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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Gold, Gold! I saw the Gold!

In order to get inside the gate I took off around 9am, but it took only 15 minutes to get to the Vulture Mine. Of course, the gate was still closed and a few other vehicles were already waiting to be let in.
Finally a Quad came down to the gate and the man, who sported helmet, gave us a sheet of paper which was nothing more than an indemnity agreement, which everybody had to sign. I got an orange plastic band around my wrist and at 10am we were ready for the tour of one of the most important Gold Mines in Arizona. That is if you you back a 70-100 years.
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The Vulture Mine’s guided tour begins at the Vulture’s Roost, a wood-framed building housing a collection of mining memorabilia and ore samples from the mine and surrounding area. Visitors pay an admission, ($10.00).
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The first stop on the main street is the assay office and manager's headquarters, one of the most complete buildings in the ghost town. The structure’s walls, built from low-grade ore, contain an estimated six hundred thousand dollars in gold and silver. Visitors cannot enter the assay building as it is in a really bad state of disrepair.
DSC_0007-miThe ground floor of the living quarters is scattered with remnants from long ago, including an old Brunswick turntable, a Singer sewing machine, table and chairs, and even an assortment of tattered clothes and shoes. Antique bottles sit in an open window, festooned with cobwebs and glittering with reflected sunlight. Those who brave the steep flight of wooden stairs find themselves in the bedroom, where an old metal cot lies in need of a mattress. The buckling of metal in the wind and the creaking floor discourage the wary from lingering.
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DSC_0040-miThe tour trail loops around to the stamp mill and the head frame, which loom over the remains of the white quartz butte that first attracted Henry Wickenburg to the area in 1863. Although Wickenburg held the original claim to the rich mine, he ended his life on the bank of the Hassayampa River with a bullet in his head and pennies in his pocket.The tour continues to the Glory Hole, a pit that originated in 1923 when some miners chipping ore out of the rock walls cut into support pillars and brought down one hundred feet of rock on their heads. Other miners dubbed the resulting depression the "Glory Hole" because seven of their companions and twelve burros were "sent on to glory" in the incident.
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Not far from the Glory Hole, the main shaft of the Vulture Mine drops to a depth of two thousand one hundred feet at a perfect thirty five percent incline. A concrete slab at the entrance marks the place where Henry Wickenburg first made his strike. Miners eventually removed two hundred million dollars of gold from the bonanza and perhaps as much disappeared into the pockets of miners, supervisors and freighters. Jacob Waltz, better known as the "Lost Dutchman," worked at the Vulture Mine for several years, and some stories hold that his famous find actually originated from the common practice stealing the Vulture’s rich resources.
The area where the wooden head frame still towers over the entrance of the main shaft is currently not accessible for visitors.

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The blacksmith shop sits next to the main shaft as if waiting for operations to resume. DSC_0028-mi
South of the blacksmith shop, a road leads to the ball mill where steel balls crushed rubble and low grade ore for the cyanide leaching process used in the later years of the mine’s production. The cyanide storage room, with its heavily barred windows, and the ball mill sit at the far end of town overlooking the white-encrusted leaching pits.
From there, the trail loops back to its beginning past the mine’s tailings, Henry Wickenburg’s original home, and the infamous Hanging Tree, where DSC_0036-mieighteen residents ended their lives for the crimes of rape, murder and highgrading.
Another group of buildings served as bunkhouses, a jail, whorehouses, hotels and even apartments. Visitors also can tour the old mess hall with its cast iron stove and wooden ice chest and the odd assortments of pans,  dishes and canisters.


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While wandering along I threw a glance at a fresh cut rock along the path and there I saw it. Glittering with tiny gold particles it was proof of all the riches once being hauled out of this place.  DSC_0021-mi   DSC_0018-mi 
At its peak, Vulture City reached a population of five thousand, but it now mainly houses rattlesnakes, lizards and an occasional ghost. The Vulture mine has recently been taken over by a new owner and besides the restoration and display of old artifacts, the mine will be brought back into real gold mining.
To reach the Vulture Mine, take Route 60 west two and one half miles out of Wickenburg to the Vulture Mine Road. Turn south on the road and travel twelve miles to the mine.
Remember, if you come across an abandoned mine shaft, don’t enter it without a guide. Besides of snakes hiding in there you might get trapped if the shaft collapses or killed by poisonous gases. Also there are sudden abysses, which you might not see in the dark.

But doing some sightseeing in between old mine buildings is something which is really exciting to me. It is part of the Old West.

Thanks for joining the tour!

3 comments:

  1. A wonderful tour thanks for taking us back there, we did that same tour a few years ago.

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  2. Thanks Peter for the wonderful story of the Vulture Mine. It must have really been a busy place in its heyday. Great post.

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  3. I hope you remember to tell somebody where you're going if you're hiking by yourself. It's a safety thing. However, now that I've said that we might just put that on our list for next year!!

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