This article is the second in a series about hiking in Slim Jim Creek – an area that is rich in scenery, wildlife, stunning geology and mining history. The historical records for this area are far from complete and it is not uncommon to find contradictory statements from people who are otherwise well-informed and intentioned. Such contradictions usually make the distinction between “legend” and “history” all the more-difficult. I hope this article will inform and inspire you to both enjoy and preserve a piece of Arizona that may one day slide into oblivion without our collective efforts to protect it.
Definition of Slim Jim Creek
As a quick review from my previous article, here is how I delineate the segments of Slim Jim Creek:
- Lower Slim Jim Creek – the segment along the creek that extends from the terminus of the Monte Cristo trail west to the Hassayampa River. This segment was reported in my article “Hiking in Lower Slim Jim Creek” in June, 2007.
- Middle Slim Jim Creek – the segment of creek heading generally west from Constellation Road to the point where a trail joins the creek from the Monte Cristo Mine. This segment includes the Black Rock Mine with its shaft, tunnels, buildings and cemeteries, as well as side gulches and interesting geology.
- Upper Slim Jim Creek – the segment between Constellation and Buckhorn Roads, of which I have not yet written. It includes the remains of the town of Constellation and several mines, including the Wren Mine, once owned by Frank Crampton, as described in his book “Deep Enough” [Reference 1].
A Brief History of Black Rock Mine
Sam Powell is credited with discovering the ore vein in 1902 [Reference 2]. Mining activity did not commence until 1906 however, and historical documents are silent why it took four years to begin development. Evidently, things got off to a rough start. In his 1907 treatise titled “The Copper Handbook: Vol. VII”, Horace J. Stevens, noted the following information about Black Rock Mine in 1907 [Reference 3]:
Office: care of R.C. Vincent, president and manager, Superior, Wis. Mine office: Wickenburg, Maricopa Co., Ariz. Lands, nine claims, area 180 acres, in the Bradshaw Mountains, 17 miles from rail connection in Wickenburg. Four fissure veins, averaging about 30 inches width, carrying copper, lead, gold and silver, with quartz gangue, and also showing porphyritic dykes carrying low-grade ores. Development is by several shallow shafts and short tunnels. Has gasoline power. Fred H. Perkins, former superintendent, is accused by management of having misappropriated company’s funds. Idle.
So, within a year of initial operations, Black Rock Mine was in trouble and had fallen into a temporarily idle state. A later undated assessment of the mine’s potential provides the following upbeat information:
The Black Rock Co.’s property is a group of 10 lode mining claims, named as follows: Olympia, Gold Bug, Mercury, Hobson’s Choice, Cacti, Wisconsin, Rosalynd, Georgia, Rosalynd Extension and Brooklyn. On the Olympia, at a depth of 700 feet a tunnel was driven to the vein from Slim Jim creek and a drift 200 feet long was made along one side of the vein. In this drift, a winze was sunk on the vein to a depth of 40 feet, which made a depth below the surface of 210 feet. The vein had here increased to a width of 60 inches with a pay streak of 30 inches, and assay values ranging from $10.00($205.24 in 2005 dollars) to $618.00 ($12,683.57 in 2005 dollars) per ton in gold.
A mill run which was made at the office of Amalgamated Smelting & Refining Co., at Prescott, showed that the entire vein, including the quartz and the mineral zone showed a value of $27.00 ($554.18 in 2005 dollars) in gold. The ores which were oxidized at the surface gave way at a depth of 190 feet to a permanent sulphide containing lead. The Gold Bug and Extension are located on the same vein as the Olympia. The Rosalynd vein has been explored to a depth of 80 feet, and is a true fissure gold quartz vein, four foot wide at the bottom of the shaft. The Brooklyn has been explored to a depth of 40 feet, is three feet wide. Assay Values $45.00 ($923.56 in 2005 dollars) per ton in gold. The rest of the group are very promising prospects. Submitted by J.K. Murphy. [Reference 4]
Mine ownership may have changed hands one or more times in the intervening period of these two assessments. Prior to 1931, J.T. Murphy (Duluth-Arizona Mining Co.) became the owner and reportedly invested more than $250,000 in further development of the mine. [Reference 5.]
