Chiricahua National Monument

UPDATE:  Chiricahua National Monument partially reopened in July 2011 after being closed to the public due to the massive Horseshoe 2 fire. NPS has re-opened all trails though visitors are encouraged to exercise caution through the burned landscapes. Despite being entirely within the range of the fire, the monument’s visitor center, other buildings and recreational facilities have survived. Aerial ignition of ridgetop backfires were used to blunt the force of the main wildfire, causing milder fires that leave much vegetation and soil structure intact and will allow for quicker recovery. Read more at the NPS website >

Chiricahua National Monument is a fantasy world of extraordinary rock sculptures created by the forces of nature over millions of years. The monument is located in the northwest corner of the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona and harbors towering rock spires, massive stone columns, and balanced rocks weighing hundreds of tons that perch delicately on small pedestals.

Geologists don't completely understand how the area was formed, but they believe that around 27 million years ago violent volcanic eruptions spewed forth thick, white-hot ash into the area. The ash cooled and fused into an almost 2,000-foot thick layer of dark volcanic rock. The Chiricahua Mountains formed from this rock upheaval, and then water, wind, and ice began sculpting the rock into odd formations and fascinating forms.

The Chiricahua Mountains are vastly different from the surrounding Sonoran and Chihuahan Deserts. In these cool, moist, forested mountains dwell many plants and animals of the Southwest, as well as a number of Mexican species. While Mexico is 50 miles to the south, the special mix of life in the Chiricahua Mountains is more like that found in the Mexican Sierra Madres. The rich animal and plant variety includes Sulphur-bellied flycatchers, Mexican chickadees, Apache fox squirrels, peccaries, cacti, oaks, junipers, Arizona cypress, ponderosa pines, and aspens, to name a few.

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