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Ghost Ranch in Aguila

A friend of ours told us that there was good horseback riding and springs in Aguila, right off Eagle Eye Road. On a cloudy summer day in July, we decided to investigate.

The Drive

We left Wickenburg, driving West on 60 (West Wickenburg Way). The drive to Aguila was neither long nor eventful. It had rained hard earlier in the day and although none of the washes were flowing, there was standing water on some of the flat desert lands halfway about fifteen miles out of town. As you approach Aguila, you can see the mountain that gives it its name: Eagle Eye Peak. It’s to the south of town and can’t be missed — the eye of the eagle stares down at the valley below.

We drove through Aguila and made a left onto Eagle Eye Road. Now heading south, almost directly toward Eagle Eye Peak, the road ran straight as an arrow for at least two miles. We passed one of the nicer airparks in the area, Eagle’s Roost, on the left, then wound up the road to the west of Eagle Eye Peak. State land starts around there and there’s open range, so we kept an eye out for stray cattle.

Just past the turnoff for Aguila Road, we made a right onto a narrow dirt road. Sadly, the road was strewn with trash — it appears that many people find it cheaper to dump trash in the desert than to bring it to the landfill. We continued down the road until we reached a fence with an opening wide enough for a car. The trash stopped abruptly; the road beyond obviously not worth the effort of the dumpers.

At this point, anyone in the family car should consider parking and walking the remaining 1-1/2 miles. Although the terrain isn’t too hard, the road is narrow, bumpy, and obviously not well maintained. We were glad for the high clearance of our Jeep, but did not need to use 4WD. If you’re coming with horses, the area near the fence offers is a great place to park your trailer, unload, and saddle up. Do not take your trailer any further; there is no place to turn around.

We followed the road up and down hills, always coming closer to the mountains before us. After a while, the road forked. We stopped to take a look. Our friend had said that the springs were on the right. Although the road to the right looked even worse than the one we were on, we decided to give it a try. A few hundred feet later, we were rewarded with the sight of some ruined stone buildings. We dipped down and crossed a deep, sandy wash, then drove up the road to the buildings.

The Ruins

The first ruins we came upon were simple stone structures a few hundred yards apart. We stopped at the end of the road, which was right near the second building, and got out to take a look.

Ruins

Two complete walls and fragments of two others is all that remained of the building. Inside, the floor appeared to have been covered with something similar to linoleum. It was a muddy red color, like terracotta. There was a fireplace that had seen some recent use. Directly opposite the fireplace, was a window, looking out onto the desert. Weeds grew up all around. Improperly dressed in shorts and knowing that summer is snake season in the desert, we were very cautious about where we walked. Neither of us had a desired to catch a rattlesnake by surprise.

Slightly elevated above the desert floor, we had good views to the east. In fact, we could even see Vulture Peak at least 20 miles away and the “eye” of nearby Eagle Eye Peak.

Ruins

While I continued to explore the ruins, Mike walked past the Jeep, and found a trail. He was looking for the springs. He reported that there were no springs in sight, but there was a trail that wound into the hills. It would be good for hiking or horseback riding. Since we had neither hiking clothes nor horses, we decided to continue our explorations in that direction another day.

Across the wash, we could see more ruins. We climbed back into the Jeep and traced our route back down the road and across the deep wash. We made a right, continuing along the road we’d orginally been on.

The road ended abruptly at a stone tank and what looked like troughs. The tank was empty. Another trail led past more ruins which we did not explore. Saving them for another day, I told myself.

What was this place? We’re not sure. It might be the remains of a cattle ranch. Or it could be part of a mine. Clearly, it hasn’t been occupied for quite some time. We looked around, asking the desert plants what they knew about this place. But they kept their secrets.

Returning Home

We took the same route back to Wickenburg. The water had receded in the flooded desert and the sky was brightening. Another monsoon summer day was drawing to a close.

Note: There is a “back way” to Aguila. Take Vulture Mine Road past the mine (about 10 miles south of Wickenburg Way) and make a right onto Aguila Road. Follow that to Eagle Eye Road, make a right, and then make a left onto the first road you see.

Trip Details

Distance: About 60 miles round trip.
Time: About 2 Hours, including time to get out and walk around
Features: Ruins, maybe a spring? Good for hiking or horseback riding.
Driving Conditions: Most of trip is on paved roads. Last 2 miles is unpaved. Of that, any auto should be able to do the first 1/2 mile; high clearance vehicle recommended for remainder of trip.
Equipment: Bring water, good hiking shoes (if you plan to hike), and your camera. It’s a good idea to wear long pants, socks, and shoes when exploring the ruins.

Reader Comments:

Webmaster Note: The following reader comment was received before our Comments feature was put into place. Please use the Comment link below to add your own comment or read other comments about this article.

I read your story about the Ghost Ranch here in Aguila, so hello to a kindred spirit. Very nice. If you would like to know the history of this site contact Leon Powell in Aguila. His son, Leon Powell, owns Wickenburg Tire (Goodyear). I think you missed one of the most fascinating sites at this location and that is the ancient Native American camp and burial grounds. It is located to the right of the road, next to the wash, fairly close to Eagle Eye Rd., you will have to get out and walk around and you will see the holes in the rock where they ground their corn. Directly across the wash and up the hillside is the burial ground. This was excavated by archeologists from ASU many years ago. As I have not yet read about each of your day trips, I would like to suggest that you visit the Harquahala Mountain Smithsonian Observatory (listed on the Nat’l Historical Register). Take Eagle Eye Rd south @18-20 miles. There is a big sign that marks the turn-off. You MUST have 4WD to get to the top. The Aguila Library has a very good book about the history of the Observatory. There is also ruins of an old stone cabin nearby.
– Marilyn Evans

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1 comment to Ghost Ranch in Aguila

  • Martha Perry

    Hello,
    I live in Dahlonega, Georgia, which is the site of the first gold rush in the US – Auraria,Georgia which is about 5 miles from my home.
    I recently came across some old papers and notes of an ancestor of mine. Among these was a story of a family (my relatives) who were torn apart by the civil war, finally got back together. The father, having no means to support his 10 children took off to California when the gold strike occured out there.
    Not finding his forture in California, he went to Wickenburg, AZ and worked at the Vulture Mine. I found his account of this so fascinating. I have been reading about Wickenburg and was happy to find this website.
    My husband and I love the southwest, and are planning a trip out there in the Spring. I have been to Arizona in the fall but not in the Spring. I wondered if that is a good time to come?
    I really want to find and explore the places that my ancestor went.
    I would appreciate anything you could tell me about that area, and places to see and things to do. I love the idea of the ghost towns and ancient ruins, the Native American sites, etc. I am also of Cherokee descent, and have always had an interest in anything Native American.
    I am also an “amatuer” photographer, and would so love to take photos out there.
    Thank you, and I hope to hear from you and converse with you.
    Martha