South from Sulphur Canyon

Along the east face of the Chiricahua Mountains there are a number of small unnamed canyons that act as drainage for water from higher elevations in the mountains.  This weeks hike with the Portal Rodeo Hiking Club was along the east face and up one of these smaller canyons below Magnus Dome.  Starting in Sulphur Draw 14 members of the hiking club and one dog headed south along the east flank of the Chirichuas hiking through open grasslands recovered after the Horseshoe 2 fire last year.  Ungrazed, the grasslands appear to have recovered nicely with a carpet of grass over a foot tall across the lower slopes of the Chiricahua Mountains.  The first stop was a wildlife watering station.  Consisting of a large concrete apron connected to a underground cistern the watering station has a small open pool for wildlife.  Continuing south along the slope with magnificent views of the San Simon Valley and the Peloncillo Mountains the group eventually started climbing up a small canyon.  At the base of the cliffs the group stopped at the granary.  Perched on a ledge in a shelter cave, the granary is a mud, stone, and wooden structure that was used for food storage sometime in the past.  The presence of wood in the structure suggests it is of historic construction, possible Apache though no confirming pottery or other material was present.  This site as well as other shelter caves in the area have been mapped and studied by the Forest Service as evidenced by survey pins.

Leaving the granary the group continued up the canyon past fading petroglyphs on the cliff walls to 2 shelter caves with evidence of occupation.  Hidden behind large pieces of breakdown from the cliffs above and not visible from below these soot covered shelters were home to someone in the past.

The final stop for most of the group was another shelter cave even higher up the canyon with a keyhole view out onto the valley.  At that point the group divided into 2 with the majority heading back down the canyon while a hardier group continued up looking for a route to the top Magnus Dome.

Although only 3 miles was covered, hiking across the steep inclines made the trip more difficult. 

For a photograph from inside the granary please follow this link.

aouthern arizona landscape
Portal Peak from Sulphur Draw

apache food storage site
Granary or a room with a view

southern arizona landscape
A view through the keyhole


  1. It is great hiking around the boot heel so much history in this area.

  2. Yes I agree. The presence of habitation sites in a steep small canyon, easily defended, not visible from below, and the presence of wood in the granary suggest a historic site, possibly Apache. It would be nice to see the reports to place the site in the valley's historical context.

  3. If anyone can figure things out it is you!

  4. I have been told by others that it is Apache but would like to see some evidence as to the culture which built the structure, lived in the shelter caves, and painted the pictographs.

  5. and it was no accident that Geronimo was able to hide in Owl Canyon with all the rough country, boulders behind which to hide, overlooks for scouting parties, caves, et cetera

  6. Pat, I agree completely. Based on location, access, and the view of the valley the Apache had the high ground and could easily keep tabs on what was going on.

  7. Love the b&w pic of the granary. Brrrr. You guys are of hardy stock!

  8. Thank you Debbie, I think the photograph came out well. Although a short hike, walking along a slope with one side higher made the traverse tiring. The half of the group that continued up the canyon beyond the second shelter cave displayed real hardiness.