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Wheeling Through the Wickenburg Mines

Posted in Events on July 25, 2013
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Arizona was one of those areas where rich precious metal deposits were found locked within hard quartz veins. In the late 19th century, eager miners flocked to this region. We set out to follow their footsteps and to imagine what the mining life was like back then.

We began our journey off our modern I-10 highway near Tonopah, Arizona, and hit the dirt. Our first stop was the Belmont Mine, which sits atop a rugged peak jutting above the desert floor. With workings that plunge some 500 feet deep, it was a substantial operation with four working levels below the mountain. Before heading farther north, we wandered across the old mine footings and peered into some of the tunnel entrances we found.

Our next stop was by highway at the Vulture Mine about 12 miles south of the old-west town of Wickenburg. When Henry Wickenburg spotted a large outcropping, he found it had a gold-rich quartz vein. He began to mine the outcropping but soon sold the claim and moved on to other ventures. In retrospect, his decision may have not been the wisest. The Vulture Mine would produce 340,000 ounces of gold and 260,000 ounces of silver between 1863 and 1942, with a living population of about 5,000 people at its peak.

This is an original 1918 Autocar fire engine from the mine. Originally, the mine had no electricity due to its remote location. They eventually made their own power grid there.

Airing down north of Wickenburg, we traveled out Constellation Road to higher elevations. Paths along dirt trails and desert washes led us to the Monte Cristo Mine, another claim that sought the usual metals of the area, as well as cobalt and arsenic. Not far from there was the Gold Bar Mine, a working site started in 1888 that would ultimately excavate to a depth of 700 feet. Large steel headframes still remain at these locations, along with several old support buildings and other building remnants.

After a restful night in the cool desert mountains, we backtracked down Constellation Road and turned east along Buckhorn Road, going deeper into the Wickenburg Mountains. On our route, we passed other small mine shafts, the remains of the small towns of Constellation City and Copperopolis, and Isaac Bradshaw's gravesite. This area is littered with evidence of old mining populations. There are many tailings piles, barren concrete foundations, and metal scrap.

We paused along the way where we found interesting sites and continued eastward across multicolored rock canyons and trails. The shelf trails along some of the steeper mountains were washed out in places and kept our attention level up. We found a few trail challenges and many picturesque landscapes.

We had ventured out to explore old mine routes and visit some of the aging sites, some more than a century old. Our travels reminded us of the hard times these folks spent squeezing a living out of this harsh landscape while digging for earthen treasures. We were glad for some of our modern technology that brought us here, but also for the ability to imagine the past.

Latitude Longitude Comments
33° 38.8333’N 112° 55.9333’W Belmont Mine
33° 49.3000’N 112° 50.1000’W Vulture Mine
34° 3.8820’N 112° 35.0030’W Monte Cristo Mine
34° 5.0825’N 112° 34.1957’W Gold Bar Mine
34° 3.1400’N 112° 35.8240’W Unida Mine
34° 3.9137’N 112° 32.4355’W Constellation City
34° 4.7660’N 112° 27.8170’W Copperopolis
34° 4.8595’N 112° 29.6392’W Bradshaw’s Grave

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