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Arizona is very rich in history. Probably one of the most intriguing aspects of that history is the old mines and ghost towns. The following article will give a brief overview of some famous mines and ghost towns in Arizona.

The Lost Dutchman’s Mine – Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction, AZ

Was there really a Dutchman and did he have a mine? According to historical records, yes. According to legends, yes. Jacob Waltz was a German who became a US citizen in his search of a better life. He found his way to Arizona in the 1800s. Around 1840, the Peralta family from Northern Mexico supposedly had several rich gold mines located deep within the Superstition Mountains. After the family was massacred (supposedly by Apaches), a descendant of the Peralta family helped Jacob Waltz locate the mine on which he and his partner then staked their claim. Many fake maps have been produced in an effort to detour anyone trying to visit the mine. The Dutchman prided himself on the fact that the mine was indeed a mystery and not easy to locate. He used several landmarks (such as Weavers Needle) and riddles when describing where his mine was located. And the rest is history. For more information on this mine you can search on the World Wide Web, using the key words: Lost Dutchman, or visit your local library or bookstore. Information can also be found from the Arizona State Parks.

The Vulture Mine and Ghost Town – Wickenburg, Arizona

The Vulture mine is about 14 miles from Wickenburg. Henry Wickenberg got his first “strike” on this mine in 1863. The name "Vulture" came from a fable about a vulture that was felled by a gunshot landed near where a gold nugget was found. Gold was discovered in this mine in 1863. The mine continued to operate through the 1920's. This mine produced over $200,000,000 in gold and silver. Many of the buildings in the town were made from ore that was discarded from the mine.

Total Wreck Mine and Mill – Total Wreck, Arizona

John Dillon staked his claim on this small mine. He had supposedly said that the area on which this town was located looked like a total wreck—hence the name of the town. This was a silver mine that finally closed in 1884.

The Town of Ruby, (Montana Mine), Ruby Arizona

This town is one of the best preserved in Arizona. If you want to visit the site, you must volunteer to help restore it. Time is given in trade, hour for hour. Most of the original buildings are left standing. This town used to be called the Montana Camp and was changed to Ruby in 1909 in honor of Julius Andrew's wife. Mr. Andrews was in charge of the store on the camp. In 1941 the end of operations came for the town of Ruby.

Kentucky Camp – Greaterville, Arizona
Around 1874, gold had been discovered in the Santa Rita Mountains. The only problem was that there was not enough water available to the miners. The miners needed to water to wash the sand and gravel in order to separate them from the gold. Miners had to pack the water in because the mountains were dry and there were few running streams. By 1886 the miners had given up because it was too much work.

In 1902, a mining engineer from California named James Stetson thought he would fix the water problem. He created a system including a reservoir that channeled the runoff from the Santa Rita Mountains into a reservoir. This system would hold enough water in the reservoir to last miners over ten months. Kentucky Gulch was the site for this system. It is unknown where the name came from. This site was deep in the heart of the Santa Rita Mountains, in the Greaterville mining district.

The site was up and running, but tragedy stuck. James Stetson passed away and it became difficult to keep the mining operation going. By 1912 the operation was abandoned. The land and buildings were sold and eventually came to be purchased by the Coronado National Forest in a land exchange. By this time the buildings were very old and deteriorated.

The forest service and other volunteers have been restoring Kentucky Camp since 1991. They are putting the camp back into better than original condition in the hopes that visitors will be able to interpret mining camp life. They have repaired roofs and walls in order to prevent any further deterioration. The building will very closely resemble the way that they appeared in the mining era. The forest service has also restored one of the buildings and turned it into a cabin that is for rent. Outdoor enthusiasts can stay in the cabin for approximately $50 a night. A visitors center is also available with details on the restoration project. Try checking the World Wide Web and using the key words: Kentucky Camp.


Now that you have had a brief overview of Arizona’s famous mines and ghost towns, don’t stop here! Arizona is rich in historical information. Visit your local library or bookstore for more information.