National Historical Park
Park Photo
NPS photo

Tumacácori sits at a cultural crossroads in the Santa Cruz River Valley. Here O'odham, Yaqui, and Apache people met and mingled with European Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, settlers, and soldiers, sometimes in conflict and sometimes in cooperation. Follow the timeworn paths and discover stories that connect us to enduring relationships, vibrant cultures, and traditions of long ago.

The O'odham

Long before the arrival of European settlers, the Santa Cruz Valley was home to people who called themselves "O'odham." They gathered wild foods, hunted, and irrigated native crops, including corn, beans, squash, and cotton. Their homes were sturdy, dome-shaped structures made of bent saplings covered with brush and mud.

While each village had a leader, government was by consensus. During armed conflicts, a war chief took absolute command. Villages were politically self-contained but neighboring settlements would sometimes unite against a common enemy. They also came together for games, song, dance, and religious observances. Rituals recreated the harmony of nature which was the core of their spiritual life.

Frontier Missions

As Padre Kino and his party approached the O'odham settlement of Tumacácori in January 1691, they rode the wave of a century of expansion northward along New Spain's west coast. Padre Kino founded mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori on the east bank of the Santa Cruz River and next founded Mission San Gabriel at Guevavi, 15 miles upriver. After Guevavi was made cabecera (mission headquarters) in 1701, its resident priest traveled to serve Tumacácori and other visitas (visiting stations).

In 1751 some of the O'odham people in the Altar Valley to the southwest attacked Spanish settlements killing two priests and over 100 Spanish, Yaqui, and O'odham people. Following the revolt, a 50-man presidio (military post) was founded at Tubac, three miles north of Tumacácori. The mission community moved to its current location, possibly to benefit from protection offered by the presidio.

In 1767 King Charles III of Spain abruptly banished the Jesuits from all his realms. The Franciscans, who took over the missionary efforts in the Pimeria Alta, soon moved their cabecera from Guevavi to Tumacácori. The Franciscans inherited difficulties that had frustrated the Jesuits: restless neophytes, Apache raids, disease, encroaching settlers, and lack of government support. By 1787, Guevavi and the newly established mission of Calabazas were both abandoned.

Around 1800, Fray Narciso Gutiérrez began construction of a large church to replace Tumacácori's modest structure, but his mission's poverty and the Mexican wars for independence slowed progress on the building. When a decree by the new nation of Mexico forced all Spanish-born residents to leave the country in 1828, Tumacácori lost its last resident priest. The Indians and a few settlers hung on, but a series of Apache raids and a harsh winter drove the last residents from Tubac and Tumacácori in 1848.

Padre on Horseback

Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino traveled the Pimeria Alta for 24 years, establishing missions and supply routes, and mapping the area for New Spain. His willingness to understand the O'odham ways and his lack of dogmatism won their trust. He mixed practical help—introducing wheat, livestock, and fruit trees—with impressive pageantry and church ritual. Although never a resident priest at Tumacácori, he is forever linked with the missions of the Pimeria Alta.

Exploring Tumacácori

Building a New Church

Although it was never finished, the church in progress must have been a striking landmark with its colorful façade, bell tower, and white dome. The interior was even more colorful, especially the sanctuary and altar. As you entered the nave, the choir loft overhead would have sounded with voices and instruments. Baptisms occurred in a domed room beneath the bell tower. Rich imagery of Catholicism—Mexican baroque statuary, symbolic paintings, depictions of the Stations of the Cross—adorned the walls and was designed to capture the imagination of mission residents.

The original cross-shaped plan called for a barrel-vaulted nave and transepts, with domes covering the crossing and bell tower. Lack of funds forced the Franciscans to scale back twice, first eliminating the transepts, then replacing the barrel vault over the nave with a flat roof. The bell tower dome was never built. Weathering, looting, and vandalism during a 60-year period of abandonment destroyed many of the original finishes.

Corridor of Life

Villages and missions like Tumacácori were established along areas of the Santa Cruz River where water was found year-round. Fish, trees, and large mammals near the river provided food and materials for clothing and housing, sustaining the people who called this their home.

The Santa Cruz River passes through Tumacácori. The rare cottonwood-willow riparian forest provides habitat for a rich community including endangered species, like the Gila topminnow and Yellow-billed cuckoo.

Visting Tumacácori

The Tumacácori mission unit of the park lies 45 miles south of Tucson and 19 miles north of Nogales, at I-19, exit 29. The park is open daily 9 am to 5 pm, closed Thanksgiving and December 25.

For firearms, pet, and safety regulations check the park website.

Tumacácori The remains of the mission church and associated structures can be visited via a guided or self-guiding walking tour, along with a reconstructed O'odham ki (house) and heritage orchard. The adobe visitor center, built in 1937, includes a museum, video, and courtyard garden.

Calabazas and Guevavi are accessible by guided tours only.

Santa Cruz River and Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail can be accessed from inside the mission grounds and at two trailheads on the park boundary. Please note posted safety regulations.

We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to the visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website.