It is interesting to note the absence of an on-site mill in both references. This is understandable in 1907, since operations had only recently begun and the mine was probably still considered a prospect. The passage of nearly 25 years without construction of a mill – and the development of only a shallow shaft and short tunnels and drifts – would suggest that the mine owner(s) remained reluctant to commit to the investment of a stamp mill at the mine.
It is not clear whether “J.K. Murphy” cited in the above statement is the same individual as “J.T. Murphy”, the mine owner in 1931. In any case, J.T. Murphy eventually concluded that his investment was spent “in a very crazy way…” [Reference 5, page 38]
The Duluth-Arizona Mining Company planned to construct a 50-ton cyanide leaching plant in 1935 but did not follow through with this development. Operations continued until 1941 when the mine again became idle. The last known effort to resume operations at the Black Rock occurred in 1951 when J. Andrew West filed an application for federal assistance to reopen the mine. No action was taken on his request and the Black Rock Mine slipped quietly into history. [Reference 6, USGS Dockets]
Although the mine and surrounding structures are only ruins today, this area is nevertheless rich in surface artifacts; including mine structures and tunnels, collapsed buildings, corrals, cemeteries and debris fields that provide an interesting glimpse into what life would have been like during its time of operation.
Hiking in Middle Slim Jim
Assuming that you will take the “lower approach” that is shown on the Map Legend section which follows, turn right upon entering the creek. You will find yourself in a rather broad, sandy wash that initially heads “upstream” in a southeasterly direction. After a short distance you will see a gulch that enters the creek from your left. See Figure 1 and Map Legend 3.
Figure 1, Side Gulch Adit
This area contains three historical features. The first is a tunnel (adit) on the north side of the gulch, approximately 12 – 15 feet above the bottom. The entrance is quite narrow, but opens up to a straight tunnel that may have been exploratory in nature. The second feature is a large water casement, also located above and on the left side of the gulch. This rough concrete casement measures approximately 6 feet in width by 16 feet in length. It is situated in a location that would have made it impossible for use as a cattle tank, as it was placed too high above the gulch for cattle to reach. See Figure 2.
Figure 2, Water Casement
Third, the remains of iron water pipes lead up the gulch from the casement to a point that is almost due north of Black Rock Mine. I believe the casement is related to both the tunnel and to Black Rock Mine in some way. It is not unreasonable to surmise that the Black Rock Mine was providing water to this location for a purpose related to the processing of ore. This might have been for ore extracted from the nearby adit, or it might have served as a water supply point for mules, horses and their riders as they passed through the area. It is likely that we will never know the year of construction or the precise purpose that it served.
Returning to Slim Jim Creek, bear left to continue. In less than 50 yards you will see a large granite dike which rises approximately 10 to 15 feet above the creek bed at the point of ascent. See Figure 3. The dike effectively blocks all vehicular traffic.
Figure 3, Lower Granite Dike in Middle Slim Jim Creek
In order to overcome this obstacle in the “early” days, the miners constructed a bypass trail, shown in Figure 4. This bypass would have accommodated horses and pack trains, but I have some difficulty visualizing a heavily loaded vehicle or wagon climbing the steep grade on the left side of this photo. The bypass trail certainly existed in 1904 and may have existed even prior to 1893, based upon map research. It is possible that this served as a pack trail to the Gold Bar Mine long before the Black Rock Mine came into existence and therefore predated the construction of Constellation Road.
Figure 4, Old Trail Bypass at Granite Dike
The upper and lower approaches to this trail have been completely washed away by decades of runoff in Slim Jim Creek and are not suitable for vehicles.
The Arrastre and Grave Sites
After climbing above the dike, proceed upstream. As you pass through several bends you will see numerous, colorful volcanic rock extrusions that are typical of the middle and lower segments of Slim Jim Creek. Shortly beyond the third bend – but before you reach the confluence of Mahoney Wash – you will arrive at the Arrastre location. See figure 5.
Figure 5, Arrastre in Middle Slim Jim Creek
This site is on the north side of Slim Jim Creek. (See Travel and Hiking Coordinates and Map Legend 4 for location.) It is situated on a rock-walled terrace that measures approximately 46 feet on its east-west axis by approximately 14 feet on the north-south axis. It contains an arrastre that was used for pulverizing ore to produce gold and/or silver amalgam. Additionally, the terrace serves as a cemetery that appears to contain eight graves. One grave is adjacent to the north edge of the arrastre, while the remaining graves are in the terrace to the west of the arrastre. Six of the graves are marked with headstones that were extracted from the arrastre, indicating that the arrastre pre-dates the cemetery by an unknown period of time. See Figure 6.
