I didn’t have the opportunity to write my blog yesterday. We drove out to the Castle Dome Museum and Mines and then geocached our way back down the gravel road to the highway before driving back into Yuma. By the time we got to the hotel after dinner I just had time to go through my photos before bed, as we couldn’t be lazy and sleep in this morning.
The Castle Dome Museum is an old mining ghost town. In the late 1800’s it was a booming silver galena and lead mining area with over 300 working mines; some as deep as 450′ vertical shafts into the rocky desert. There were mines being worked up to 1979 when the price of silver went so low it was not viable any longer. We wandered in and out of the buildings for most of the day.
We have been to ‘Ghost Towns’ before and there wasn’t very much different about this one, but I always enjoy the stories you hear in old deserted towns.
Just like the blog on the Territorial Prison and Quartermaster’s Depot this one will be mostly photographs. I take pictures of all kinds of things that interest me in these old places and also photograph a lot of the placards that tell the stories. So here goes….
We drove east out of Yuma through miles and miles of irrigated farm land before turning north on Highway 95. We then drove over 1/2 an hour before turning off onto a gravel road for another 12 miles. The area is also home to the Kofa Wildlife Refuge. Apparently there are Big Horn Sheep and Tortoises as well as rattlesnakes and scorpions living in the desert. Hanging in the sky that we could see from miles away was a large white blimp. We asked the folks at the museum what it was and the fellow said no one knows for sure (The US Army Yuma Proving Grounds covers a vast area here), but the best guess was that it was used for border surveillance to watch for airplanes trying to enter the US from Mexico (mostly drug runners). You can just make out the tether line in this photo.
Castle Dome City got it’s name from the unusual feature in the Dome Mountains. The museum had two sections: first was all the town buildings then you drove back down the road to a second parking area to do the walking tour past some of the old mine shafts and a few more buildings. All the buildings had placards saying what it was, or whose it was, and often there was another that gave more information about the building and its owner.
I liked the little stained glass window in the school house.When you build a town in a desert you use whatever wood you can find. Many of the walls were made from old fruit boxes or blasting powder boxes.
All the rooms in this building were covered with signatures of military; retired and active. It was a nice tribute I thought. The barber shop had this unique figurine in a glass case in the corner. This building was representative of a 1950′ garage. The old gas pump had been beautifully restored. This was the crushing mill where the rock was broken up to get at the ore. The old steam boiler had a huge hole it from when it exploded.
Many of the artifacts were recovered from the original buildings or nearby areas. Much of it was covered with a layer of dust but, since it is a desert with open doors you can’t do much about it.
The Mercantile was quite well stocked with supplies and necessities for the miners. The jail at the back of the little Sheriff’s Office had a stone cell for miscreants to languish in. And a coffin waiting for those who resisted arrest.
The hotel was beside the Sheriff’s Office and the upstairs was roped of as a “Private Residence;” this is probably where the owners live. And the church was on the other side of the Sheriff’s Office. It had an old pump organ with the pieces in frames on the walls on either side of the pulpit. The Dress Shop had a roped off section at the back with what looked like authentic period costumes. Some of the ones in the open section looked like they had been gathered from thrift stores or the like. I liked the way they had a display of gaudy saloon girl outfits and off in the corner were the plain gingham ones for the proper ladies. The Blacksmith shop had a huge bellows and a large press. It said on the placard that the largest amount of the smithies work would be sharpening the drill bits.
The Bank was the only stone building in the town. It wasn’t very big either. Just past the bank was this gigantic digger. I can only imagine the poor mules pulling sections of this thing into the desert.And down hill behind the digger was a mine – probably not a real one – but the interesting thing in the tunnel was the display of florescent glass objects. The ore in the Castle Mines contained a lot of florescences and two other chemicals that glow under a black light.
The last businesses in the town were in the same building; the Silver Saloon and the newspaper office. This is a very creatively made wheelbarrow. We went back to the truck had a PB&J sandwich and drove over to the mine walking tour area. There were a lot of very deep fenced off holes in the ground. It took us about an hour to walk around. The bunk house was quite a large building and had a separate bathing area at the back with a big galvanized double-shower, a wood sink and tubs at the back.
We learned the correct pronunciation for the Saguaro Cactus. We also asked the lady at the museum if there was anyway to tell the age of a Saguaro. She said, not really but they do know that a cactus will not sprout any ‘arms’ until it is 75 years old. So this solid column is not over 75. After that it is just a guess but obviously one with several large arms would be very old.
The view from the upper balcony was not bad. The cemetery didn’t have too many graves in it. There were a few cards telling about the demise of some of the residents. This concluded our tour of the Castle Dome Museum and Mines. It was a fun day. There were two series of geocaches between the museum and the boundary of the Yuma Proving Grounds land (there is no stopping over that section of road) for a total of 24 geocaches. We found them all and passed the tethered blimp on the way by. We found one more cache right at the highway turn-off and then headed back to Yuma as the sun was setting. We did a lot of walking so it was good to sit down to dinner and then go back to the hotel.