Scenic USA - Arizona

The Sea Captain

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The Sea Captain - Chiricahua National Monument, AZ

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Photography

   The Sea Captain, miles from any real ocean, stands watch over Bonita Canyon in Arizona's Chiricahua National Monument. Surrounded by a huge expansive of desert grassland, this sky island's anthropomorphic figure is made up of a fine grain volcanic rock called rhyolite. Entrance Sign - Chiricahua National Monument, AZ Rhyolite is an uncommon volcanic rock mixture primarily found at Yellowstone National Park and here at Chiricahua. Formed by volcanic activity, the mountain range is about twenty miles wide and forty miles long. Casting a distinct glow, Chiricahua's coarse volcanic rocks are decorated with slow-growing neon green lichens.
   Covering 12,000 acres of wild, rugged terrain, Chiricahua National Monument was formed in 1976 to help preserve the land. While an eight mile paved scenic drive and 17 miles of day-use hiking trails provide opportunities to discover this national parkland, 87 percent of the monument is preserved as wilderness. Part of the Madrean Archipelago, Chiricahua is just one of forty neighboring mountain groups that lie between the southern end of the Rocky Mountains and Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental. Resembling an oceanic archipelago, this string of sea islands Standing Rocks - Chiricahua National Monument, AZ stretch hundreds of miles across an ocean of grassland and arid desert seas. Because the Chiricahua Mountain Range is a tiny dot in a huge desert expanse, many wildlife species remain trapped in this isolated sky-island.
   Different ecosystems thrive in this mountain range. Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and ferns cover the cool northern mountain slopes. Apache pine and Mexican pinyon pine grow on the sunny southern slopes. Where the foothill give way to the desert floor, yuccas and sotol from the Chiricahua desert area are mixed in among the Sonoran agave and cacti. Here in the forested canyons and steep mountain slopes the park provides habitats for a variety of wildlife, including coatimundi, white-tailed deer, javelina and over three hundred species of birds. Once called The Land of Standing-Up Rocks by the Apaches, this national monument is truly an extraordinary mountain habitat and rock wonderland.

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