There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills…..

IMG_2140For a half day of fun, consider a 35 mile drive east of Phoenix to Apache Junction, and once there, make your way to the Goldfield Ghost Town and Gold Mine.

It is situated atop a small hill between the Superstition Mountains and the Goldfield Mountains, and the original settlement of Goldfield got its start in 1892 when very rich, high grade gold ore was found in the area.

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This “official” find, coupled with the legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine (in the nearby Superstition Mountains), which had been circulating for years, led plenty of new miners to the area and in no time, the town boasted three saloons, a boarding house, a general store, brewery, blacksmith shop, butcher shop, and a school. For five years the town boomed until some 1,500 souls were residing in the burgeoning city.

But like other gold camps, Goldfield’s bustling days were quickly dashed when the vein of gold ore started to play out and the grade of the ore dropped even more. Just five years after it began, the town found itself quickly dying. The miners moved on, and by 1898 Goldfield had become a ghost town.

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The town experienced a brief resurgence from 1921 to 1926, when acting Arizona Governor, George Young, arrived on the scene with some new mining methods and equipment.  During this time, the town was briefly renamed Youngsberg in his honour, but once the gold was gone, the town died again.

But Goldfield was obviously not destined to die permanently. In 1966, Bob Schoose, a long time ghost town, mining, and treasure-hunting enthusiast made his first trip to the Superstition Mountains and instantly fell in love with the area. He moved to Mesa in 1970 and soon began to dream of owning his own ghost town. He had heard of the old site of Goldfield, but upon inspection, he found little left other than a few foundations and rambling shacks. He and his wife then located another five-acre site that was once the location of the Goldfield Mill and decided to rebuild the old town. Purchasing the old mill site in 1984, they first reconstructed a mining tunnel, which included a snack bar and opened for business in 1988. Next came a photo shop, the Blue Nugget, a General Store, the Mammoth Saloon and the Goldfield Museum.

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IMG_8748Today, Goldfield is filled with authentic looking buildings, and you can take a 20 minute narrated train ride ($8 per person) through and around the town on Arizona’s only narrow gauge train.

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The engineer is quite a character himself, and he tells you about the legend of the lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, supposedly located in the Superstition Mountains that loom spectacularly in the background.

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Along the side of the tracks are numerous relics and wrecks relating to the history of the town, the mine, and the original railroad.

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By the way, the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is that a German immigrant named Jacob Waitz discovered a mother lode in the Superstition Wilderness and revealed its location on his deathbed in Phoenix in 1891 to Julia Thomas, a boarding-house owner who had taken care of him for many years.  She sold her home in Phoenix and moved to Goldfield to cash in on the Gold Mine that Waitz had told her about.  She was never able to locate it and died virtually penniless.  Several mines have been claimed to be the actual mine that Waitz discovered, but none of those claims have been verified.

The town is filled with people in period costumes, and one of them had fun at my expense by making this fake scorpion come running at me.

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I didn’t exactly freak out and yell, but it did startle me which of course drove Mary into hysterics, because she had watched the entire “event” unfold while on the side of the street.

Apparently if you go on a weekend (which we didn’t), there are “authentic” gunfighter presentations on the main street of Goldfield.  There are also numerous souvenir shops as well as places to eat, and you can even pan for gold, or go for a trail ride while you’re there.

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You are made aware of the fact that even though this is a family friendly tourist site, you should not venture outside the defined boundary of the ghost town itself as you are very much in the middle of a living desert, and signs like this one are posted everywhere.

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If you are a purist looking for an authentic ghost town, then Goldfield is not the place for you, but if you are interested in 2 or 3 hours of inexpensive family fun, then Mary and I recommend you pay a visit.  We certainly enjoyed ourselves.

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