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Battle of the Florida Mountains

Just south of Deming and Interstate 10 are the Florida Mountains. The Florida Mountains (Flowery Mountains) were named by the Spaniards for their flowers. In springtime, the mountains are carpeted with the same orange-yellow poppies seen by the Spaniards in the 1700s. This north-south range is located on public domain southeast of Deming with the Little Florida Mountains at their base to the northeast. A large manganese-iron deposit was mined for many years, but only small amounts of copper, silver, lead, zinc, fluorite, manganese, and gold have been mined. Mines in the mountains operated from 1880 to 1956, but there is no current mining activity. A considerable part of the range consists of volcanic rock.

A few small caves in the Florida Mountains contained evidence of prehistoric occupation. In recent times, these mountains were Apache territory as they were on the Apache Trail between the Black Range and the Sierra Madre (Mother Mountains) in Mexico. The Apache Chief Victorio was wounded near Bear Springs in an encounter with prospectors from Pinos Altos were looking for rich gold float. The Apache also sought refuge here when they were scattered by troops from Fort Cummings. These mountains were the site of a skirmish in 1861 between the Arizona Guards and Mangas Colorado, who had about 100 warriors with him. The Apache had attacked the Ake Party near Mesilla and stole hundreds of head of livestock. The Guards waited in the mountain foothills and attacked the Indians, killing eight of the warriors and recovering the livestock. The conflict is called the “Battle of the Florida Mountains.”

On the northern end of the range, Rockhound State Park is a great place for hiking, camping, and birding. It is located at the base of the imposing cactus covered, rugged Florida Mountain range. Their unique geology inspires exploration of the trails that vary from easy to strenuous. Migratory birds and carpets of wildflowers add interest to spring and fall visits. The campground facilities have been described as “peaceful” and the wildflowers as “stunning” in this remote part of the state. Semi-precious stones such as perlite and jasper are found here alongside geodes, sometimes called “thunder eggs”. Other colorful minerals in the park include onyx, obsidian, quartz, crystalline rhyolite, and agate. This is the first park in the United States to allow personal collection of fifteen pounds of rock and minerals. Spring Canyon is a unit of the Rockhound State Park located on the northern portion of the Florida Mountains which offers stunning views of surrounding desert and mountain ranges from its trails.

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