From the top of Coronado Peak, elevation 6864'.
Montezuma Canyon, looking eastward across the San Pedro River Valley
toward San Jose Peak in Mexico
The Coronado National Memorial commemorates the first major European exploration of the American Southwest. It lies within sight of the San Pedro River Valley through which the Coronado Expedition first entered the present-day United States in search of the fabled Cities of Cibola. Tales of riches in the unknown lands a few hundred miles north of Mexico City had fired Spanish imaginations for many years.
In 1536 when Cabeza de Vaca and three companions, sole survivors of a shipwreck, arrived in Mexico City after eight years of wandering through what is now Texas and northern Mexico, they told stories of a land with "large cities, streets lined with goldsmith shops, houses of many stories, and doorways studded with emeralds and turquoise!" An expedition in 1539 by Fray Marcos returned to Mexico City with reports of the "Seven Cities of Cibola." The Viceroy of Mexico chose Francisco Vásquez de Coronado to lead a subsequent expedition.
Coronado's expedition left Mexico City in 1542 with over 300 soldiers, four priests, hundreds of Mexican-Indians, and 1500 stock animals. Entering what is present-day United States, following the San Pedro River Valley, they may have eventually traveled as far as Salina, on the Kansas River in present-day Kansas, the supposed location of Quivira.
The Coronado Memorial consists of almost 5000 acres of oak woodlands in southern Arizona along the Mexican border, and at the end of the Huachuca (wha-choo-ka) Mountains. The memorial preserves a wide array of plant and animal life native to the southwestern US. Forests of oak, piñon pine, and juniper dominate the canyons, with the red-barked manzanita (photo to the left), agave, yucca, and the colorful cane cholla (at right) among the lower elevations.
In addition to the Visitor Center, there are picnic areas, nature trails, and hiking trails. Montezuma Pass (in photo above) offers sweeping views of the San Pedro River Valley. At scenic vistas all along the trails, including a gazebo shelter at the top of the pass, you can look toward the horizon and see the countryside through which Coronado led his expedition 450 years ago.
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Created and maintained by Elizabeth Larson
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