Monday, February 28, 2011

Butterfield Stage Coach Stop, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

backroads destination—Butterfield Stage Coach Stop, Coronado National Forest, Arizona

This is one of the more interesting sites that I have found on National Forest land. 

The Butterfield Overland Mail Company used this stop to deliver mail from St. Louis to San Francisco in 25 days in 1857.  The rock walls of the stage stop are still visible today.  The stage coach company made 40 runs and then moved operations north to Utah due to increased hostilities with the Apaches, the start of the Civil War, and competition from the Pony Express. 

The stage stop was a dangerous place with the following meeting their deaths:  three construction workers in 1857, and two US Army Regulars in 1862 and Four Confederate soldiers in that same year.   Click on the picture below and it will be displayed full sized so you can read it.

The US Army and Confederate soldiers died at the hands of the Apaches.  Click on the picture of the interpretive sign below and it will display full sized so you can read it.

Growing up in the western US the Civil War was always an abstraction in the history books.   During my teens it was the Spanish settlement of California that provided the link to history.  Moving to Idaho and Washington in my twenties the Lewis and Clark Expedition became a real part of history to me.  Places I worked, hiked, hunted and explore were all traversed by Lewis and Clark.

So it came as quite a shock to see the Bars and Stars next to graves on the Arizona desert along with the initials CSA for the Confederate States of America.   The War between the States was no longer only in the history books.

The impact of this site is much stronger since it is just out on the National Forest.  The interpretation is minimal.  When your here it will probably be just you with the graves and the ruins of the stage coach stop.  
Stage coach riders delivering the US Mail, soldiers from the Confederate States of America,  the US Army, and of course, the Apaches watching their way of life change and slowly slip away.

The middle of somewhere a hundred and fifty years ago.  I wonder what it will look like a hundred and fifty years from now.

The site is difficult to find.  Call the Forest Service office in Douglas, Arizona at 520 364 3468 for directions.   I drove past the turnoff and then had to double back.   You go past a gate that asks you to keep it closed since cattle are in the pasture.  Then you run into this sign which shows that you are on the right road.  

 From here the road heads east for another mile.  I love the old Forest Service entrance signs to National Forest lands.

 You finally reach a sign that states “Road not maintained for Public Use”.  In this area, there is a interpretive sign with a couple of arrows strached into the wood pointing east. 

Follow the unmarked trail east and you will go through a fence and quickly come to the Stage Stop and the graves. 
The springs are up the “road not maintained for public use”.  You can walk or drive up there for look around, but the stage stop is really the most interesting stop.  I think what the "road not maintained for public use" means for most people is that if you get stuck and need a tow your insurance will probably refuse to pay.

You can camp in this area, but remember the special Arizona camping regulations regarding water sources.

If you decide to camp in the area, you might want to move a 1/4 mile away from the spring.  At the springs we found this cistern with the date of February 1943.  Remember everything you build will have archaeologists wondering about do them a favor and date all your work!

Take only pictures.  This is special spot in American history far from the crowds of tourists.  You will most likely have the site to yourself when you visit.  Make sure those that follow you will also be able to enjoy the site and setting.

The sign might say "unmaintained for public use", but the land still belongs to you.  Take care of it and keep exploring.  The best stuff usually does not have a sign.  

1 comment:

Dugg said...

If you're in the Tucson vicinity, be sure to visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, and take the silo tour at the Titan II Missile Museum in Green Valley.