My folks have lived in the Wickenburg area for a number of years now, but until this past trip, I’d never done much sightseeing. Wickenburg is certainly a “Western” town known for its dude ranches and celebrity rehab centers, but they have some interesting things to see and do–from hiking a slot canyon, exploring an old mine and all its buildings to a nature walk through a riparian sanctuary. Of course there is also the golf, which most recently hosted the Alice Cooper annual charity Pro-Am at the well-known Rancho de los Caballeros Golf Resort.
My adventure in Wickenburg began at the Vulture Mine, which was at one time one of the largest gold producing mines in Arizona. Vulture Mine was developed by “Henry Wickenburg,” the founder of the area in 1863. The mine was closed in 1942, although some of its tailing have been mined as recently as the mid 1990s.
Today, Vulture Mine is open for tours and is a very interesting place for anyone interested in un-preserved history. There are 23 buildings on 37 acres to explore. The self-guided tour allows you to go inside most of the buildings, but be careful as you enter at your own risk…these buildings are in ruins. Given the litigiousness of our society, I actually found it quite refreshing that you could explore so much without barriers.
There is a group (VMPRA) making a concerted effort to restore and preserve Vulture Mine for future generations to enjoy. VMPRA (The Vulture Mine Preservation and Restoration Assoc) has formed a 501(c)3 corporation in order to raise funding to purchase and restore some of the buildings. It seems evident that Vulture Mine (if funding can be raised) could provide economic stimulus to the area.
Vulture Mine is a photographer’s delight, providing myriad angles and lighting conditions that are truly unique, to say nothing of the historic significance of much of the equipment strewn across the many acres of land.
The Hassayampa River Preserve is a very special place, with lush vegetation and an array of wildlife. For most of its 100-mile course through the desert, the Hassayampa River flows only underground. Spring-fed Palm Lake is a unique four-acre pond and marsh habitat. The marshy pond habitat attracts an impressive array of water such as the great blue heron, white-faced ibis, and pied-billed grebe. The large willows around the lake provide important nesting habitat for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. And, of course snakes (in the summer time).
Wickenburg has a pretty strong western art scene (Desert Caballeros is a nice museum) with an affluent citizenry to support it, which is why it surprises me that the area lacks any sort of unique culinary options–seems to me the area is ripe for a “Taos” level restaurant. There are a couple of Mexican restaurants in the area that people rave about, but I beg to differ. I have a discerning palate and I know what good food is. The one place I might recommend is El Ranchero…it’s a small family-run, very casual place, but with authentic Mexican Food.
I have some great images of several of the areas mentioned in this post, have a look at the Photo Gallery