Time Travel Through Cochise County

By: Arizona Office of Tourism

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June 5, 2018

Time travel becomes possible in southeast Arizona, where prehistory melts into the Old West, and today’s tech builds a bridge to tomorrows discoveries.

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Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.

Ever thought about traveling through time? Cochise County has your ticket! Take a 21st Century transportation mode to Arizona’s southeast corner and experience history, from early man to the untamed West, through the Industrial Revolution and discover right-now technology.

Long ago, this arid climate was once a tropical paradise, complete with Mammoth and crocodiles. The Clovis people hunted them, leaving behind tools, hunting camps, and cooking hearths. These finds were significant enough to rewrite history books, suggesting that man was roaming Arizona as early as 13,000 BCE. Walk where they did at the Murray Springs Clovis Site and Lehner Mammoth-Kill Site near Sierra Vista. Stroll up Garden Canyon to find petroglyphs left by these early inhabitants, alongside later Apache pictographs.

After the Clovis came the Apache, and Cochise County (named for the great Apache chief) was a strategic outpost. Check out Cochise Stronghold near Willcox, where bands retreated from pursing Cavalry troops, and Chiricahua National Monument, a maze of rocks and hideouts. Learn more about the Apache, and the soldiers that pursued them, at the Fort Huachuca Historical Museum in Sierra Vista. Stop by the Amerind Museum near Benson for another excellent exhibit on Native American culture.

Part of the hubbub in Arizona around the turn of the 19th Century was due to a Mexican revolutionary-turned-guerrilla named Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Charismatic, handsome, and immortalized in film, Pancho Villa rode into Arizona’s history, literally, at The Gadsden Hotel in Douglas. Find the chipped step in the marble staircase—allegedly made when he rode his horse up it in the early 1900s, when Mexico was fighting for independence.

But even before Villa made his infamous ride, four men (three named Earp and one named Holliday) took a long walk in Tombstone for a shootout that Hollywood won’t forget. The O.K. Corral still stands, as does Tombstone, with boardwalks and swinging saloon doors. Hitch a ride on the stagecoach for a guided Allen Street tour. Dress the part of an1880s saloon keep, gunslinger, school marm, or lady of questionable repute and you’ll fit right in. Costume rentals and western wear shops line the streets. Be prepared for a horse or mule to trot by, and the staged gunfire pops during reenactments. Plan a trip in October to catch the annual Helldorado Days, Tombstone’s rip-roaring celebration of everything Western, along with a period-perfect Steam Punk contingency.

Movie posters line the walls at Rex Allen Museum in Willcox.

For real cowboys, set your transport for Willcox. This community still runs on agriculture, but you can step back in to the 1950s at the Rex Allen Museum where the cowboy-turned-singer-turned-movie-star is memorialized. Pop into the mercantile where Geronimo shopped, or just hop from tasting room to tasting room to enjoy this-century vintages from local, award-winning vineyards.

Bisbee is a time-travel in itself. Don a yellow slicker and travel underground at the Queen Mine tour, then fast-forward to the Lavender Pit mine alongside Highway 80 between 1950s-era Lowell and Victorian Old Bisbee. Visit the history museum for an exhibit that takes a hard look at the 1917 deportation of 1,300 striking mine workers then meander through modern art galleries and eateries that could compete in major metro areas. Check out the historical mash-up at the Stock Exchange, a trading room turned bar and pizza joint with duos and trios performing thoroughly modern music most weekends.

Visitors in yellow jackets and miners

Whether it’s trains, stage coaches, or mule carts, Benson gets there. This transportation hub celebrated the nation-crossing Butterfield Overland Stage annually. Stop into the visitor center and drive a model trail seated at a real Union Pacific engineer’s control, then go way back to the subterranean wonder of Kartchner Caverns, a living cave still building stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, and bacon formations. Hungry? Grab a bite at the above-ground Bat Cave diner.

One of the best places to fly through time is the Military Intelligence and Soldier Heritage Learning Center at Sierra Vista’s Fort Huachuca. Here, learn about espionage, from invisible ink used in the Revolutionary War, to Cold War spies, to modern surveillance techniques used today.

Cochise County, called the Land of Legends, has a fascinating history that crosses millennia, painting Arizona with a cast of colorful characters. Learn more at

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