Kinishba is the most interesting thing at Fort Apache.
Fort Apache is not Alie’s favorite film in John Ford’s trilogy starring John Wayne. All were shot at least partially in Monument Valley, so perhaps it is no surprise her favorite is She Wore A Yellow Ribbon which won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Rio Grande was the third in the group.
Driving U.S 60 north through the spectacular Salt River Canyon, we thought we had to at least see Fort Apache and turned east on Arizona 73.
60 runs through the San Carlos Apache Reservation and 73 through the White Mountain Apache’s Fort Apache Reservation.
Fort Apache is no more. Started as Camp Ord in 1870, it became Fort Apache in 1879 and operated until abandoned in 1922. In 1923, it became the Theodore Roosevelt Indian Boarding School and continues today as a middle school administered by the Tribal Counsel of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
The Tribe also administers the 228 acre Fort Apache Historic Park which has 27 historic buildings and the White Mountain Apache Cultural Center and Museum. An 1871 log cabin is dedicated to describing life at the frontier outpost.
Unfortunately, it was a March Sunday when we visited. Nothing was open and no one was around except a couple tourists who strayed into the parking lot as we were about to leave. We were not even able to find out the cost of a visitor’s permit or a place to leave any money.
Some signs did explain the history of various buildings as we drove around the school, but we were more interested to drive back a dirt road to see the Kinishba ruins, also part of the park.
Kinishba was the 13th century home of some First American ancestors of today’s Hopi and Zuni until about 1400 A.D.
Ranchers, soldiers and First Americans looted the ruins. Excavated and partially restored in the 1930s, it had its own museum for a while. Now that too has fallen into ruin. Congress designated it one of America’s most threatened historic sites in 1993, and the tribe has received funds for stabilization from Arizona and the National Park Service, most recently in 2004.
What impressed us was the sheer size of the place. It was a 600-room pueblo more like the modern pueblos we had seen in New Mexico than the cliff dwellings we saw at Montezuma Castle, Mesa Verde and other places.
There are nine major building mounds and the remains of two large apartment blocks with walls three-stories high. The walls are double wall construction with rubble in between. The apartment blocks had rooms averaging 14 x 12, and there was a large center courtyard.
I carefully took photos of the numbers by each building only to discover later that the accompanying pamphlets couldn’t be found.
It was frustrating not to know more about what we were seeing but interesting to guess based on what we had learned elsewhere.
The entire historic park will have to go on our list of places to revisit “sometime.” But the next time I will call to see if there is someone there to tell us about it — and to collect the obviously much needed fee.
Click on photos to enlarge.