Spanish exploration and occupation of the Americas began in about 1539 and continued until around 1820. In addition to military exploration, religious pursuits, and settlers traveled widely through this part of Arizona (then northern Sonora, Mexico). Visit these sites to learn more about the Spanish culture that continue to influence Arizona today.
In the mid-16th century, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his soldiers marched from Mexico into the San Pedro Valley searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola and its fabled gold. Today, the Coronado National Memorial commemorates and interprets the significance of Coronado’s famed expedition and the resulting cultural influence of the 16th Century Spanish colonial exploration of the Americas. Operated by the National Park Service, this 4,750-acre park is also the beginning of the famous Arizona Trail, with outstanding hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Be sure to include Montezuma Pass (elevation 6,575 feet), just a 15 minute drive from the Memorial Visitor Center, providing exquisite views of the San Pedro River Valley and Mexico to the south.
Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate
This Spanish presidio was established in 1775 and still features a few visible remains and many interpretive signs. Never completed, the Presidio was abandoned by 1780 due to continuous Apache raids, which claimed the lives of more than 80 Spaniards, including two commandants. A visit to the site is a pleasant 1.5-mile walk along the San Pedro River from the Fairbank ghost town. Click here for a map to Fairbank.
Click here to learn more about the cultures—from 6,000 B.C. to present—along the San Pedro River.