As an independent researcher into prehistoric and protohistoric southwest Arizona I have spent decades digging into the past of this region and walked hundreds of miles across the deserts and mountains of this land. Growing up in Sierra Vista, I heard many times that Coronado had come right up the San Pedro Valley in 1540, but when I grew older I began to question the proposed route and travel times.
My first suggested change in Coronado’s route had to do with how far north he traveled along the San Pedro River. The most widely believed route took Coronado as far north as Benson, but accounts of the trip tells us that he only followed the Rio Nexpa for two days, two days from south of the border would not take him as far as Benson, but somewhere closer to Tombstone. I was among the first to propose that Coronado followed Government Draw across to the vicinity of the Kuykendall Site and over Apache Pass. My research associate and I were shopping this new proposed route around as early as 1990. You can imagine my surprise when Nugent Brasher began proclaiming that the Kuykendall Site was Chichilitaclli. However, by that time my research had shifted and I was looking further east.
Back when we were telling everyone who would listen about our proposed route, we went to talk with Charles Polzer, the well known Spanish scholar, to see what he thought of it. He disappointed us by telling us that he believed that Coronado never even traveled up the San Pedro, but instead had traveled north through the Yaqui River basin and had passed into the United States somewhere east of Douglas, Arizona. He pointed us to the Coronado route that had been proposed by Charles DiPeso, at the time we dismissed this because we knew that DiPeso had come up with several theories related to Southwest prehistory that had been discredited.
Around 2005 I began exploring the vicinity of Apache Pass for Spanish artifacts and ruins but found nothing. Around this time I was bothered by several inconsistencies in my route, the distance from the San Pedro to Kuykendall was too far, the distance from Kuykendall to Apache Pass was too far and the distance from Apache Pass to the San Juan (Gila) was too far. I was determined to solve this puzzle, it was travel distances that had led me to reject Coronado’s accepted route, it was disingenuous of me to accept wrong travel distances in my own theory.
So I got a map, figured out an average distance of travel for one day and started running different scenarios. I tried running him up every north flowing river in the region, the Santa Cruz, San Pedro, Cienega Creek, Aravaipa Creek and the San Simon River. What I found was that only one place in the whole area fit the pattern and that was the San Simon River, which just so happened to match up with what Charles Polzer had told me all those years before.
There are various reasons why the San Simon route makes more sense than the San Pedro, among them are, the travel times fit, the more eastern route is shorter, this was a known trade route and this was more likely the route followed by Cabeza de Vaca.
This website is where I will lay out my case for the more eastern route for Coronado’s expedition. I feel fairly certain that I have identified at least the general area through which Coronado passed and that Chichilticalli is within our grasp along this route. Read through my posts here to learn the details if you are interested.