A Hike to Presidio Santa Cruz De Terrenate

Written by on October 22, 2017 in Haunted Southwest - Comments Off on A Hike to Presidio Santa Cruz De Terrenate

NOTE: Introducing our new author, Debe Branning


Traveling to Cochise County you will find the ruins of the Spanish Presidio de Terrenate near the San Pedro River just west of Tombstone, Arizona. The site was chosen on August 22, 1775, by Hugo O’Conor, an Irish-born Spanish Army Colonel who planned on relocating three nearby presidios. He carefully selected what he considered the perfect spot on a bluff overlooking the San Pedro River. He felt it would provide a natural fortification on several sides. The area had pasture land, wood and water. It is one of the best-preserved sites from the chain of similar presidios that extended from Los Ades, Louisiana, in the East, to Alta California in the West.

In the early part of 1776, about the same time the American revolution was in full force back in the eastern part of the United States, a Spanish military outpost marched north from the original Terrenate site further to the south in Sonora. Their commander was Francisco Tovar. His company consisted of 56 men, 352 horses and 51 mules. The soldiers were a type of heavy mounted troops fortified with several horses each, pistols, muskets, swords and lances. Mostly likely the group included some civilians from the former fort who did not want to remain in an unprotected area once the troops moved on. There were also friendly mission Indians from San Xavier del Bac and San Agustin de Tucson to aid in the construction of the adobe buildings and walls which would be their protective line of defense.

Not long after their arrival hostile Apaches began to harass the settlement, attacking anyone who made an attempt to gather water or tried to plant crops in the surrounding fields. The Apaches eyed the great number of strong horses kept at the Presidio and did their best to run off the herds when found unguarded. When the horse population became scarce, the soldiers and settlers found it harder to chase after the raiders to reclaim the livestock.

A battle on July 7, 1776, ended with the commander and 29 men dead. In August, the fort finally received a shipment of weapons. Captain Francisco Ignacio de Trespalacios replaced the fallen commander. He reinforced the fort with 83 new men. In mid-November Trespalacios led thirty of them almost a hundred miles south to the aid of the mission of Magdalena on the Rio San Ignacio. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived forty raiders had looted the settlement, murdered the inhabitants and burned down the church.

After reviewing the situation at Santa Cruz de Terrenate, Medina strongly recommended that the garrison be moved back to its former position due to poor communications, the isolation of the presidio and the extreme difficulties of getting supplies to the present location. The San Bernardino fort, Terrenate’s nearest neighbor, had already been abandoned during the previous year, due to similar problems. And so the garrison was abadoned in 1780. In 1878, the presidio was briefly occupied by the United States Army but abandoned later that same year.

Today, the remains of the fort look lost in the empty void of the desert. There are still traces of several walls of long lost buildings, including the gateway and fortified wall, the chapel, the soldiers’ barracks, and the commandant’s quarters. From this bastion, the soldiers scanned the valleys in all directions for signs of the enemy. Visitors to the ruins can easily imagine the bleak isolation those early Spaniards must have felt there.

Recently fifteen investigators from various paranormal teams across Arizona came together for National Ghost Hunting Day to hike the Presidio de Terrenate trail. The group was led by Dwight and Rhonda Hull of Beelieve Paranormal and their sidekick Dan Baldwin. The pathway was clear and maintained. It was a fairly easy walk with a few short rolling hills along the trail.

Once the group arrive to the historic site, they found places to stop and rest near the ruins of the Officer’s Quarters. It was there the paranormal investigators decided to attempt an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) session with digital recording devices and learn if any voices from the past would come through with a message for the group. They also used pendulums and dowsing rods as another means of communicating with the spirits providing a way for both methods of communication to tie in together.

What the group did learn that day was this; whether it be the Spanish explorers, local settlers, the Native Americans, or the US Army soldiers, they all had a love for the land where the Presidio was built. Although they may had been enemies and fought for rights to the land in another place and time — they all share the same goal in the spirit world to protect the land, and keep it safe for future generations to enjoy and explore.

After discovering various ruins at the historic site for almost an hour, the investigators made their way back up the trail to their vehicles in the parking lot where icy cold water awaited them.

The hike is an easy to moderate walk of about three miles round trip and will take about three hours to complete the adventure. Watch for desert wildlife (aka snakes and insects) along the way. As always when hiking in the desert lands, wear a hat, good walking shoes and bring plenty of water!

If you go: Address 9800 E Highway 90 Sierra Vista, Arizona 85635. The Presidio parking lot area is located on In Balance Ranch Road off Highway 82.

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