Cochise College            Student Papers in Geology     
Geology Home Page                    physical geology  historical geology  planetary  gems

Roger Weller, geology instructor                     

Kim McGee
Physical Geology
Fall 2005

                                            The Chiricahua National Park, Arizona




          Also known as the Wonderland of Rocks the Chiricahua National Park is located 36 miles southwest of Willcox.   Once you are in the park there is an 8-mile paved road through scenic Bonita Canyon, climbing gradually up the crest at 6,870 feet in elevation.  There are more than 20 miles of trails and hiking, which is the best way to view the many balancing rock configurations.

          The park covers a 12,000-acre mountain ranges and valleys with the most breathing taking views ever imagined.  The amazing rock formations consist of massive columns, towering rock spires, and huge boulders perched atop tiny pedestals.


Photographs of Chiricahua National Monument                      Photographs of Chiricahua National Monument


          The agave is among the beautiful plant wildlife as you can see here while in bloom.  A variety of birds are also located here and birders often visit the park hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorites.  The mountains encompass many different species of birds because of the many different habitats that are located here.  From deep canyons to grasslands to the high elevation sky islands this land is full of hummingbirds to owls.  Some of the varieties of hummingbirds found here are the famous Blue-throated hummingbird and the magnificent Black-chinned hummingbird.  There are more than a dozen species of owls such as, The Western Screech owl, the Whiskered Screech owl, the Great Horned owl, the Flammulated owl, and the Elf owl.



Cochise Head Photo                          China Boy Photo 


          The first picture is called the Head of Cochise and the next one is called the China boy.  There are thousands of different pictures that you see while gazing at the beautifully stacked rock formations.  Over 27 million years ago there was a huge volcanic eruption; it was 1000 times larger than Mt. St. Helens eruption, which happened in 1980.

More than 2000 feet of highly siliceous ash and pumice mixture were tossed about which fused into a rock called rhyolitic tuff and eventually eroded, as you can see in these photos.

     Spires- vertical and horizontal joints and fractures formed as the volcanic ash cooled and shrank due to erosion from water and ice.  Wind spiral columns are the result of this relentless erosion making for the strange and sometimes scary rock formations above you high in the sky.

          On April 18, 1924 the park became The Chiricahua National Monument by proclamation by then president Calvin Coolidge.  He concluded that “certain natural formations known as the Pinnacles are of scientific interest.  The public interests will be promoted by reserving as much land as may be necessary for the proper protection thereof, as a National Monument”.

          Other species of birds found here are the Hepatic Tanager, the Red-faced Warbler, and the Elegant Trogon.  The Mexican trees such as the Chihuahua Pine and the Apache Pine are very common wildlife here.  Botanists agree that this Monument contains greater plant life than any area of equal size.

          The Name of the Monument and the mountain range is in honor of the Indian tribe called the Chiricahua Apaches and in Apache language Chiricahua means “Great Mountain”.Chiricahua NM 


Chiricahua NMChiricahua National Monument by National Park Service



Works Cited