Forgotten communities and ore-rich veins are scattered liberally throughout the Southwest. These are places where men migrated in search of buried precious metals, and lived hard lives trying to scratch their fortunes from hard rock. In the Prescott National Forest in Arizona lie the Bradshaw Mountains, a geological expanse that contains a high concentration of such mineral deposits.
We were interested in exploring some of this area to learn of its history, enjoy some wheeling, and take in the scenic terrain. Mark Longfield was our leader for the day and is well familiar with this locale. After spending about 35 years of his life in central Arizona and spending many of those years wheeling the back roads, he was able to share with us some frontier tales and show us some fun trails near Battle Flat and surrounding areas. We began our day following a portion of the Senator Highway (named after the Senator Mine in the area) until we jumped onto a Forest Service trail in the deep pine woods. After a quick break, we were following a broad sand wash that turns to a tighter trail. The course alternates between winding dirt two-track and canyon washes. Some areas presented some mild boulder crawling and allowed the group to work a little harder getting through the obstacles.
We found the site of the old Desoto Mine, which was a hotbed of activity in the early 1900s. This mine has about six levels carved into the mountain and a substantial array of tunnels from what we've been told. We found one gated entrance to the mine and many tailing piles. From one scenic vantage point on the mine mountain, Mark pointed out an area below that was once the town of Middleton. The Desoto mine produced large quantities of copper ore in the early part of the century and later in support of World War II needs. Today, signs of its existence remain, including some old foundations and wooden timbers from tram towers.
Earlier, in the 1860s, there was considerable unrest in these parts. Miners and native Indians clashed on a regular basis as settlement of this area suffered growing pains. A story is told from the recollections of Joseph Reddeford Walker, a western explorer and settler, of an incident that occurred in 1865 on Turkey Creek just north of where the Desoto Mine lies. At the time, there were no settlements here and five men were prospecting for gold. One evening, while the group lay asleep with their horses tied nearby, a group of Apache Indians spied them and made plans for a morning attack. They stole the horses and made a feast of them during the night and then lay in waiting until the sun rose.
An estimated 50 Indians surrounded the encampment, and a group of braves were sent over to slaughter the men as they slept. As the attackers crept forward one of the men sensed danger and awoke, and grabbed his wet rifle, which refused to fire at the attackers. He then went for his six-shooter and started firing, but in nearly an instant all five men were wounded in the attack. The men huddled together for protection and threw back a volley of lead. However, the "savages," as he called them, were armed as well and continued to fire upon the men, wounding them over and over. As flesh was torn further, the men grew more determined to fight their outnumbering foe.
The detailed description of the subsequent charges and retreats is literally amazing. With each run, the men sustained further wounds. One man suffered a broken thigh, and two of them could no longer rise from the ground due to loss of blood. Several more attack and retreat actions were perpetrated by the attackers and the men continued to battle despite their wounds.
The Apaches begin to reduce their use of firearms and took up bows in their place. Unfortunately, being 20 miles from the nearest settler encampment meant that no help would hear the miners' gunfire nor come to their aid. The miners would have to finish the fight on their own. At this point, they made the decision to try to move to more defendable ground, but they all found themselves weak and hardly able to move. Still, they struggled and one man took a rifle ball in the chest and another was hit in his nose and the shot completely dislodged his eyeball from his head. This same man would later take an arrow in this eye socket as well.
After probably eight hours of brutal battle, each of the men had, by accounts, suffered at least a dozen wounds. When the attackers had finally left them, the two strongest of the men armed the others and left for Walnut Grove that lay some 20 miles away. Arriving the next day, they sent help back for the other three. Four of the five men ultimately survived this horrendous conflict. Thus is a description of The Fight at Battle Flat and this area came to know the presence of many more miners and incidents with the Indians there.
Overall, our day went without incident or breakage, and we wound our way back toward some civilization. Meeting up with the Crown King Road, we pointed ourselves east toward the tiny town of Cleator. Founded as the Turkey Creek Mining District, this small town was established in 1864 as a placer gold mining site. Here you'll find a dusty little bar that's open on weekends to welcome locals and travelers alike. You can grab yourself a cold one and quench your trail thirst out on the little patio in front.
From Mayer follow Pine Flat Rd. (177) west, then turn south onto Senator Highway (52) to first waypoint.
Mileage - Latitude Coordinates - Longitude Coordinates - Comments
0.0 - N 34° 19' 12.4" - W 112° 22' 05.4" - Turn left onto F.S. 89 to begin trail.
1.4 - N 34° 18' 37.1" - W 112° 21' 00.5" - Take a right at the fork.
2.0 - N 34° 18' 15.7" - W 112° 20' 34.0" - Bear left into Tuscumbia Creek following F.S. 389 and stay in creek through small rocky section.
2.9 - N 34° 17' 53.4" - W 112° 19' 56.9" - Pass through gate, navigate boulder crawl and continue to top of hill.
3.0 - N 34° 17' 55.2" - W 112° 19' 51.4" - Bear left and head back down into the wash.
3.4 - N 34° 18' 02.5" - W 112° 19' 31.5" - Continue through gate at this location.
3.9 - N 34° 17' 57.7" - W 112° 19' 22.4" - Cross Bear Creek, pass a gate (good lunch spot in tree area in wash).
4.6 - N 34° 18' 02.2" - W 112° 19' 02.4" - Head SE on Peck Mine Road, making a left u-turn onto F.S. 9268A.
5.0 - N 34° 18' 12.8" - W 112° 18' 53.3" - Top of hill, gate to the left.
5.8 - N 34° 17' 55.5" - W 112° 18' 15.6" - Pass cattle tank off to the left, continue straight ahead.
6.7 - N 34° 17' 41.7" - W 112° 17' 32.7" - Trail splits into two paths, pick either as they rejoin 200 feet further, road near Turkey Creek.
6.8 - N 34° 17' 39.0" - W 112° 17' 25.4" - Pass F.S. 9268R on your left and continue traveling uphill toward the south, multiple paths here.
7.8 - N 34° 17' 15.1" - W 112° 17' 21.8" - Right turn takes you to the top of the hill.
8.0 - N 34° 17' 09.1" - W 112° 17' 31.5" - Turn left to drive over to an overlook area.
8.2 - N 34° 17' 10.4" - W 112° 17' 24.6" - Viewpoint amongst mine tailings that sits high above the roads and site of Middleton below.
8.5 - N 34° 17' 13.9" - W 112° 17' 20.2" - Return via the same route, turn right and head down hill.
8.8 - N 34° 17' 05.0" - W 112° 17' 13.7" - Stay to left at the tee.
8.9 - N 34° 17' 07.6" - W 112° 17' 11.2" - Desoto Mine tailings and an old shaft entrance, leave via bottom of hill headed SE.
9.3 - N 34° 17' 08.7" - W 112° 17' 01.0" - F.S. 9268R comes in from left, continue straight past steel tank, road changes to F.S. 259B.
11.0 - N 34° 17' 22.4" - W 112° 15' 42.2" - Pass through gate marked F.S. 259B, road passes near Crazy Basin Creek.
12.5 - N 34° 16' 37.5" - W 112° 15' 12.5" - Meet at Crown King Road (leaving F.S. 259), turn left to head towards Cleator.