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Presidio Santa Cruz De Terrenate

One of the many significant archaeological and historical sites located in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, this site is under Federal jurisdiction and is managed for the public good by the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management.

The Spanish Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate is the most intact example remaining of a once extensive network of similar presidios (fortresses) that marked the northern extension of New Spain into the New World. Only a stone foundation and a few remaining adobe wall remnants mark the location of an isolated and dangerous military station.

The Presidio was established in 1776 by an Irish mercenary, Hugh O'Conor for the King of-Spain (Carlos III). The presidio was never completed to the specifications of it's design plan. Warfare with the Apache was not like war between Europeans and the construction of the Presidio was altered to fit the needs of the garrison. Beset by numerous problems including Apache depredations, administrative greed and corruption, poor moral, and the obvious failure of the presidial network helps to account for the abandonment of Santa Cruz de Terrenate less than five years later. The last commander summarized his reasons in a general report to the crown in 1781:

"The terror instilled in the troops and settlers of the presidio of Santa Cruz that had seen two captains and more than eighty men perish at the hands of the enemies in the open rolling ground at a short distance from the post, and the incessant attacks which they suffered from the numerous bands of Apache, who do not permit cultivation of the crops, who surprise the mule trains carrying effects and supplies, who rob the horse herds and put the troops in the situation of not being able to attend their own defense, making them useless for the defense of the province."

The failure of this Presidio to hold, much less secure additional territory for Spain, insured that dominion of the land destined to become Arizona, would continue to be contested for many years. The Apache successfully thwarted Spain's bid for North America, while extending their own undisputed dominion for another 75 years.

Many of you know the Presidio as Quiburi, since Charles DiPeso (in the 1950's) excavated a substantial portion of the site, and reported that he believed he had evidence indicating that O'Conor had located the fort over the abandoned Sobaipuri Indian Village of Quiburi. Many archaeologists support a counter hypothesis that the structures at the site believed by DiPeso to be Sobaipuri, were in fact the temporary quarters of the Presidio soldiers and their families.

There are still prominent historians who support DiPeso's original analysis. The Bureau finds it convenient to refer to the site as Terrenate, and leaves the solution of the Quiburi question to future research.

There is undisputed evidence of a prehistoric Hohokam occupation, evidenced by sherds found scattered on the surface and eroding out of the adobe walls for the later Spanish Presidio. Much of this prehistoric occupation was disturbed during the construction of the Presidio. Most of the historic sites along the river, a major route and a dependable source of water, overlay prehistoric sites. Despite seemingly fundamental differences in culture, we share basic requirements with our historic and prehistoric predecessors.

The bureau takes a calculated risk in allowing you to visit Terrenate, trusting in your desire to help preserve this unique site. Management of this fragile public legacy is the responsibility of the BLM and it is our desire to share information about these resources in the interests of protecting them through education. The privilege to view these sites and protect them for future generations of Americans involves the responsibility of everyone of us. If we abuse it, we lose it!


From HWY 82 go north on Kellar Road (mile post 60). There is a large parking area on the right in about 1.8 miles. A 1.2 mile hiking trail leads to the site.

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