The only way to visit the Fort Bowie ruins is to drive 9 miles of dirt road and then a 3 mile out and back hike. Plan on another mile of hiking because once you get to the fort there is much to see.
Very shortly after we started the hike we came across some stone ruins. This turned out to be the remnants of the cabin of a local prospector and well digger named Jesse Millsap. Jesse met his end when some dynamite discharged while he was digging a well. I guess that would ruin ones day now wouldn’t it.
The next point of interest we encountered on the trail was the Apache Stage Station ruins and our old friend the Butterfield Overland Trail. Fort Bowie along with Fort Cummings and other forts were built along the Butterfield Trail to protect travelers and to protect vital water sources.
I can’t imagine riding in a stage coach was very comfortable. But when you got here to the station you could get a meal of meat, beans, bread, and coffee for 50 cents so maybe it was worth the ordeal.
We next came to the site of what is called the Bascom Affair. Lt. George Bascom was ordered to confront Chochise about the return of a rancher’s property and a worker’s son.
Bascom somehow lured Chocise into his tent and threatened to hold him hostage until the property and boy were returned. Well, Cochise, being a resourceful man, cut his way out of the tent and escaped. Two weeks of bloody fighting followed.
It turned out Chocise was innocent of the thievery.
The next stop on our journey to the fort is the Fort Bowie Cemetery. All of the soldiers and their dependents remains were moved to the San Francisco National Cemetery. Twenty three civilian graves remain. Most killed by the Apaches according to the markers.
Our next stop on this exciting hike to the past is Apache Spring, another reason for building the fort. The soldiers and and travelers as well as their livestock needed water. Lots of warfare occurred near sources of precious water. Native Americans needed the water to survive as did the new immigrants from the East. The spring is still in use.
Then there is Fort Bowie itself. There is actually two sets of ruins. The first fort was abandoned and a second, larger fort built. Between 1862 and 1886 the fort was an important staging station for soldiers fighting against the Chiricahua Apaches led by Cochise and then Geronimo.
There is actually a nice visitors center at the ruins that caters to the hikers. Susan and I had a nice picnic lunch at one of the picnic tables there.
I read a sign at the trail head that stated if you could not make the hike you could drive out on an old dirt road but would need a 4 wheel drive vehicle.