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Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Agua Fria National Monument
Approaching the Petroglyph Site

Mine Site Ruins
Few places in Arizona are as rich in history as the mesas and valleys of Agua Fria National Monument (AFNM).  Straddling the canyon-riddled grasslands along I-17 between Black Canyon City and Cordes Junction, the area's complex landscape can be viewed from behind the wheel of a car or by stopping at Sunset Point rest area.  However, it takes hiking into the guts of this wild place to really appreciate its significance.  Although most of the AFNM is very rugged terrain, this historic mining operation is one of only three spots on the monument that almost anybody can get to without much fuss.  (Pueblo La Plata and Badger Springs Wash are the other two).  The hike begins at a locked gate just off the freeway, following a dirt road past a windmill with water toughs for the cattle that graze the surrounding flatlands.
In just under a mile, the road reaches the cliffs overlooking Agua Fria River Canyon. This is a good place to get an overview of the layout and plan your exploring before descending to the site.  Concrete foundations and random heaps of rotting wood, rusty metal and barbed wire are all that remains of Richinbar Mine.  Clinging to the steep inclines above the canyon and below the low-slung mound of Joe’s Hill volcano, the mine operated from the 1880s to the 1940s under various owners harvesting tons of copper, lead, gold and silver.  Three major mine shafts—one at least 500 feet deep—are on the site.  Although they're cordoned off by barbed wire, it's wise to use extreme caution around these holes.  Much has been written about the mine and the hardy workers who lived and labored in this unforgiving terrain and the links below are excellent sources to peruse before taking this hike. 
But long before the rich ore drew modern day miners to the area, this place was inhabited by Native Americans who built seven major cities and hundreds of satellite dwellings that now stand as crumbling foundations throughout the monument.  The locations of most ruins are not publicized to aid preservation, however, there's a well-known petroglyph site here with elegant etchings of antelope and deer ---it's on the pinnacle to the far north of the mine.

First View of the Mine Site

LENGTH:  1.5 miles one-way to the mine. 
(We wandered around the site for a total hike of just under 4 miles).
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3,370' – 3,497'
BEST SEASON: October - April
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 (roughly 35 miles) to the Sunset Point rest area.  From here, continue 1.7 miles to the turnoff for FR9006 on the right.  A windmill and stock tanks are your landmark. (If you reach Badger Springs Road, you've gone 2.3 miles too far). Turn onto FR9006 and park in the dirt lot being sure not to block the gate. The gate is usually locked, but it's easy (and legal) to squeeze through.   Roads are paved up to the dirt parking area.
Agua Fria National Monument: general info and maps
Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project: historical info and photos


Anonymous said...

Surely a perfect piece of writing! We've book marked it and sent it out to all of my friends since I know they'll be intrigued, thank you very much!

rbis said...

The gate is usually locked, but it's easy (and legal) to squeeze through.
not any more.

best bet is to slide under wire fence.