Communities along Route 60 accent the stark beauty of the Sonoran Desert, from Brenda on the west on through Hope, Vicksburg, Salome, and continuing through Wenden on the east of the stretch of 60 through La Paz County. The road is studded as well with stops leading to old towns, historical locations, mines, and other assorted desert treasures. In Salome, the legendary Cactus Bar sits on the spot it has occupied for 80 years, the classic adobe modern structure in the form of the original, hosting karaoke and live music various nights of the week. A walking tour of the history of the area begins at the McMullen Valley Chamber of Commerce Building.
Some twenty-nine miles along Highway 72 from the California-Arizona border, Bouse was a mining town in the form of a tent city in its early years around 1860. By 1930, nearby mining town Swansea was booming and the ore that had supported Bouse had gone bust. The town went on as an agricultural and transport juncture for the region.
In 1942 General George S Patton made the area the site of a top-secret military training camp. Camp Bouse was unlisted among the dozen desert training locations scattered throughout the Sonoran Desert from California to Arizona. Troops stationed there learned desert survival and battle techniques, and tried out new technologies that were designed to bring the war to an end, like the Big Gizmo tank, on display at the Desert Training Center Museum.
Modern Bouse is known for its unique strength of community, with a herd of long-time local residents and a flock of regular sunbirds who travel to the area in the winter for the climate and bring with them a booming economy and population. History abounds around the area, from the site of the Alaska Hotel that was the Assay Office in 1902 onward, and the mining shack from 1910 that originally sat in Swansea but was donated and moved to Bouse as part of the mining museum.
In the heart of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, at 879 feet above sea level, lies the historic town of Quartzite. Known for its pleasant sunny warm wintertime climate, the town offers more than 60 RV parks to host the thousands of visitors who flock to the town through the winter, fleeing harsh snow and cold in the north.
Even more visitors pour into town for the annual Gem & Mineral Show, where some of the most stunning treasures that have been extracted from the earth in the area are on display, many for sale and some for viewing only. Attendees find just the right gift for loved ones or a memoriam from their time in the mineral-rich desert with its legends of fortunes won and lost in the hills around Quartzite. Locals and visitors savor the stunning desert views in the valley that is ringed by low hills. Sunsets are legendary for their rich colors and memorable solar descent into peaceful desert evening after a warm winter day.
The Currier House was home to brothers Benjamin and John Currier in the early 1900s in Quartzite. The talented brothers were actors, miners, and prospectors who worked claims variously in Colorado, California, and Arizona, including the nearby Plomosa Mountains. The old adobe structure with its small forge that the brothers used in their work is among the finest original adobe structure in Quartzite. The brothers lived in town from the turn of the century until their passing in 1941 (Benjamin) and 1942 (John).
Ehrenberg and Cibola
The towns of Ehrenberg and Cibola were once transit hubs for Californians on the way to the treasure fields of the La Paz rush and other mineral strikes throughout the region. Earlier even then these travelers, the Cibola area was host to the native peoples, especially of the Mohave and Quechan groups. The Cibola refuge showcases a diverse range of native plants and desert creatures, as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Around 1863 a town known as Mineral City began to develop around the ferry port of the brothers Isaac and William Bradshaw. In 1866 the town was renamed for surveyor Ehrenberg (who had been killed in Dos Palmas, California). The port thrived and sent tons of minerals like copper, gold, and silver from the Arizona mines to the banks and businesses of the west in the 1870s along the Colorado River.
County Courthouse – Overview and History
Judge Hagley’s white clapboard home was the courthouse in his day. Born in Quartzite, Judge Hagley went on to serve with US forces in World War I. Upon returning to his native town he won election to the post of Justice of the Peace in the 1940s, and then he presided over court matters in the living room of his house by day and lived upstairs at night nearly from then on through 1977 when he passed away.
History and Mystery – Ghost Towns and Forgotten Mines
Like all areas of wilderness and desert terrain, exploring the uninhabited areas around La Paz County takes some common sense and reasonable preparation. There is little water available, so any ventures in the area, by car, off-road vehicle, horse, bike, or hiking, should include adequate water supplies for each person (and animal) in the group.
Know where you are going before you venture off. Leave word with friends, park rangers, or others as to your route so that in the event of trouble you can be found. Cell phone service is unpredictable and often unreliable in some of the remote areas of the county. Dress appropriately for extreme heat and intense sunshine, which can be offset by dramatic temperature drops at night to very cool temperatures. Be prepared for changes and carry appropriate gear. Rain can be heavy in July and August, as well as less intense rains on occasion throughout the winter months. Rain can cause flash flooding in desert canyons and gullies. Be aware of conditions and know your location.
The town of Swansea, Arizona was inspired by its namesake, Swansea, Wales in Great Britain, another mining town like the one that grew up in the desert from the late 1800s on. What remains of the ghost town are a large brick smelter that served the mine, a dozen or so buildings, and the remnants of a thriving town a century ago. In the early 1900s the Clara Consolidated Gold & Copper Mining Company took over the operations and oversaw a boom time in population growth and production from the mines.
The Clara Consolidated closed operations in 1912 but other interests took it over and continued the mining and smelting in the area until 1924, when the town finally died out. To get to Swansea take Arizona Highway 72 about 27 miles southwest out of Parker, take Main Street NW and turn L onto Raydar Road to follow the dirt road to the Bouse Y trailhead, take the left fork, Swansea Road proceed 5.7 miles to Four Corners Road and continue 7.2 miles to Swansea.
