The Chichilticalli Trail Part I – An Overview

Much has been written about  and much conjecture has taken place concerning Coronado’s path through Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona. I will now attempt to spell out my ideas on this route through several installments on this blog. Many scholars that have undertaken to trace Coronado’s route have the advantages of an understanding of medieval Spanish, or of the culture and ways of the people living in New Spain at that time. But I have the advantage of being able to read the works of many of these scholars and another advantage that most of them don’t have, something as difficult to acquire as a degree in cultural anthropology or medieval languages, I have an intimate understanding of the land. I spent most of my teens and twenties walking over this land, both for recreation and as part of my job as a wildland firefighter for the Coronado National Forest. How many Coronado scholars can say they have walked the length of the San Pedro River between the border and Benson? How many know the springs marking the major passes over the Dragoon or Chiricahua Mountains other than just those marked on a topographical map? Maybe I am being arrogant to think this counts for as much as their degrees, but none of them have so far been able to locate Chichilticalli using their diplomas and Charles Polzer once told me that if Coronado’s route was to be discovered it would be by people out there on the ground. That point is well illustrated by the history of the Jimmy Owens site.

A Bit About Kuykendall Ruins

I strongly doubt that the Kuykendall Ruins are Chichilticalli, and nobody would like it to be true more than I. I was among the first (as far as I know) to suggest that Chichilticalli may have been Kuykendall or some other of the ruins in the West Turkey Creek area, suggesting this as early as 1990. I was also among the first to suggest Coronado’s route from the San Pedro across Government Draw and over Apache Pass. There are a number of reasons I am skeptical about Kuykendall, but this article is about my theory so I won’t go into detail here, the main reason is the sheer number of artifacts. Simply compare the artifacts found at the Jimmy Owens site with those found at Kuykendall, it is my opinion that when Chichilticalli is actually found it will make Blanco Canyon look like a second rate lithic scatter in comparison.

Coronado’s Trail – A Bad Premise

Over the years there have been a lot of really weird and hard to believe ideas about Coronado’s route, placing Chichilticalli everywhere from Casa Grande to Pleasant Valley to the San Bernardino Valley. Most of these have made a couple of the same big mistakes. The first is that they assume the “Señora” Valley of Coronado’s route is the Sonora Valley of today. The second is that they build on each others mistakes, for example Udall built on Haury who built on Bolton’s work. When what really needs to happen is to throw out all previous assumptions and start fresh.

The Rarely Considered “Eastern Route”

I intend to suggest, through this series of articles, that Coronado followed a more eastern route than is commonly considered. That Coronado followed an ancient trade-route between Mesoamerica and the Northern Pueblos, a trade-route that took a more practical and direct route through the heart of Opata country and north to Zuni along the Rio Yaqui. There are many good reasons to examine this route which I will explore in future articles here. When this route is compared to the narratives of Jaramillo and others it fits as good in some places and better in others, than the more westerly, Sonora Valley route.

This trail, which had probably been in use for generations led through a recently (past 100 year) abandoned country, the heart of the Mogollon/Salado homeland, and past a famed pueblo. This great trading pueblo which had controlled the trade route for who knows how long, was still famed when Coronado passed through and was still a good stopping place along the path. Hopi legends speak of a famed “Red House” in the south from which some of their clans originated called Palatkwapi, could the red house of Hopi lore be the same as the “famed” red house of Chichilticalli?

The Route

The route I suggest would approach what is now the United States along the Rio Bavispe, then cross into the United States and follow either the San Simon River or Animas Creek north before crossing the Burro Mountains and traveling north to the Gila River. This would put Chichilticalli somewhere in the vicinity of the Burro Mountains west of Silver City New Mexico. To support this theory I will reference the writings of Cabeza de Vaca, Fray Marcos de Niza, Melchior Diaz, Pedro Castañeda, Juan Jaramillo and Coronado himself, along with documentation on historic and prehistoric trails in the area.

To be continued.

