Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is now operated by the Friends of the Tubac Presidio Park & Museum . The park is open 7 days a week from 9 am - 5 pm. Admission $5 adult, $2 youth (7–13), children free (0–6).
Download May Activity Calendar ( 358 KB PDF)
Major New Exhibit at the Presidio! The newest exhibit at the Tubac Presidio is a rare original 1800’s period carriage called an ambulance. It has been restored and modified to replicate the ambulance that Phocion R. Way, an engraver from Cincinnati, Ohio, rode on from Mesilla on the Rio Grande River to Tucson in June of 1858. Many other figures in Tubac’s Territorial history arrived here on this type of vehicle because of its comfort and speed. Our ambulance was restored over thirteen months by Hanson Wheel and Wagon in Letcher, South Dakota and is the only known vehicle of its type on display anywhere in the world. Included with park admission, $5 adult, $2 youth 7-13, children free.
Art Exhibit: The Arizona Cavalcade of History – The Alan B. Davis Gallery is open with 16 paintings by renowned Western artist William Ahrendt, each depicting a significant event in Arizona’s colorful history. The paintings and their historical narratives were featured as a special 16-part “Cavalcade of History” series in Arizona Highways magazine from 1987 through 1990. Arizona Highways remembers this series as “among the magazine's most remembered illustrations.” The giclée reproductions on canvas were donated to the Tubac Historical Society in memory of longtime Tubac resident and businessman Alan B. Davis. The collection is on permanent display at the Tubac Presidio’s Otero Hall. Included with park admission: $5 adult, $2 youth 7-13, children free.
Frontier Printing Press - View the Washington Hand Press, the first printing press in Arizona. It was used to print Arizona’s first newspaper The Weekly Arizonian in Tubac on March 3, 1859. Edward Cross was the editor. Manufactured by the Cincinnati Type Foundry Company, it was barged down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans, then by packet ship to Indianola, Texas, and then by wagon train via San Antonio and Fort Bliss to Tubac. The press is still operational and a commemorative edition of the paper is available. A short 3 minute video shows Jim Pagels using the press and explaining its significance. Included with park admission: $5 adult, $2 youth 7-13, children free.
Aritst's rendition of Tubac and the Presidio in 1775. This painting shows a typical scene from Spanish Colonial times; the painting is on view in the Visitor Center.
The church and the military were the vanguards of Spanish frontier expansion throughout New Spain. The Jesuit, Eusebio Francisco Kino, established missions from 1687 to 1711 to christianize and control Native Americans in the area. He established nearby Tumacacori in 1691, and Tubac, then a small Piman village, became a mission farm and ranch. Spanish Colonists began to settle here during the 1730s, irrigating and farming the lands along the river and raising cattle, sheep and goats on the northern frontier of Spain's New World empire.
Luis of Saric, a Pima chief stirred by many grievances, led a bloody revolt late in 1751, destroying the small settlement at Tubac. Following a major battle, and subsequent surrender of the Pimans, the Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac was founded in June of 1752. The fifty cavalrymen garrisoned at this remote military post were to prevent further rebellion, protect colonists and the mission, and further explore the Southwest.
Juan Bautista de Anza II, second commander of the presidio, led two overland expeditions to the Pacific, resulting in the founding of San Francisco, in 1776. Several hundred colonists from the provinces of Sinaloa and Sonora, along with sixty from Tubac, made the trip. Over 1,000 head of cattle, horses and mules were also gathered to transport food supplies and tools, provide food on the journey and establish new herds once the colonists settled at their new home on the Pacific.
Following Anza's return to Tubac, military authorities moved the garrison from Tubac to Tucson in 1776, and the unprotected settlers abandoned their homes.
For a decade, Tubac languished from Apache depredation and without military protection. The situation finally resulted in the Viceroy's reactivating the presidio in 1787, this time with Pima Indian troops and Spanish officers. Mexico won her independence from Spain in 1821 and the new Republic of Mexico's flag flew over Tubac until 1848. In that year, a fierce Apache assault caused great loss of life and Tubac was again abandoned. This catastrophe, coupled with the drain of men leaving for the gold fields of California in 1849, turned Tubac into a virtual ghost town.
At the park, visitors can see the above ground remains of structures from the 1920s.
Tubac was part of the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, and was soon being resettled and developed by Eastern entrepreneurs as well as by former landowners. Charles D. Poston was instrumental in forming the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company, and used the abandoned Commandant's house as his headquarters. He performed marriages, granted divorces, baptized children and printed his own money to pay company employees. His company acquired a press in 1859 which printed Arizona's first newspaper.
Tubac's population steadily grew until, in 1860, it was the largest town in Arizona. The American Civil War, however, drained the region of troops, leaving it unprotected from Apaches, and Tubac was again deserted. Although the region was resettled after the war, silver strikes in the Tombstone area and the routing of the railroad through Tucson drew development interests away from Tubac, and the town never regained its earlier importance.
In 1974, archaeologists from the University of Arizona excavated portions of the presidio. In 1976, an underground archaeological display was finished and visitors can now view portions of the original foundation, walls, and plaza floor of the 1752 Commandant's quarters, as well as artifacts representing the various periods of Tubac's unique history.
Two later military installations existed at Tubac. Troop "L" of the 1st California Cavalry established a post in April 1864 and a US Army presence existed until at least October 1867, when reports list seven officers and 237 enlisted men.
One unique military experiment, the heliograph, was a device using mirrors and reflected sunlight. General Nelson A. Miles, in his campaign against the Apache in the 1880's reported that "they (the Apaches) had found troops in every valley, and when they saw heliographic signals flashing across every mountain range, Geronimo and others sent word to Natchez that he had better come in at once and surrender." Tubac was one of the permanent stations in the system including Forts Rucker, Crittenden, Henly and Bowie.
Educational Curriculum for School Field Trips
A Day in the 1885 Schoolhouse Program: For Grades 3 through 5
An opportunity for children to experience what a day of school would have been like over 100 years ago. The program immerses kids in the experience from the clothes they wear, the chalkboards they use, the homemade lunchpails, to the rules on the chalkboard they must follow. The authentic desks, complete with inkwells and the woodburning stove for heat make this an experience the children and teachers won't soon forget! The schoolhouse can accommodate 25 children at a time. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the park at (520) 398-2252.
Download A Day in the 1885 Schoolhouse Program ( 3.5 MB PDF)
Learn about Curriculums at other Arizona State Parks
- Alamo Lake
- Buckskin Mountain
- Cattail Cove
- Lake Havasu
- River Island
- Yuma Quartermaster Depot
- Yuma Territorial Prison
- Dead Horse Ranch
- Fort Verde
- Red Rock
- Riordan Mansion
- Slide Rock
- Verde River Greenway
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum
- Fool Hollow Lake
- Lost Dutchman
- Lyman Lake
- Tonto Natural Bridge