I came here by chance on a cloudy, rainy day, and I think for that I got more in touch with the loneliness and emptiness of a place where once a vibrant and hardy crowd of people wrested a fortune from the ground. A quiet place now where only the wind comes anymore...
John Osborne managed the mine the time we were there. "A guy by the name of Henry Wickenburg (town of Wickenburg, Az just a few miles from here) travelled along the Hassayampa River over there. This was a huge quartz outcropping up here and he had spotted this on his travels along the river...then he came up here, chipped around in the quartz and found the visible gold."
The 1863 town is in amazingly good shape and is open for tours or just a walkabout by yourself. This was the home of Henry Wickenburg, the man who discovered the vein of gold here and was eventually cheated out of his find.
This was the hangin' tree, 18 men caught stealing gold from the mine dangled from its branches. The shafts where millions in gold were extracted are still intact, but that's the one place you can't go. It's dangerous now and it was dangerous then...
"The men were in here," says John, "about seven of them, along with about 12 burros. They were chipping away at the support column, dug away too much and collapsed the whole thing on themselves."
They're still down there?
"They're still buried in there someplace."
in 1942 the government banned mining for gold and some 5000 men and women just upped and walked away, leaving pots on the stove and dishes in the sink and lots of gold still left in them thar hills. John Osborne says there's probably enough gold in the stone used to build all these houses to make a man rich. And enough spirits drifting along on the wind to satisfy even the most serious of ghost believers...
"Yeah...we've had reports of people hearing and seeing things. With all those people through the years here and all the killings and the accidents and that...surely there's something around...some things are unexplained, you know."
This is probably the best preserved ghost town there is in Arizona, a very intimate touch across a melancholy span of time.
To reach the Vulture Mine, take Route 60 (the main drag) west 2 1/2 miles out of Wickenburg to Vulture Mine Road. Turn south and travel twelve miles to the mine. The mine is open on Friday through Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., during the spring and summer and on Thursday through Monday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., during the fall and winter. Admission is $7 for adults.
HOWEVER, check either with the mine or with the Wickenburg, Az chamber of Commerce before you make a long drive. Prices and times change. The chamber phone is (928)684-5479. For more information, call the mine at 928-859-2743.
The tour is not recommended for children under six.
A nice website about the area is at http://www.wickenburg-az.com/, although they barely mention the Vulture mine.