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The Mines of Constellation Road

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.

The Drive

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.

View from Road

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.

Ruins

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!)

Ruins

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.

Ruins
Ruins

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.

Ruins

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.

Ruins

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.

Ruins

Returning Home

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.

Trip Details:

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.

Last 5 posts by Maria Langer

17 comments to The Mines of Constellation Road

  • Scott Rogers

    The “No-Name Mine” is the lowest of the three adits of the Bloo Nellie which was the major mine in the Unida Group. The stone building ruins were offices for the Unida. The material mined here was copper sulfide, gold, silver and copper oxide. The steps that you saw are the only remaining evidence of a resort that was built on the flat area steps.

    The Monte Cristo has an interesting history as it was once owned by a character named C. C. Julian. Mr. Julian was a rapscallion of major proportions. He was the mastermind behing the Julian Pete swindle in California. The Julian Pete ranks with the Teapot Dome as one of the great scandles of the era.

  • Mike Pawelkop

    The campground mentioned in the above story is pretty cool. If you face the mountains to the north you will see 3 piles of mine tailings. the top mine has an entrance behind the giant reddish boulder which has been blasted shut. The shack that is about halfway up the hill, has an entrance that is halfway caved in. I didn’t trust it, so I didn’t go in. The third one is slightly to the left of the rusty shack. This one I did go into. It took what seemed to be approx. 30 min to get to the end. There is a room at the end of the horizontal shaft which had been drilled for dynamite, but never blown. Also, if you head towards the east of the campground, there is a single road that goes up. If you drive to that point, and hike east from there down into the wash, you can see a mine entrance to the right. Last time I was there, I walked in until I got to a divider half wall. I carefully jumped over that(since there is a shallow hole full of water on the other side)and went to the back. There is a huge room in the back there that, with the poor light i had, looked like there were stalagnites forming. Take good light if you go. I will next time. There are a bunch of insects in that mine, and It is very, very humid.

  • Steven Pawelkop

    This is to Mike Pawelkop. I live in Tampa Florida. I have family here and in Bradenton. Are you another family member? I am not sure this will get to you. If anyone knows Mike please let him know about this email.
    Thanks Steven

  • Erik

    This area is private land and I discovered that when taking constellation road a few miles past where it becomes unpaved. I understand that there is some sort of coalition of two or three property owners who among them own most if not all of the land and they are planning to build homes. I also hear where there is a freeway planned to go through there which I don’t know enough about the area to know which freeway is being either expanded or a shorter route. I wanted to look into buying property about 10 miles in from Wickenburg where I guess the mines are, and empty land and they are getting over $40k an acre and are only selling a few pieces and I guess the rest has plans. That still is a good buy.

  • Allan Hall

    Erik,
    If you are referring the the land where the Unida Group and Bloo Nellie are located, then yes – they are on private land that was originally patented mining claims. The Monte Cristo, Texas Group and Black Rock mines (also situated next to Constellation Road, are likewise on patented land. Except for two other relatively small private parcels, the land between the pavement and these mine locatations is entirely BLM or State Trust Land. In any case, these pieces of private land are not contiguous to each other. They are also on some pretty steep ground.

    The person who told you “there is a coalition of two or three property owners who … own most if not all of the land…” is simply wrong. If you are curious, I suggest that you check out http://www.blm.gov/az/mtps/mtps_search.cfm if you want to see where the private land is located in that area.
    Best regards,
    Allan

  • J Cottrill

    Loved the site and would have liked to have seen the pictures which appear only as that aweful red x

  • Lisa Powell

    Erik,
    Allan is correct. I own the property across from Monte Cristo, with three abandoned mines. As far as I am aware, there is no “coaltion” of owners, (at least not with me, and I own apx. 176 acres). That said, I am considering putting the land on the market, (for those looking to invest).

    • Joe

      Lisa, do you have your parcel number(s)for the 176 acres?

      Thanks

    • Wendy

      Lisa Powell, please contact me about the availability of the 176 acre sites you are interested in selling. My email is wmaraud43@yahoo.com

    • jim petersen

      Good morning,

      I have an interest in the mining claims, My family has several businesses and have an interest in entering this sector. I am not a real estate agent/broker.

      look forward to hearing from you

      Jim

      I am not a real estate agent/broker…

  • Lori Marshall

    Ms. Powell,

    I have someone who may be interested in buying your property. Please e-mail me back and let me know if you are still considering selling the property. This is a serious investor. My e-mail address is lorijeanmarshall@yahoo.com

    Thank you. I hope to hear from you soon!

    Lori

  • Ken

    I.ve read your information and found it very informative. I’m interested in old mining areas, towns and mine dumps. I’ve also heard there was and old emerald mine somewhere around Wickenburg and wondered if this was true?
    Thank you Maria Langer for you excellent concise report…

  • Allan Hall

    Ken,
    Emeralds have been found in only six U.S. states, the nearest being Nevada. There was a mining claim filed at a location SW of Wickenburg called the “Fortner & Boyd Lithium Claims” where an occurrence of beryl was found. Since beryl is the principal mineral in emeralds, that might be how this legend got started.

  • pat wike

    I own 53.56 acres near Monte Cristo. Is there going to be any development or roads from Phoenix going through this area. My property is patented. Are they doing any mining up there today? Mine is Black Rock Mng.Dist. The Harvard copper hill, Copper hill #2.

  • Lord Michael

    Ken, We are camped in the area south of your property today 1/6/2012. We were up here a few weeks ago also and we have seen no evidence of any new mining activity in the area. This is supprising due to the price of gold and silver. We were in the Mineral Mountain area near Florence AZ a week ago and seen no activity there either. There is a lot of placer and load mining in the area around Stanon just NW of Wickenburg. I think a lot of potential mine developers feel the same way I do. This gold boom is going to go bust soon.

  • gary carter

    Beryl is not the principal mineral in emeralds–emeralds are a variety of beryl. Also San Diego County has plenty of Beryl localities so Nv. is not the only close sot. As for WBurg area–there were many small prospects and mines that tried to make a go of it for beryl –with limited success.

  • See pictures taken of this area on 3/11/12 – can anyone advise what the old stone building is and other structures near it? https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150755602562652.465891.731517651&type=3