Though it may be Arizona's capital and largest city, Phoenix began as a small agricultural community set up to supply food to the mining towns that thrived north of the valley. The most famous of these is Jerome, which still supports a mini tourist mecca perched on the side of Mingus mountain atop a maze of abandoned mine shafts. But a hundred years ago, over a dozen boomtowns clustered among the Bradshaw mountain range. These were sustained by the "Impossible Railroad," so named for its ambitiously precarious route into the remote hllls.
At the foot of the the Bradshaws lies the remains of Arizona's most prosperous gold mine. Discovered in 1862 by immigrant Henry Wickenberg, it lies about ten miles south of the town that still bear his name. The Vulture mine maintained a population of five thousand during its heyday, and brought in millions of dolllars. Though crime and fraud were rampant throughout its history, the mine stayed in operation until the 1940s, changing hands serveral times. It only closed for good after wartime restrictions on the production of non-strategic metals pulled the final rug out from under it.
My wife and I discovered Vulture a couple years ago, during one of our desperate periodic weekend flights from the effects of our workaholic lifestyle. As enchanted as I was, I still managed to "produce." That is to say, I took some dandy photos.
The two-story assay office building is still intact, as are its upstairs apartments. The remaining machines at the worksite are awesome to behold, especially the huge ancient diesel engine which towers above the rest of the powerhouse bulidling, rusted to lustrous craggy hues of copper and gold. The mess hall and many residential buildings also all remain in various degrees of ruinous detail.
The Vulture mine is far and away the best of its kind here in Arizona, and if I ever graduate to a better camera than my little Canon PowerShot, I will definitely return. Fortunately, the town has attracted the attention of folks who've made a greater investment in photographic equipment than I. The Ghost Town Gallery site run by the Swiss team of Daniel Ter-Nedden and Carola Schibli smokes anything you're likely to find on my Flickr pages. Likewise, the site by Christian L. Deichert also offers excellent coverage.
If you're like me, however, these pix won't be enough. You'll want to find a way to visit Vulture yourself. Fear not -- it's entirely doable, as this page attests. And if that's not enough, you might even want to buy it. Of course, if that's more of a commitment than you can handle, there's always the DVD.