Skeleton Canyon

Skeleton Canyon, called Canon Bonita by the Mexicans,[1] is located 30 miles (50 km) northeast of the town of Douglas, Arizona, in the Peloncillo Mountains, which straddle the modern Arizona and New Mexico state line, in the New Mexico Bootheel region.[2]

This canyon connects the Animas Valley of New Mexico with the San Simon Valley of Arizona, and was once a main route between the United States and Mexico for both legal and illegal traffic. While originally known as Guadalupe Canyon, the area became called Skeleton Canyon, as a result of the bones of cows and humans left behind from cattle drives from Mexico.[3]


The canyon was the site of several battles during the American Old West. In 1879, a group of outlaw Cowboys attacked a group of Mexican Rurales and stole their cattle. In July 1881, Curly Bill Brocius attacked and killed about a dozen Mexican smugglers carrying silver and heading to the United States. In retribution, the Mexican government attacked and killed Newman Haynes Clanton and others as they were driving cattle through Guadalupe Canyon. In 1883, Apache Indians from Chihuahua's band surprised eight troopers of Troop D, Fourth Cavalry, killed three men, burned the wagons and supplies, and drove off forty horses and mules.[1]

Geronimo's surrender

Geronimo's final surrender to General Nelson A Miles on September 4, 1886, occurred at the western edge of this canyon. As the surrender site is now on private property, commemorative monument has been erected to the northwest along SR 80, where it intersects with Skeleton Canyon Road in Arizona, at geographic coordinates 31°41′28″N 109°07′56″W. The mouth of the canyon lies about 9.5 mi (15.3 km) to the southeast just west of the Arizona – New Mexico line.[2]

Murders and shootouts

On November 4, 1889 Judson "Comanche" White was found dead in Skeleton Canyon after being killed by persons or persons unknown; all his possession had been stolen as well.[4]

On August 12, 1896 a shoot-out between the Christian gang and a posse resulted in the Skeleton Canyon shootout.

See also


  1. Hurst, George (January 9, 2003). "Geronimo's surrender — Skeleton Canyon, 1886". Archived from the original on 26 August 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  2. Chiricahua Peak, Arizona – New Mexico, 30x60 Minute Topographic Quadrangle, USGS 1994
  3. "Skeleton Canyon". Ghost Towns. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  4. The Deseret News November 7, 1889

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