The Harquahala Post Office was established in March 1891. The town grew up in support of the Bonanza and Gold Eagle veins, which were first hit back in Nov. 1888. Famous for casting gold into 400-pound ingots that broke the transport wagon floors, the town had its own newspaper, the Harquahala Miner. The post office closed 31 Dec. 1932 and the town was done. Few ruins remain for intrepid visitors who come to explore the memories of another rich mining town gone back to nothing in the harsh Arizona desert.
Planet, Arizona got its start around 1863, when the Planet Copper mine was considered the “second copper mine in Arizona worked by Americans.” The town got a post office in March of 1902, which remained active almost twenty years until March 1921. To find the place that had been Planet take Swansea Road from Bouse on State Route 72 to Four Corners. Continue on Swansea Cutoff Road, and then find Planet Road on the right; continue to the Planet gate. The road is comfortable for 2-wheel drive vehicles.
In Silent the citizens lived in dugouts. There were three general mercantile stores, a hotel, saloon, dance hall, and other assorted businesses in support of the Red Cloud Mine. In Nov. 1880 Silent Post Office was established. It lasted only until 13 Mar. 1884 and was closed. Currently there is a watchman on duty at Silent, as the Red Cloud Mine today is the primary world supplier of Wulfenite.
The Winchester mine, discovered by Dick Wick Hall, attracted some 2000 residents virtually overnight. With a telephone line and an auto stage line to Vicksburg, Winchester was the largest town along the Arizona-California railroad. Gold was struck 15 Mar. 1909 and within a month, by April 1909, the mine had supplied some $30,000 worth of gold, and was done. Played out. The short lived town remains one of the striking stories of boom and bust, fortune and failure, among the faded cities of the Arizona desert in La Paz County.
Tyson’s Well Stage Museum
In 1866, the source for water for travelers, locals, and their animals was Tyson’s Well along the stage route. The town grew to provide meals and accommodations for those on the Arizona stage going overland toward California or heading east after having been to the coast. In 1893 Tyson’s Well had its first post office. Today historical remnants and memories are available for curious visitors and modern travelers passing through the area.
Often called the “Lighthouse in the Desert,” the only stable water source between Wickenberg and Ehrenberg was found at Cullen’s Well. It was started in the mid-1880s by Charles C. Cullen, and the legend goes that a young man on his way through died within shouting distance of the life-saving fresh water of the well, as it was night time when he approached and he could not see the well just ahead. A light on a pole was installed after the incident and the name “Lighthouse in the Desert” applied to the well. Only a part of the well remains a century and a half later, but the legend highlights the power of the desert over people in a previous time, when travel was not so automatic and easy and life depended on one’s community and knowing the resources around you.
Founded in 1928, Brenda was named for the daughter of homesteaders Grover and Anna Spitznagel (her twin brother, Bruce, had no community named for him). The town supported the Ramsey Mine, about ten miles south, which was active from 1921 through 1960. When the mine closed and the I-10 bypass went around town, Brenda faded out, but has revived in modern times with a growing RV community of residents who travel to the area seasonally and enjoy the climate and beauty of the desert along with the history and stories that come with the town.
The founder of Salome, Dick Wick Hall, is featured on a marker and gravestone at Center and Hall Street in town.
The Harrisburg Pioneer Cemetary is the final resting place of 33 original residents of town. Markers tell stories of lives lived in transition; born in cities far to the east some years before and died in the 19th century in a small Arizona desert town.
Tyson’s Well and some early Quartzite pioneers are interred at the “Hi Jolly Cemetary” named for Hadji Ali (Philip Tedro) the camel master for the US Army’s experimental camel corps that crossed through the region in the 1850s.
Source for the county name and one of the most distinct communities in the colorful history of Arizona’s territorial past, La Paz was actually in New Mexico territory when it was established in 1862. The following year President Lincoln created Arizona territory, of which La Paz was one of the main towns. While the town was famous for the quantity of minerals produced, and as the farthest west confrontation in the US Civil War, all that remain of the town are some crumbling stone foundations and a historical marker signifying the deep history of the once powerful little town in the remote southwest.
Since the county voted to split off from Yuma County in 1983 the La Paz County Sheriff has been on the job, overseeing county roads and laws from Parker to Quartzite and in all the unincorporated areas of the county. Current Sheriff William “Bill” Risen oversees the department and all its divisions from boating safety to traffic patrol and much more on the water, roadways, and byways of La Paz County. In the 35 years since its founding, La Paz County has had six sheriffs, including the first five:
• Rayburn Evans
• Marvin Hare
• Hal Collett
• Don Lowery
• John Drum
The La Paz County Sheriff’s Department serves local residents, visitors, and travelers with safety and first responder services to maintain quality of life, independence, and peace in the area.
Parker Police Department
Parker Police Department serves the 6000 plus residents and many more annual visitors to the town everyday throughout the year. Services and departments include patrol, school resource officers, boating safety, animal control, civil, criminal investigation, and more.
Quartzite Jail sits about 100 yards off of the street, behind the large metal building that is the current jail. A 12-foot by 12-foot concrete building, with the door from the former territorial prison in Yuma, the jail held inmates and drunks overnight to transfer to Yuma for trial.
Distance and General Direction from Parker to Phoenix
Parker, the county seat of La Paz County Arizona, sits on the east bank of Colorado River, about 154 miles northwest of Phoenix. By car, I-10 southbound by way of Arizona 72 and Arizona Route 95 is the quickest route from the county seat of La Paz County to Phoenix, the state capital.