Figure 6, Grave Area in Arrastre Terrace
Floor stones were removed from the arrastre and used as grave headstones. Close examination reveals a deeply grooved arc that was created by the overlaying drag stones during the pulverizing process. See figure 7.
Figure 7, Arrastre Floor Stone-Headstone
The relationship between the arrastre and the Black Rock Mine is a continuing mystery to me for several reasons. First, arrastres required water during the amalgamation process and there are no wells or springs in the immediate vicinity. Therefore, it would have been necessary to haul water via pack trains to this site. Second, the placement of the arrastre could not have been selected as a matter of convenience to the Black Rock Mine – or any other mine in the vicinity – for reasons that become obvious after you gain familiarity with the terrain. If the arrastre was built specifically for the Black Rock, there were several locations closer to the mine (and water) that would have suited its purpose much more effectively. We have located one short piece of water pipe, but it is unclear whether it was related to the arrastre operation or to a small settlement above the creek that seems to have existed after the arrastre stones were scavenged for graves and building material. I am inclined to believe the arrastre predates the Black Rock Mine, but I can offer no documented proof at this time.
This site is and will continue to be in a state of active research for several months. Please do not disturb the graves or any surface material that you see at this location.
Two foot trails lead from the Arrastre to the area above (north of) the creek. The best trail to use is directly above the arrastre and it has been cleared of overhead branches to make for easier passage. Above the arrastre you will find additional artifacts, including the remains of two rock “tent cabins”, metal debris and more graves. The metal artifacts include pieces of an old stove, a stovepipe and scattered nails (but very little wood).
Tent cabins were typically constructed by erecting a “U-shaped” rock wall that would be two or three feet in height. A canvas “tent” would be placed above this rock structure to complete the construction of a crude living area. It was a “low-budget” approach to fulfilling the needs of a transient miner.
Again, this site is being surveyed to develop physical and historical documentation. You are likely to see stakes and line cord that have been placed to create a grid for mapping. Please do not disturb any surface artifacts.
I believe that most of the graves in this upper area predate the small settlement that was established here, perhaps dating to, or even predating the construction of the arrastre. My basis for this premise is that the surface debris (nails, etc.) overlays several of these graves. There are, however, several graves (three or four) at this site that made use of arrastre stones, so this location could have been occupied for an extended period.
Based upon map data of old trails it is not unreasonable to surmise that human occupation could date to the 1880’s since there are trails that lead through the area directly to the Gold Bar Mine, which began operation in 1877.
There is also a possibility that the arrastre and cemetery may have served the Monte Cristo and other local mines before the Black Rock Mine became operational. And, since no graves have ever been confirmed in the vicinity of the Constellation town site, this could have been a cemetery that served a “community” of settlements and mines. Again, I can offer no documented proof, and we may never really know.
A Choice in Your Route
If you take the option to climb above the arrastre, you can continue your hike to the Black Rock Mine via a rough trail that leads from the “tent cabin” in a northeasterly direction. Along the way you will pass additional gravesites and you will shortly come to the first of several large debris fields. This first one will be on your right (south) side. From this point forward you will encounter debris on both sides of the trail until you reach the crest, before it descends into Slim Jim Creek.
Black Rock Mine
Almost anyone who has driven up Constellation Road to the Monte Cristo Mine and beyond will recognize the image in the following photo. The Black Rock Mine is almost due north of the Monte Cristo; a distance of about .65 miles.
Figure 8, Black Rock Mine
This photo shows the main mine building and ore chute. Above the chute on the flat area is the shaft and behind it are the remains of the foundations for the shaft head and cable house. You can see that the ore tailings are two distinctly different colors. The gray material on the left is indicative of ore veins bearing silver, while the darker material indicates material extracted from gold and copper veins.
Please use caution in this area. The main building structure has nearly collapsed and is unsafe to enter. The shaft is quite large and there are no barriers to prevent a fall. Based upon the records, it is at least 200 feet deep and is nearly vertical. Be careful!
A large terrace is located about 200 yards southwest of the mine shaft. This location gives evidence of containing two buildings in the upper area, as well as a large corral below (left). See Figure 9. In the center foreground of this photo you can also see a small rectangular cemetery that may contain several graves. We have identified two crude headstones.
