Fort Bowie is located in Bowie, Arizona. It is a one thousand acre commemoration site consisting of preserved ruins of an old military outpost. It documents the bloody and fierce conflict between local Chiricahua Apaches and US Military forces. These are the lands of one of the most famous and arguably infamous Apache, Geronimo. What made this particular area of strategic interest was a rare desert water source. Surrounded by barren desert landscape lies a small oasis which served as a vital natural survival resource.
It’s largely documented that Geronimo and his kin didn’t seek out or wish for war with the white settlers, whose goal was to tame the Wild West. For many years Apaches peacefully occupied these lands and would travel long distances to conduct trade with any willing parties. They simply could not abide by the terms laid out to their people and this triggered the famous raids led by Geronimo in an attempt to oust the white settlers.
Like the Navajo National Monument you will need to be in relatively decent shape for a short hike (3 mile round trip) to reach the site of the ruins in an unforgiving climate. Bottled water and a hat for shade are a necessity. However, there is alternative access route that you can take which is tame by comparison.
The site itself consists of the ruins of a variety of buildings, a graveyard that poignantly marks how their occupants met their end, a visitor center, and of course Apache Spring. It’s not going to be for everyone and some folks may feel a little underwhelmed by this site, but if you can use your imagination and picture a bustling military outpost, you will appreciate this rudimentary yet fascinating glimpse in to local history, which ultimately played a part in shaping the future of the West.
I feel this is also one of those attractions where the journey is just as important as the destination itself, with a ranger guided hike you get a walk through history as they document famous events that took place at various points on the journey to the visitor center. Guided hikes are generally available from Mid November until Late April and take place weekly on Saturday and Tuesday. This period of the year is best to visit the monument as you won’t be exposed to harsh temperatures present through the rest of the year.
The site strikes me as an ideal opportunity for the use of future technology such as Augmented Reality, it would be incredible to slip on a pair of glasses to see a digital recreation of how the outpost looked in in its hay day. For now though, the visitor center does a great job of projecting a vision of how it once looked.
Despite the climate and the landscape, there is thriving natural wildlife at Fort Bowie. There are nature cams set up around the monument and it’s a great sport for bird watching, or to discover fauna that is unique to the locality. Be mindful of snakes and if you are unsure of venomous species it’s a generally good idea to keep your distance and give them a wide berth if you encounter any on your hike.
Access to the trails, site and visitor center are free of charge.
The hiking trails and the ruins site are open from Dawn to Dusk 7 days a week. The visitor center is open from 8:00 until 16:00 7 days a week MST.