A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

What Was That Sucking Sound?

Did you know that sandpaper made with Arizona quicksand allows you to refinish furniture twice as fast?

It’s a fact, certified by the Abrasive Council Of North America. I mean, this stuff is rapid. Arizona produces a dry quicksand, made possible by our renowned “dry heat.”

Mining Arizona quicksand is hazardous, but lucrative. The end product is prized by sandblasters, who can clean the facade of a 40-story granite building in two hours flat.

It is also favored by manufacturers of the 30-minute hourglass, popular with lawyers, fast-food chefs and practical jokers.

Bob Smith of Glendale, a member of our advisory panel, sent along a document pointing out that quicksand is found in every state in the USA.

Your average quicksand looks dry on the surface–it can look as dry and hard as concrete. But there is water just beneath the surface. The mixture of sand and water is waiting to grip the ankles of the villain who is fleeing from the posse, or the damsel who needs to be rescued in the romance novel you’re reading.

The article explained, “Quicksand is found in three spots–above water level on the shore of a stream, underwater, and in what looks like a dry riverbed…Although most quicksand traps are small, they should not be underestimated. One in Colorado contains a railroad locomotive that fell into it and disappeared completely. There was no sign of the engine, even though searchers probed 50 feet down into the sand.”

Shoot, losing a locomotive is nothing. The entire town of Roy Rogers, Arizona, disappeared in 1953, and there is little chance it will ever be found. We’re also missing a herd of cattle, a Grand Canyon tour bus and any number golfers.

We have many riverbeds which appear to be dry. Some actually are dry, except on those rare occasions when rain upstream causes them to flood. Based on probabilities, these are called “hundred-year floods” and “five-hundred-year floods.” In the past 25 years, Arizona has had several floods of both types, interspersed with drought that lasts for decades.

But water may be lurking just beneath the sand in these seemingly dry rivers. One such river is the Hassayampa, which “runs” through Wickenburg. It is said that if you drink of the waters of the Hassayampa, you never tell the truth again. Others claim that if you say you found water in the Hassayampa, you’re lying.

The bed of the Hassayampa did not always give the appearance of being a mislocated beach. It was, in fact, a flowing stream, navigable as far upstream as Box Canyon, north of Wickenburg. Steamboats once plied the river, bringing barbed wire and yard goods to Wickenburg, and carrying away gold and Lash Larue Brand Jerky.

Older residents of Wickenburg remember romantic Sunday afternoons canoeing on the river’s backwaters, strumming a ukelele and “sparking” a girl.

But the Hassayampa also flooded periodically, causing havoc all up and down the river. Humans, determined to conquer nature and remove its dangerous “natural” elements, weren’t going to put up with that.

So in the 1940s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put the Hassayampa underground. The Corps cut a deeper channel, lined it with concrete, and reinstalled the sand on top.

That is why Wickenburg likes to boast of its “upside-down river.”

Unfortunately, the project did not keep the Hassayampa from flooding every couple of years. Muddy water roars down the river, coming within inches of the bottom of the bridge at Wickenburg, and creeping into low-lying homes.

In addition, the Corps of Engineers project leaks. Water seeps out from the concrete containment and lurks just under the surface, causing the sand to become very fast indeed. “Out of sight!” as the saying goes. If you scoop quicksand out of the sand trap and put it into a bucket, the bucket disappears.

The town of Roy Rogers, south of Wickenburg on the banks of the Hassayampa, was one of the early “planned” communities, before Del Webb thought of building Sun City.

By the fall of 1953, the town had a population of 540 old movie buffs, most of whom owned guitars; more than 200 palomino horses, and 45 real estate agents.

The Second Annual Dale Evans Look-alike Pageant was underway in the post office parking lot when Deputy Sheriff Wallace “Lockjaw” Lumpkins noticed that the flag pole was a lot shorter than it used to be.

Then people began to notice that their feet were wet. Lockjaw realized that the river had sprung a leak and seeped in beneath the town.

As Lockjaw watched his Studebaker pickup start to sink out of sight, he ordered the evacuation of the town. Everyone took off for Morristown.

By the following morning, there was no sign that the community of Roy Rogers ever existed. All the records vanished when the developer’s office sank. My information is based on interviews with Lockjaw and with Mary Lou “Lariat” Larue. Mary Lou is sure she would have won the Dale Evans pageant, and she is still a little bitter.

Despite the hazards, young people who are looking for a career with real adventure could do worse than to become miners in Arizona’s quicksand industry. Miners are always in demand, because there is a rapid turnover.

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

Comments are closed.