Figure 9, Terrace and Cemetery
If you have never seen a fence made with stems of the Ocotillo plant, the terrace area at the mine is a good place to see this interesting use of a natural resource. See Figure 10. The area below the terrace appears to have been used as a large corral, and the Ocotillo would have served as an effective barrier to keep horses, mules and burros inside. This fence is at least 65 years old and could date to the early decades of the twentieth century. In either case, it is a good testament to the longevity of the Ocotillo. A second Ocotillo fence is located about 200 yards northwest of the terrace; which places it roughly west of the collapsed buildings. See Figure 11.
Figure 10, Ocotillo Fence
West of the ore chute (northwest of the terrace) you will find the remains of two large buildings that are in a complete state of collapse. See Figure 11. Both structures appear to have collapsed from the force of wind, and you will see corrugated roofing material spread over a rather large area. There are other, smaller structures in this area as well as water pipes, broken glass and a second Ocotillo corral.
Figure 11, Building Ruins
In summary, the area occupied by Black Rock mine for its operations and living quarters is rather extensive when compared to most mines in the vicinity. The photos provide only a glimpse of the entire site. There are other mine tunnels and trails – and even the remains of an old bridge at this location. So, dust off your hiking boots, grab your camera and backpack, and enjoy the history and beauty of Middle Slim Jim Creek.
How to Get There
Beginning at the Wickenburg Rodeo Grounds on Constellation Road, proceed east. Bear left when you reach the fork for Buckhorn Road to remain on Constellation Road. Proceed toward the Monte Cristo Mine. There are two ways to access the middle segment of Slim Jim Creek:
(1) From the “lower” end via a trail running north from the Monte Cristo Mine or,
(2) From the “upper” end, where the creek crosses Constellation Road, beyond the Monte Cristo.
Either access point is acceptable. If your objective is to only visit Black Rock Mine, I suggest that you opt for the upper access via Constellation Road. If you intend to enter Middle Slim Jim Creek from the lower end, turn left at a point about 100 yards west of the Monte Cristo Mine (Map Legend 1). Here, the trail runs generally in a NNW direction until it drops into the creek. Bear right at the first (and only) fork on this trail.
As you proceed along the trail you will come to a cattle gate separating the grazing leases of the JV Bar and Williams ranches. This gate has been closed each time I have passed through the area, so I recommend that you close it after passing through. From this point until you reach the creek, please use lower 4WD gears and proceed slowly to help preserve the condition of the trail. Upon reaching the creek bed, you will have arrived at the dividing point between the “Lower” and “Middle” segments of the creek. Turn right into the creek bed and find a convenient place to park your vehicle. Elevation at this point is approximately 3040 ft.
Before You Go
Regardless of the time of year that you choose to hike in Slim Jim Creek, there are some fundamental things you should consider before hiking in this area:
- Let someone know specifically where you are going before you depart and when you plan to return.
- Be certain that your vehicle is in good working condition and that you have sufficient fuel, oil, coolant and good tires.
- Bring plenty of water and energy snacks. Depending on the season that you hike, your need for water could vary greatly. Make sure that you are properly hydrated before you start.
- Allow a combined travel and hiking time of at least six hours. If you decide to combine this hike with Lower Slim Jim Creek, allow more time – and water.
- Plan to take photos and leave only footprints.
- Pack out what you carry in! Black Rock Mine is already the victim of thoughtless littering. If you can expend the effort to get into this area, you are able to carry out your trash. The Lower and Middle Slim Jim Creek segments are pristine. Leave them that way.
Precautions – You are Responsible for Your Own Safety
- From mid-April through October you can expect to see rattlesnakes. Be alert.
- Don’t become a statistic. DO NOT attempt to hike this section of the creek if there are heavy storms in the upper watershed. The drop in elevation between the peaks at the top end of Slim Jim Creek and the arrastre is about 1600 feet, and numerous washes feed into it. Heavy winter or monsoon rains can produce sudden and significant water flow.
- Know and understand your own capabilities. If you are a “cool weather” hiker, you may want to defer hiking in any segment of Slim Jim Creek until the October-April time frame.
- The primary site of Black Rock Mine is thick with nails. Please be cautious when hiking around these old structures to avoid injury. If you enter Slim Jim Creek from the “upper” end at Constellation Road, you are advised to leave your vehicle in the creek bottom, below the mine structures!