Source: NPS Brochure (2016)


Tumacacori National Historical Park — August 6, 1990
Tumacacori National Monument — September 15, 1908

For More Information
Please Visit The
Link to Official NPS Website

Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section


2016 International Workshop on the Conservation and Restoration of Earthen Architecture Workshop Report (Adam Spring and Alex B. Lim, March 14-18, 2016)

Acoustical Monitoring 2010, Tumacácori National Historical Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/NRTR—2014/877 (Noah Schulz, Cynthia Lee and John MacDonald, November 2014)

Archeological Assessment and Resource Management Guide, Tumacacori National Monument (Lee Fratt, June 10, 1981)

Arizona Explorer Junior Ranger (Date Unknown)

Chronology for Tumacacori National Monument, with bibliography Field Division of Education (H.E. Rensch, 1934)

Excavations at Tumacacori, 1934 Southwestern Monuments Special Report No. 15 (Paul Beaubien, March 1937)

Foundation Document, Tumacácori National Historic Park, Arizona (September 2014)

Foundation Document Overview, Tumacacori National Historic Park, Arizona (September 2014)

Friars, Soldiers, and Reformers: Hispanic Arizona and the Sonora Mission Frontier, 1767-1856 (John L. Kessell, ©The Arizona Board of Regents, 1976)

General Management Plan & Environmental Impact Statement, Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona (September 1996)

General Management Plan/Environmental Assessment, Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona (December 2012)

Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Tumacácori National Historical Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2011/439 (J. Graham, August 2011)

Historic Resource Study: Tumacacori National Historical Park (Thomas E. Sheridan, 2004)

Historic Structure Report, Tumacacori National Monument, Arizona (Anthony Crosby, September 1985)

Invasive Non-native Plant Inventory for Tumacácori National Historical Park NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SODN/NRTR—2009/219 (Sarah Studd and Mark Zepp, May 2009)

Junior Arizona Archeologist (2016)

Kino Mission Records: Research & Translation Southwestern Monuments Special Report No. 11 (Robert H. Rose, November 1936)

Kino Mission Records: Research & Translation Southwestern Monuments Special Report No. 12 (Robert H. Rose, December 1936)

Mission Guevavi: Excavations in the Convento (William J. Robinson and Mark R. Barnes, extract from The Kiva, Vol. 42, No. 2, 1976; digital edition by permission of ©Arizona Archeological and Historical Society, 1976 - all rights reserved)

Mission of San Juan de Tumacacori: Tumacacori National Monument (Frank Pinkley, undated)

Mission San Jose de Tumacacori Choir Loft Problem Southwestern Monuments Special Report No. 4 (Frank Pinkley and J.H. Tovrea, May 1936)

Mission San Jose de Tumacacori Pictorical Restoration Southwestern Monuments Special Report No. 1 (J.H. Tovrea, January 1936)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms

Mission San José de Tumacácori (Ross R. Hopkins and Gordon Chappell, September 9, 1983, 1985)

Tumacacori Museum (Laura Soullière Harrison, 1986)

Natural and Cultural Resources Management Plan and Environmental Assessment, Tumacacori National Monument, Arizona (November 1976)

Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Tumacácori National Historical Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2019/1965 (Lisa Baril, Kimberly Struthers, Andy Hubbard, Anna Mateljak, Deborah Angell and Mark Brunson, August 2019)

Plants of Tumacácori National Historical Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2012/535 (Steve Buckley, ed., June 2012)

Repair and Restoration of Tumacacori, 1921 Southwestern Monuments Special Report No. 10 (Frank Pinkley, October 1936)

Report on Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin; the Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves: 1915 (HTML edition) (Secretary of the Interior, 1914)

Report on Wind Cave National Park, Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin, Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves: 1913 (HTML edition) (Secretary of the Interior, 1914)

Spanish Exploration and Settlement National Historic Landmark Theme Studies, National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings (1959)

Status of Climate and Water Resources at Tumacácori National Historical Park: Water Year 2016 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2017/1552 (Evan Gwilliam and Laura Palacios, November 2017)

Status of Climate and Water Resources at Tumacácori National Historical Park: Water Year 2017 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2018/1671 (Colleen Filippone, Evan Gwilliam and Laura Palacios, July 2018)

Streams Monitoring at Tumacácori National Historical Park: 2011 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/SODN/NRDS—2014/743 (Evan Gwilliam, Kara Raymond and Laura Palacios, December 2014)

The Tumacácori Mission Garden and Orchard: Past, Present and Future (Jeremy M. Moss, extract from SMRC Revista, Vol. 40 No. 146, Spring 2006, courtesy ©Southwestern Mission Research Center)

Tumacacori Alcoves or Transepts Southwestern Monuments Special Report No. 9 (J.H. Tovrea and Frank Pinkley, 1936)

Tumacacori's Yesterdays Popular Series No. 6 (Earl Jackson, ©Southwestern Monuments Association, 1951)

Vegetation Classifi cation, Distribution, and Mapping Report, Tumacácori National Historical Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR—2009/148 (Sam Drake, Steve Buckley, Miguel Villarreal, Sarah Studd and J. Andrew Hubbard, September 2009)

Handbooks ◆ Books expand section


Tumacácori: A Cultural Crossroads Duration: 17:18 (2020)

Tumacácori: Una Encrucijada Cultural Duration: 17:18 (2020)

Tumacacori National Historical Park

Last Updated: 07-Mar-2022