Man’s quest for mineral wealth is ancient and predates historical records by thousands of years. Indeed, the paramount reason why pioneer explorers and miners came into Arizona in the 1800’s was the hope of finding riches.
The area east of Wickenburg, bounded by Constellation Road on the north and Buckhorn Road to the south, was the virtual center of the Black Rock Mining District and saw some intense mining activity between 1870 and 1940. This article describes a hiking route that will take you on an historic stage coach road past several old mines and settlements, ending at the Roy Rogers Mine. It may owe its name to the original claim owner rather than the famous Hollywood cowboy, but I have no records that can explain the origin. See complete route details at the end of this article.
Figure 1, Copper Ore near Roy Rogers Mine
When you turn left from Buckhorn Road at the corral you will be on private land. This location is significant for two reasons: First, the immediate environs (corral, well and local area) are what was once known as “Osborn’s Place” during the pioneer era. Second, this was the junction where the stage coach road turned north on its way toward the historic settlement of Constellation, the O’Brien/Gold Bar Mine and points beyond.
About 30 yards beyond the corral there is an old trail that rises above the wash to the left. This is where the Osborn settlement was located. Little remains of this site today, but it must have been a busy place in the late 1800’s through 1910 when stage coach and freight wagons passed through this area.
Proceed north from the corral along the trail. After a distance of about .4 miles you will come to another trail the rises to the right (east), as well as a mine opening that is nearly opposite to your left (west). The mine opening is quite large, but does not extend into the mountainside more than thirty feet.
Figure 2, First Adit
Figure 2 shows a perfect example of a “pocket mine” where the ore was exposed on the surface, but did not penetrate very deeply into the band of dark material shown in the photo. This adit may have been one of the early prospects of the Keystone Mine, which is above the top of photo. Interestingly, the interior walls of the adit contain numerous seams of sulphur powder that have formed through the slow but persistent movement of water in the cracks in the rock. If you stand at the entrance for a few minutes, the sulphur odor will become quite noticeable. The adit is posted with a “Do Not Enter” sign
On the opposite side of the wash you will see a trail that leads east onto the thickly covered hillside. This is believed to be the location of the mining camp and settlement of the Keystone Mine. There are a few collapsed structures and a terrace wall that mark the activity at this site.
Figure 3, Next Adit
Another few hundred yards north of the adit in Figure 2 you will see the mine entrance shown above (Figure 3). This opening does not feature a tailing pile and it is not located in an ore band. Thus, it may have been dug for the purpose of providing ventilation to the interior tunnels, drifts and shafts of the Keystone Mine, located above and west of this photo.
Figure 4 shows the next mine adit that you will encounter as you hike toward the Roy Rogers Mine.
Figure 4, ‘Modern’ Adit?
There are two indicators to the general age of this adit. First, the beam structure is not representative of the type of construction you would find in the late 1800’s. Second, the width of the adit is quite beyond what you would see in typical pioneer mines. I surmise that this tunnel was a late addition, possibly in the 1930’s. Although the beams appear to be solid, they may have become victim to ‘dry rot’. In any case, you should not enter. Notice that roots have penetrated through the roof.
The next mine feature you will see is a relatively large flat area that may have served as a processing and ore dump area. The gangue pile is easily two acres in dimension. There have been recent efforts to remove some of the trash residue at this site. Nevertheless, it is an interesting spot to examine. The uphill slopes on the western side of this area reveal the ore potential that miners were chasing, as evidenced in the lead photo (Figure 1) of the article.
As you proceed north on the stage coach trail your hike will continue to gain elevation and trail conditions will deteriorate for 4WD and ATV vehicles. Continue on the trail until you reach the crest, located in the mountain saddle. Upon arriving at this spot you will be rewarded with a scenic overview of the basin to the north, which features an excellent view of the Monte Cristo and Black Rock mines.
Figure 5, Roy Rogers Mine Cabin
The trail will take a sharp right (east) at the crest. Continuing along this route a short distance will bring you to a miner’s cabin, situated on a small saddle of the mountain (Figure 5). The cabin materials and nearby features suggest that it was constructed in the 1920’s; although the type of corrugated metal siding was available from about 1890.
The general roughness of the stage coach trail diminishes at this point, but it also becomes narrower and crowded with vegetation. You will be confronted with a maze of trails that lead to the mine workings. If you have persisted in bringing a vehicle as far as the cabin site, I recommend that you continue on foot from this point.
Figure 6, Roy Rogers Surface Ore Band
Figure 6 shows a dark band of rock where the principal mining activity occurred. It features a lower and middle adit and a shaft near the top. Outcroppings such as this are very common on the mountainsides near Black Rock Peak and Morgan Butte, and extend all the way to the Hassayampa River. The bands generally run from southeast to northwest, erupting at the surface for a few hundred yards, and then dive below ground.
The mine shaft did not have a conventional head frame that typifies larger operations. Instead, it probably employed a pole and hoist arrangement, since there are no concrete footings.
