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Constellation: It's Not My Road

I am not quite sure why I am writing this piece, except to do a bit of venting in a public forum. Nor am I sure that it will do the least bit of good. The purpose of this note is to describe the irresponsible behavior and reckless driving that I have witnessed on the upper Constellation Road in the past few weeks (January-February 2007).

For the record, I go up into the upper Constellation/Hassayampa area frequently. I take photos and leave footprints. I study the area’s mining history, watershed, gorgeous spring flowers, and I hike. The people that I associate with are responsible individuals who respect its history and magnificent, rugged beauty, not to mention the roads and trails that give them vital access into these areas.

As of this week I am the unhappy owner of nine chipped paint spots on the hood of my truck, 30 windshield dings and several damaged fins on my oil cooler – all due to a single dirt bike rider near Monte Cristo Mine. This “adult” rider, who evidently believed that Constellation Road was created for his exclusive use as a race track, passed my truck on the right side, accelerated at a very high rate, and threw rock debris onto the front of my truck, causing the damage mentioned above. If he had been content to wait a mere 30 seconds, I would have reached a pull-off spot where he could have safely passed. I later watched him leave a dust trail that was nearly a half mile long as he climbed the road southbound to the saddle between the Unida Mine Group and King Solomon Gulch. Imagine what that was doing to the road surface!

Within the past month alone I have encountered as many as twelve Quads at a time (yes, they were Snowbirds) driving on the wrong side of the road as they crested a hill, and I have narrowly missed three speeding Quads that were on the wrong side of the road coming around blind curves.

The way I look at it, Constellation Road was built to support miners and ranchers. Okay, the miners are no longer an important factor, but the point is, it isn’t my road. Today, ranchers in this area depend upon Constellation Road for their livelihood; hauling cattle, feed, and for access to Wickenburg to shop for their own essentials. Watch one of their ranching trucks on Constellation and you will see a driving behavior that epitomizes caution. You might consider asking the folks at JV Ranch and Williams Ranch what they have witnessed and experienced. My bet is that they have seen much worse than I have. How they tolerate it is anyone’s guess.

I would like to think that I show my respect to “their road” by driving with care. I have never driven Constellation, or any other dirt road or trail, in a manner that would tear it up. In any case, local residents will know that maintenance and grading of Constellation and Buckhorn Roads occurs quite infrequently. They have become rutted, washboard roads just in the last four weeks.

Slow down. Enjoy the view. Enjoy life. Soak up the history and grandeur of this area – safely and responsibly. Oh, and by the way, pack out your trash. Upper King Solomon Gulch is becoming a sanitary landfill.

If you insist on tearing up a beautiful piece of landscape, try driving at high speed repeatedly across your neighbor’s front yard. See how it plays with them.

If you positively insist on killing yourself while on a Quad or dirt bike, please find an empty desert wash or, perhaps, a mine shaft. Personally, I prefer the mine shaft. At least that way you won’t be surface littering.

Last 5 posts by Allan Hall

9 comments to Constellation: It's Not My Road

  • Erin Simmons

    I found your comments/concerns on the careless OHV use interesting.

    “Within the past month alone I have encountered as many as twelve Quads at a time (yes, they were Snowbirds) driving on the wrong side of the road as they crested a hill, and I have narrowly missed three speeding Quads that were on the wrong side of the road coming around blind curves.”

    I am doing a study on the area for Maricopa Parks and Recreation and would like to mention this if I may.
    Thank you
    Erin Simmons

  • As an “Owner/Driver” of BC Jeep Tours I add my thoughts on the subject. Over the last 8 years that we have been in business we have seen an incress in quad/dirt bike use in the area around Wickenburg. We’ve wondered if its lack of information, experiance or just human nature that makes the operators of these vehicles drive as if rules don’t pertain to them! They apparently also believe that the desert is there simple for their use. What happened to the responsibility we have for the future? To make sure that generations to come will be able to fall in love with the desert as we did! ORV operators need to be held to rules and should not be turned loose by parents, friends, or groups without direction, education and disscussion being first on the agenda of having fun.

  • Daryl

    Financing and cheap Chinese imports may be the culprits.

    Back in the day, there were no titles for dirt bikes or quads. So anyone who wanted one either saved his money or was on good enough terms with the bank to secure a personal loan.

    This got tougher and tougher in the 80’s as interest rates and the yen rose. Dealers lobbied for and received a method to title off highway vehicles, thereby making financing far easier and cheaper.

    Cheap Chinese imports are flooding the market, and the hills, with copycat bikes, quads and buggies.

    The combination of the two has introduced a wholly different group to off roading and I’m afraid we’re seeing the result.

    I’m an ex-dirt bike rider and it saddens me to see the reckless, thoughtless actions of a certain percentage of the folks out there.

  • Harold Groschwitz

    Living and mining gold in Oregon, I frequently see the same type of land abuse. Beautiful meadows and mountain sides are torn up with multiple trails. No effort has been made to return these areas to previous condition. While restrictions on mining activities are increasing and not based on scientific evidence, these folks apparently get a wink and a nod.

  • Janice Cottrill

    I am a writer and need a picture of Constellation Road. Anyone have one I can use. You will be given credit as the photographer. Thanks.

  • Allan Hall

    Hello Janice:
    Do you have a particular segment of Constellation Road in mind?
    The road runs a bit more than 14 miles from The Rodeo Grounds in Wickenburg to its terminus at the Williams Ranch on the Hassayampa River. The mountainous terrain makes it virtually impossible to photograph major stretches of the road.

    You may want to consider an aerial photo if you are trying to show a large segment. IF that is what you are looking for, please contact the webmaster at the web site. She (Maria) may be able to provide assistance. Otherwise, there are a number of contributors (myself included) who could provide specific scenic shots for your purposes.
    Good luck!

  • Dan

    Interesting article, I am doing research for an article assingment for school on quad racing in the hassayampa wash basin but am not familar with the area. I understand there are night races there around 219 st. and W Sun Valley Pkwy. Being from the area have you heard anything? Thanks for any help. Dan

  • Allan Hall

    I think you may be referring to a race track that is near Wittmann, between Morristown and Surprise. It is, thankfully, not in Wickenburg. Otherwise, I am not aware of any organized quad racing in the Hassayampa riverbed. The “unorganized” quad traffic in the Wickenburg-Hassayampa area generates enough dust as it is…

  • John Bradley

    I was impresssed with the beauty of the Constilliation Road out of Wickenburg. I was trying to find the the Monte Cristo mine. This was my first trip off of paved roads into the Sonoran Desert in my 4 cylinder Honda Element. I never found the mine but I sure did enjoy the ride. I try to leave very little foot print of where I have been. I enjoyed the trip and left it the desert as I found it, save tire prints. I encountered only a couple of pickup trucks and a Arizona Game and Fish Department truck.
    ATVs are a menace to the environment and their riders.
    AtV use by hunters is a lazy way to hunt. If you can’t carry out what you shoot then don’t shoot it.