- The old trail between the “Rock Cabin” (above the arrastre) and the mine has several spots that are dangerous for vehicles. You will be particularly at risk of loosing rear traction. This could cause your 4WD or ATV to slide in the downhill direction and it is a long way to the bottom of Slim Jim Creek. Please traverse this area on foot.
Travel & Hiking Coordinates
All coordinates are listed in 1927 North American Datum, (NAD27), which appears on USGS Quad maps.
0. Distance from the Wickenburg Rodeo Grounds to the lower Slim Jim Creek turnoff at the Monte Cristo Mine is 10.4 miles.
1. Turnoff from Constellation Road to Middle Slim Jim Creek:
34° 03′ 54″N by 112 o 35′ 04″ W – Morgan Butte Grid #4
2. Entrance to Middle Slim Jim Creek:
34° 04′ 26″N by 112 o 35′ 22″W – Morgan Butte Grid #32
Elevation is approximately 3040 ft.
3. Adit and water casement in Lower Slim Jim Creek:
34° 04′ 22″N by 112 o 35′ 14″W – Morgan Butte Grid #32
4. Arrastre and grave site in Slim Jim Creek:
34° 04′ 16.5″N by 112 o 35′ 04.3″W – Morgan Butte Grid #33
Elevation is approximately 3161 ft.
5. Black Rock Mine shaft and vicinity:
34° 04′ 25″N by 112o 34′ 53.9″W – Morgan Butte Grid #33
Elevation ranges from 3200 – 3350 ft. The arrow (#5) indicates the general vicinity of the cemeteries.
6. “Upper” turnoff to Middle Slim Jim Creek at Constellation Road:
34° 04′ 12″N by 112o 34′ 35″W – Morgan Butte Grid #4
Elevation is approximately 3325 ft.
Figure 12, Middle Slim Jim Creek Route
1. Turn left from Constellation Road to enter at “lower” end.
2. Slim Jim Creek Bed. Turn right.
3. Adit and water casement. Pipes leading to Black Rock Mine are located in this gulch.
4. Arrastre and graves – west of the confluence of Mahoney Wash and Slim Jim Creek.
5. Cemeteries at Black Rock Mine.
6. Upper access point – Slim Jim Creek at Constellation Road.
If you have any questions about directions or content of this article, please drop me a note via the web site. Be safe – and good hiking!
- If you have favorable weather conditions and feel energetic, you might consider combining the “middle” and “lower” segments of the creek into a single excursion. I would recommend that you position your 4WD or ATV at the junction of the Monte Cristo trail and the Slim Jim Creek bed, so that you minimize the distance you will have to travel as you hike your way out from the lower segment. See the article on “Hiking in Lower Slim Jim Creek”, published in May, 2007 on this website.
- Historical maps of this area are a particularly useful way of determining the existence of old trails because they indicate the emergence of mining and commercial activity. Trails and roads appear, and then disappear from maps based upon usage and other factors. The US Geological Service produced only two maps of this area before 1940. One of these was published in 1903 and the other in 1885. If you have other maps that can be dated to the period between 1880 and 1940, and would be willing to share a digital copy, please let me know!
- If you have access to any photos of Black Rock Mine that date to the period between 1902 and 1950, and you are willing to share them, please let me know.
1. “Deep Enough” By Frank Crampton. 1982, Published by University of Oklahoma Press.
2. Black Rock Mine (Olympia Patented claim; Red Mountain group; Brooklyn Patented claim; Copper Bell; Black Rock Gold), Yavapai Co., Arizona: http://www.mindat.org/loc-68741.html
3. The Copper Handbook: Vol. VII (1907) page 368. Available via Internet Google search. See “www.google.com”.
4. Document provided by Scott Rogers, with thanks.
5. Burden, Dana W. and Joe Stevens. 2006. “Where the Past Lives-Constellation Road”, Published by Pathfinder Publishing.
6. U.S. Geological Survey docket #0657.
Last 5 posts by Allan Hall
- Wickenburg Hospitality Comes in Many Forms - December 15th, 2010
- Calliandra Eriophylla is Native to the Wickenburg Area - December 9th, 2010
- Goodbye, Old Bridge - November 29th, 2010
- Abandoned Mines Part III: Preserving the "Whispering Ranch" Mine - March 25th, 2010
- Abandoned Mines Part II: Protective Closures - March 10th, 2010