8 thoughts on “The Chichilticalli Trail Part I – An Overview”

  1. Pingback: The Chichilticalli Trail Part I - An Overview | SEO Article Expert

  2. Pingback: The Chichilticalli Trail Part II – The Pathfinders | Palatkwapi

  3. Hi Andy–
    I can go into the detail about what Nugent Brasher has NOT found at the Kuykendall 90-acre survey. These are the Spanish diagnostics of that era, which any expedition would have had, coming out of New Spain in the mide-15th century:
    *Nueva Cadiz beads
    *Clarksdale brass bells
    *iron “diamond-head” horseshoe nails
    *copper crossbow boltheads
    [and if we got really lucky, a short/wide horseshoe for a “Spanish barbary pony”, or bits of chain mail, broken Spanish majolica or central Mexican pottery].

  4. hey Andy, please check out my coronado trail website if you have time, I have been working on this coronado trail thing most of my life ! I love the subject !

    In the 1980’s I was pretty sure I had found some information, and that is what my website is about. I would love to hear from you, the contact button on my site connects direct to my home computer address.

    Regards !

    Buck Wells

  5. Hi Andy, its been a while, but I was reading the latest on your site today. I don’t seem to get many people reading mine ! It is still at I have received comments from some of the people I know, a lot of them would agree with your ideas abt San Bernardino Ranch being on the real Coronado Trail, and the Bavispe River route. I think Dr. Charles Di Peso would have probably agreed with that too ! At first I thought that the big ruins in downtown Mule Creek, NM must have been ‘Chichilticale’, but when Mr. Brasher published his work, I was pretty quick to accept that as the real location of Chichilticale… I know that Apache Pass has always been a very important trail crossing. The east side of the Chiricahua Mtns has a lot of big ruins too. I hope one of these days we will know for sure ! Where IS Chichilticale ? Let me know when that question is decided. Mule Creek NM is on the real trail to Zuni, I know that much for sure !! I have walked certain parts of that trail , and it just FEELS RIGHT ! I let AZ STATE MUSEUM know all abt it, and was happy that they did finally send some professional people out to Mule Creek to look it over. Cant wait to read some findings on all this! Chichilticale=Chiricahui=Chiricahua ~Buck

    1. Buck

      I will add a link from my site to yours, maybe that will give it a boost. I love what you’ve done, it’s good on the ground archeology, if Chichilticalli is going to be found it will be by people like you and I who get out and walk the land, not by someone sitting in an office. Your understanding of the trade trails in this area is gold to me because I am not that familiar with that part of the country.

      In a nutshell I’ll tell you why Mr. Brasher is wrong.

      1. Kuykendall is too far east of the San Pedro
      2. Kuykendall is too far from Apache Pass
      3. There is no “deep and reedy river”, (or narrow, high-banked arroyo depending on your translation) nearby. I don’t believe Apache Pass is narrow or high-banked enough to qualify.

      There are a million other, smaller issues, but those are the major ones. I have been all over that area, I was speculating that Kuykendall or some site in that area was Chichilticalli way back in the early 90s. I’ll tell you the biggest problem everybody has following Coronado’s trail through Arizona, they all make the mistake of thinking that the “Señora” Valley of Coronado’s route is the Sonora Valley of today. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t but you need to start with a completely open mind, not with any preconceived ideas. If you are stuck on the Sonora problem, then Apache Pass is your best bet for Chichilticalli Pass, if you throw out the Sonora River misconception, then the Burro Mountains look much better.

      Mule Creek has some great sites from what I have read, but it’s way too far north to be Chichilticalli.

      Andy Ward

  6. The Gila River south of the Sierra Estrella runs north. South Mountain runs east – west, and the Sierra Estrella from the south curve to the west. Casa Grande is the most obvious and likely candidate for Chichilticale. In the 1500s, the region was not as arid as it is today, and in fact, the Salt River, which is about two day’s walk north of the Gila River, had tributaries and marshland.

    1. Nicolo
      All true, but the area is way too far north. How far north is it from the nearest south flowing river, the Rio Sonora? Coronado’s expedition traveled four days north from there to a north flowing river, presumably the Santa Cruz in this case, then two days north along the Santa Cruz, then two days east to the foot of the mountains. There is no possible scenario that could put us in the Phoenix area after following those directions.

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