Figure 7 shows the shaft entrance. The shaft appears to follow the naturally curving band of rock and is probably not more than 100 feet in depth. Nevertheless, the opening is unprotected and should be respected as a safety hazard.
Figure 7, Roy Rogers Shaft
Notice that the color of the rock is much lighter than the dark ore band shown in Figure 6. I surmise that the shaft was dug at this location to reach the ore veins in the two lower adits.
Figure 8 illustrates a common sense reason why you should not enter old mines. The photo shows a “winze” that leads between multiple levels of adits in this mine. In this case, the exposed planks make this winze obvious. However, some mines may have one or more winzes that have been fully covered by planks or plywood. They may not be detectable because of accumulated dirt or overhead sloughing in the tunnel.
Figure 8, Roy Rogers Winze
Old timbers, regardless of how solid they may appear to be, may have succumbed to dry rot. For your personal safety – please do not enter these areas!
Figure 9 shows the entrance to one of the adits at the mine. Although the entrance appears to be stable (there is no detectable sloughing of overhead rock) it is not a safe area to enter. You can, however, safely approach the entrance and examine the adit, as shown in this photo.
Figure 9, Upper Adit at Mine
There are three items of interest at this entrance: First, notice the greenish copper ore at the top of the entrance. This was primarily a copper mine, but may have extracted a modest amount of gold. There is no evidence of silver ore. Second, notice how narrow this adit is. The vein of copper at this level was barely three feet in width. Third, notice the sharp drop at the right of the adit entrance. There was, apparently, an ore drift that descended to the right of the adit entrance for several feet.
Figure 10 illustrates yet another reason why it is unsafe to enter abandoned mines. In addition to the partially covered winze in the center, you can also see a substantial amount of rock that has dropped (sloughed) from the ceiling. I have used this photo in a previous article on mine safety.
Figure 10, Winze in the Interior of Roy Rogers Adit
On an earlier visit to this adit we encountered a speckled rattlesnake at about the spot where this photo was taken. Snakes use these entrances to escape from the day time heat during the summer months and may also hibernate in the mine during the winter season.
Figure 11, Roy Rogers Adit #3
As you are examining the adits and shaft shown in Figures 6-10, you will be able to see the third of the Roy Rogers adits by looking toward the cabin. Notice that the dark band is again visible above the adit as it passes over the saddle.
Unfortunately, the stage coach road that brought you to the Roy Rogers Mine is now almost completely overgrown with brush as it leads down the eastern flank of the mountain. Old aerial photos still show the route into Constellation, but it is no longer passable without a machete. Your return to the trailhead will retrace the route followed to reach the Roy Rogers.
Before You Go – Common Sense Precautions
- Although I have trekked through this area during the summer months, you may find it more enjoyable between October and April if you are not a warm weather hiker.
- After you depart from Buckhorn Road (shown in the maps below) you will be crossing a combination of BLM-administered land as well as deeded private land. Livestock graze throughout this area and I have occasionally met hunters over the years. The forbearance that a land owner gives to you will likely depend upon the courtesy that you show to him or her.
- All mine workings shown in the photos are located on private property. Please do not disturb or remove any item, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to you.
- The stage coach trail that leads north from Buckhorn Road to the Roy Rogers Mine is approximately 120 years old. It is not maintained and requires high clearance 4WD.
- Hiking becomes necessary once you reach the first adit (shown in Figure 2). I recommend that you park your vehicle just north of the corral and enjoy the entire trip on foot.
- All mines are dangerous. Stay Out – Stay Alive! The adits shown in this article DO contain rattlesnakes.
How to Get There
- From the Rodeo Grounds in Wickenburg, drive east on Constellation Road. Remain on Constellation until you arrive at the fork for Buckhorn Road. A sign will identify the turnoff.
- Turn right onto Buckhorn road. The route will take you along the northern flank of the King Solomon range and bring you to King Solomon Gulch.
- Continue on Buckhorn Road as it leads you up the southern flank of Black Rock Mountain. Remain on the road until you reach the corral shown in the map below.
- Turn left onto the trail at the corral. The GPS coordinates for the turnoff are: N 34D 02′ 48″ by W 112D 34′ 33″ (WGS84). Do not block the entrance to the corral or the trail with your vehicle.
- Proceed north on the trail as shown below. After passing several mine workings you will arrive at the crest which overlooks the Monte Cristo Mine in the basin to the north. The GPS coordinates for this point are: N 34D 03′ 26.5″ by W 112D 34′ 40.3″
- The trail will turn sharply right and will bring you to the miner’s cabin in a small saddle. The Roy Rogers adits and shaft are located a short distance east of the saddle. Follow the old trail to these features.
Round trip distance from the corral to the Roy Rogers Mine is slightly over three miles. Your total hike distance may be greater if you choose to explore some of the side features I have described.
Last 5 posts by Allan Hall
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