Superior, Arizona, lies about an hour east of Phoenix south of the commanding Superstition Mountains. The area holds a storied history swirling with mining lore, western settlers, and local Native American Indians. Our group of four-wheel drive rigs was looking for trail adventure in this rugged landscape.
The town itself sits near the base of Apache Leap. Legend has it, when settlers attacked a group of Apaches at the top of a large mountain ridge east of town, many leapt to their deaths from the towering cliffs to the west rather than face a hail of gunfire. Originally named the Silver Queen Mine when founded in Superior in 1875, it is now called the Magma Mine and has turned into a massive underground warren of shafts and tunnels. Materials pulled from the earth have included silver, gold, lead, zinc, molybdenum, manganese, cadmium, and bismuth.
In 1910, the Magma Copper Company began to seriously excavate copper. Eventually, eight shafts were dug to service 36 levels descending to about 4,800 feet. The Magma Mine ceased production in 1995. However, with today’s high copper prices, mining of this orange metal may return to the area. Whether it is once again pulled from this region depends on agreements between the mining corporation, the Forest Service, and the local San Carlos Apache Tribe.
The area we were exploring was bounded by the Sonoran Desert just to the west and starts to rise into mountains in the Tonto National Forest to the east. We made our way south of Superior and onto the Battle Axe Trail. John Porvaznik was our trail leader for the day as we dropped into a rocky canyon where we locked hubs and began to crawl the Miner’s Revenge Trail.