for Cochise County
In celebration of National Park Week, all three Cochise county National Park Service sites will offer special events and activities April 20-28, 2013.
“Did You Know?” is the theme for this year’s events that will take place in all 401 NPS sites across the nation, including Chiricahua National Monument, Coronado National Memorial, and Fort Bowie National Historic Site. Of the three parks, only Chiricahua NM charges an entry fee ($5 per adult). Superintendent H. Lane Baker announced that Chiricahua NM will waive entrance fees Monday, April 22 through Friday, April 26, in recognition of National Park Week.
In addition to National Park Week, Saturday is National Junior Ranger Day. Kids of all ages are invited to check out special “Exploration Tables” set up at each of the three parks that day. Kids can try their hand at making adobe bricks or participating in a miniature archeological dig at Fort Bowie NHS, dressing like a conquistador-including the heavy chain mail and helmet-at Coronado NMem, or donning the iconic ranger “flat hat” and other uniform items while learning what park rangers do at Chiricahua NM to help protect these special areas. Coloring sheets, crayons, and a variety of crafts will be available as well. All events take place at the park visitor centers. Each park also offers a Junior Ranger program every day of the year where kids of all ages can complete a workbook to earn a badge or patch.
President Calvin Coolidge established Chiricahua NM on April 18, 1924. To commemorate the 89th anniversary of the monument, a birthday party will be held during National Park Week. Visitors are invited to join park rangers at Faraway Ranch on Sunday to tour the grounds of this historic district and enjoy cake and lemonade served at noon. A local band, The Dos Cabezas Trio, will perform during the festivities. Tours of the Faraway Ranch house will be offered at 11 am and 2 pm on Saturday, and are offered many other days of the week as well.
At Coronado NMem, ranger-led hikes to Coronado Cave are currently offered each Friday throughout the month of April. The last one will be offered during National Park Week on Friday, April 26. The hikes are free of charge and are a great way to learn more about the rich cultural and natural history of the park.
“Coronado cave is already a popular attraction in the park, but experiencing it on a ranger-led hike is even more exciting,” said Superintendent H. Lane Baker. “Our rangers really make the geology and biology of this area come alive during these hikes. It’s also a perfect opportunity for folks that may be a little leery of venturing into the cave alone.”
Coronado cave is a natural limestone cave that displays the geologic, hydrologic, and biologic history of this region. The cave interior extends 600 feet in length, with 20-foot ceilings and several crawlways and short passages. Exposed in the beam of a flashlight or headlamp, beautiful formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and helictites, each formed by calcite deposits, emerge from the darkness of the cave.
The Friday hikes begin at the Coronado NMem visitor center at 1 p.m. and last about two hours. The roundtrip hike is one mile and includes a 500-foot elevation gain. The hike is considered moderate and participants will drop in to the cave by scrambling down approximately 25 feet of rocks to reach the cave floor. No reservations are necessary for the guided hike. Programs are open to both individuals and groups. Participants should bring a flashlight or headlamp and are encouraged to bring water, a snack, sun protection, and a camera. Wear sturdy shoes and layered clothing.
Coronado NMem is south of Sierra Vista. From Phoenix or Tucson, take I-10 east and exit south on Hwy. 90 to Sierra Vista. After reaching Sierra Vista, go south on Hwy. 92 about 20 miles to S. Coronado Memorial Drive. From Bisbee, take Hwy 92 west. Follow S. Coronado Memorial Drive 5 miles to the visitor center.
All activities are free and open to both individuals and groups. No reservations are needed for the events and visitors are encouraged to bring picnic lunches (no food service is available in any of the parks) and plenty of water. In recognition of National Park Week, Western National Parks Association, the non-profit organization that operates the visitor center bookstores, will offer a 15 percent discount on all items April 22-26. For more information about National Park Week, visit www.nps/gov/npweek. For more information about the NPS sites in Cochise county, visit www.nps.gov/chir, www.nps.gov/coro, or www.nps.gov/fobo.