Saturday, 19 April 2014

Kentucky Camp

Another lovely sunny morning and another trip to highway 83, this time we were in search of Kentucky Camp, an old gold mining camp on the eastern side of the Santa Rita Mountains. 

We took unpaved Gardner Canyon Road, it’s only about 5 miles from the highway but part way along we thought we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere as we came to Private Property sign.   We had visions of turning up in the front yard of a ranch, but it actually meant the land on either side of the road was private.
The parking area is ¼ mile from the camp, you can only drive down if you’re actually renting a cabin in the camp, a guy who was staying down there told us the night skies were absolutely fabulous. 

One of the cabins you can rent.

Gold was discovered at Kentucky Camp in the 1870’s, it was what is called placer gold and the easiest way to separate it from sand and gravel is with water.   There’s not a lot of water around here, so miners either had to haul dirt to one of the few streams or bring in water on the backs of mules.   I bet you probably made almost as much money hauling in water and selling it as you did from finding gold.   The gold was soon worked out and by 1886 most of the miners had moved on.

At the turn of the 20th century a mining engineer from California, James Stetson (I wonder if he was any relation to the hat company?) had the idea of building a channel of water to bring spring snowmelt to a reservoir that would last 10 months and keep a placer mine operating to extract the remaing gold.   The cost of building all this was between $125,000 and $175,000.   Parts of the channel are still there. 

The assay office.

A wealthy businessman, George McAneny, agreed to invest and the Santa Rita Water & Mining Company was formed.   The buildings at Kentucky Camp became the headquarters.   The day before a stockholder meeting James Stetson fell from a third floor hotel window in Tucson and died, George McAneny got tied up in a contentious divorce and the company failed.   So after spending all that money to build the channel, the company only made about $3,000.00 before it failed.   Glad I wasn’t a stockholder!
The buildings were eventually acquired by Louis Hummel and the land was used as a cattle ranch until the 1960’s.
I think this building was used as the old ranch house.
Now part of the Coronado National Forest, some of the buildings have been stablised using volunteer labour and money from the television series ‘Young Riders’ that was filmed in the area in the early 1990’s and work is still being carried out. 

The long distance Arizona Trail, which runs from the Mexican border to Utah, also runs through the camp, the trail as it comes into Kentucky Camp.

Arizona Trail mileage sign at the parking area.

Yet another interesting place to visit, there is so much to see and do in this part of Arizona and I don’t think we’ll ever see it all. 

Have fun, we are!

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