Months ago, I talked to Bob Nuth, a neighbor of mine, about ghost towns in the Wickenburg area. Bob told me that out on Constellation Road there were several mining sites with building ruins to explore. On a beautiful March Sunday, Mike and I set out in the Jeep with two bottles of ice water and our GPS to see what we could find.
Leaving Wickenburg going toward Phoenix on East Wickenburg Way, we crossed the bridge over the Hassayampa and turned left at Constellation Road. We followed that past the rodeo grounds and beyond. The pavement ends after a few miles and becomes maintained unpaved road. It continued to be an easy drive, one that any car could handle.
The first major turn was for Blue Tank Road. We knew from experience that making a left at this fork would eventually take us back to Rincon Road and the Hassayampa River.
We we drove on relatively flat terrain for a while, with glimpses of bright yellow poppies and blue lupines along the way. There were plenty of turnoffs, on the left and right sides of the road. One led to a ranch. Others led to who knows where. The road got hilly and we wound through the hills for a while. We came down a steep road to King Solomon Wash (see map). The road ran in the wash for a short distance, past Sayer Spring, where some people had set up an impressive camp. The road seemed to fork after that, but our trusty GPS told us to keep to the left, and climb out of the wash to stay on Constellation Road. As we climbed the hill, we could see that many people had set up camps in a flat area near the wash.
At the top of the hill, we paused in a saddle-like area and climbed out of the Jeep for a look. Behind us, back the way we’d come, was Wickenburg, barely visible as white dots nestled in a valley. Ahead was the mountainous terrain that was the foothills of the Weaver Mountains.
We continued on our way, driving down the side of a hill. To our left, we spotted the telltale signs of mining — huge tailing piles and the ruins of some stone buildings. Although our GPS didn’t tell us a thing about this place, we decided to take a look.
A No-Name Mine
We made the first left turn we could and followed a road that ran beneath the road we’d been on. The road was in poor condition; a high clearance vehicle is a must. We parked the Jeep near one of the ruins and explored on foot.
Most of what we found were stone ruins, including the remains of a few buildings, some retaining walls, and a remarkably well preserved flight of stairs. There were also a few mine shafts that we stayed clear of. (Mine shafts are extremely dangerous!)
Next Stop, Monte Cristo Mine
The main goal of our trip was to find the ghost town of Constellation, which our GPS told us was still over a mile away. So after exploring the ruins and taking a good drink of water, we continued on our way.
Not far down the road we spotted some old mining structures which turned out to be the remains of the Monte Cristo Mine. We pulled in and parked, ready to explore again.
This mine differed from the first in that the buildings were made primarily of wood with corrugated metal for roofing and/or walls. A few buildings were in remarkably good condition, although the one housing the machinery for the mine shaft wasn’t supported and would probably be extremely dangerous to enter. Again, there was a flight of well-preserved stairs, this one leading to a flat area with the remains of an old refigerator and bed. I could imagine a big tent up there; there was no wood to indicate a more permanent structure. In the distance, we could see Black Rock Mine on the side of a hill.
Our GPS insisted that Constellation was less than a quarter mile away and a convenient road seemed to go in the right direction. We climbed into the Jeep and attempted the road. We didn’t get very far — the road became a bit too difficult for me (although a braver driver with less shiny paint on his Jeep might have attempted it). Mike hiked up a bit, then came back, reporting that there didn’t seem to be much up there. I’m still doubtful; someday (when it isn’t so sunny and hot and I’m properly dressed), I’ll hike up there and see for myself.
[Author Note: On March 31, 2001, I took my helicopter up there to investigate from the sky. There were no ruins where my GPS indicated Constellation should be. However, farther up the mountain, there were more more mining remains, including some building foundations and wreckage. It didn't seem like anything worth hiking to, although another road approached it from the south.]
On the Road Again
We weren’t quite ready to go home yet so we continued on our way. We crossed Slim Jim Creek, which was dry. A Jeep road ran across our trail in the creekbed — another place to explore on another day. There was a horse corral with water just past the creek. We climbed again, then took a detour on another road, just to see where it went (see point D on the map). We stopped at the remains of another mine shaft, where I got a good picture of Monte Cristo Mine across the valley. Then we backtracked to Constellation Road and continued on our way.
The Gold Bar Mine
The road got steep as we slip-slided down a hill. Off to our left was the remains of yet another mine — the Gold Bar Mine. We made a sharp left turn and followed a road that ran around the edge of the valley to the main shaft and few remaining buildings.
Like the Monte Cristo Mine, this mine’s buildings were built with wood and corrugated metal. The building that housed the mine shaft machinery was in pretty good shape, although one end of it was caving in. Another building that had probably been a garage or workshop, was also in reasonable condition. In the valley below us, we could see signs of other shafts and the ruins of buildings that weren’t nearly as well-preserved.
We went back the same way we’d come. It was getting late and the horses at home would be hungry.
We were about halfway back when we ran into a red pickup on its way in. The road was narrow there and we had to pull over to make room for them to pass. When the driver was alongside us, he rolled down his window. I noticed that the woman in the passenger seat was studying an Arizona Topo Map book. The driver asked, “Is this the way to Box Canyon?” I couldn’t help but laugh. They were on the wrong road (should have read our coverage of the Box Canyon trip). We told them what they could find down the road the way they were going, then told them about the turn on Blue Tank Road that would get them to the Hassayampa and, eventually, to Box Canyon. They decided to continue on their way. I hope they saw the same great things that we did on their journey.
Distance: About 36 miles round trip. Click here to see part of our route.
Time: About 3-4 hours, including time to explore.
Features: Great desert scenery along the way, three separate mine ruins.
Driving Conditions: First 3 miles of trip is on paved road from Wickenburg. Remainder of trip on maintained and unmaintained unpaved roads. High clearance vehicle required; 4WD useful in some steep places. Not recommended during rainy weather.
Equipment: Bring water, good hiking shoes (if you plan to go exploring), and your camera. It’s a good idea to wear long pants, socks, and shoes when exploring the ruins.
Warning: This destination includes many open vertical mine shafts and building ruins. Exploring mines and old buildings is dangerous. Digging or taking rocks away from mining claims is illegal.