Exploring Arizona Ghost Towns Of the Old West
Once upon a time, gold was struck in the back country of Arizona. In some cases it was silver or some other precious ore that lured miners and their families to settle in an out-of-the-way spot. Arizona’s back country is filled with evidence of many make-shift communities that grew up in the shadow of a mining operation. In some instances, a few towns managed to outgrow their “camp” status to become bustling communities complete with saloons, jails, brothels, and boarding houses. However, when the mines dried up, the towns suffered. Some managed to transform themselves and thrive while others were left abandoned in the Arizona sun.
Although there are many ghost towns scattered throughout the southwest, Arizona has some noteworthy examples that will please ghost town enthusiasts. Some require traveling a rough road to get there and others have rebuilt themselves into tourist centers with modern accommodations. The following ghost towns are some of Arizona’s biggest attractions and are excellent examples of the Arizona ghost town experience.
Sasco Ghost Town
Sasco, short for the Southern Arizona Smelting Company, is little more than a maze of crumbling walls and foundations today, but once it was the residence of roughly six hundred people. The community boasted a post office, a hotel, and all the buildings associated with the mining operation. It’s a difficult trek to get to Sasco today, but well worth the effort as its crumbling structures exude ghost town charm. From Phoenix, take Interstate 10 East (Towards Tucson) to Exit 226 (the Red Rock exit) and travel west for about seven miles down Sasco Road. The ghost town of Silver Bell is nearby. During the rainy season, the road may be blocked by the Santa Cruz River so be sure to plan your trip accordingly. 4WD is highly recommended for the dirt portion of the road.
Jerome is a ghost town that managed to rebuild itself into a thriving community once again. At one time, its mines produced upwards of 3 million pounds of copper per month. Its prosperity resulted in a bustling town complete with brothels and opium dens. Once the mines went dry, Jerome began to look for new ways to survive. Today, Jerome is a major tourist destination and home to a thriving artist community. From Phoenix, take Interstate 17 north for about 85 miles. Upon reaching Camp Verde, take AZ 260 northwest for about 20 miles until you reach Jerome.
Stanton Ghost Town
Once a stage stop, Stanton grew up to be one of the west’s most notorious towns. After gold was struck in the vicinity, people flocked to town to make their fortunes. One of these men was Charles Stanton who eventually took over the town, along with his posse, wielded his authority until he was finally shot. Like most towns, Stanton dried up along with its gold. Today, Stanton lies within an RV park. Many of its old buildings have been converted into campground facilities. To reach Stanton from Phoenix, take U.S. 60 (Grand Avenue) northwest to Wickenburg (about 53 miles). Turn north onto U.S. 93 and head six miles north to AZ 89. Head north again and then turn right onto Yavapai County Road for about 6 miles.
Oatman is a fine example of an Arizona ghost town. Although it is a tourist destination, it is filled with structures and relics from its mining past. Visitors will be enchanted by its old western charm—there are even staged gun fights that occur on the street and tame burros who roam around town. To reach Oatman from Phoenix, take U.S. 60 northwest for about 53 miles to Wickenburg. Travel north on U.S. 93 to Interstate 40 (about 110 miles). Head west for thirty miles past Kingman to Exit 44. Oatman is about 26 miles up the road.
Discovered by Henry Wickenburg, Vulture City is privately owned, but offers guided tours of its authentic ghost town haunts. Visitors will enjoy the opportunity to see old mining equipment as well as many relics of daily life in the mining town. To reach Vulture City, take U.S. 60 (Grand Avenue) northwest for 53 miles to Wickenburg, Arizona. Travel west on U.S. 60 to Vulture Mine Road (about 2 miles). Turn south and head 12 miles to Vulture City.
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