Vulture Mine - This historic mine offers you
a peek of yesteryear through a self-guided tour of the remaining
buildings and mine site. Guided tours may be scheduled, as well as
camping and trailer park reservations. From the intersection of US 60/93
in Wickenburg, travel west on Highway 60/Wickenburg Way for 2.5 miles to
vulture Mine Road, then travel south 12 miles to the mine entrance.
The mine is open on Friday through Sunday, 8:00
a.m. to 4:00 p.m., during the spring and summer and on Thursday through
Monday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., during the fall and winter. Admission is
$5 for adults and $4 for children ages six through twelve. The tour is
not recommended for children under six. For more information, call
The Vulture Mine is where
Henry Wickenburg, who fled from
his homeland in Prussia in search of gold, found gold nuggets in
1863. The site was mined until 1942 and was the richest gold strike
in the state, valued at more than $200 million. When Wickenburg sold
the mine, he received $20,000 for his 80% share, plus a note for
$65,000. He was never able to collect on the rest because the new
owners said he didn’t have clear title to the mine.
Why the name Vulture? One popular legend tells that Henry Wickenburg
supposedly grabbed a stone to throw at some vultures, but discovered
that the stone he was going to throw was heavy with gold ore. In
reality, he more than likely saw the huge outcropping of white
quartz near the Hassayampa River
and understood that this material often contained gold. When he
investigated, he was rewarded and named it the Vulture after birds
he saw circling the peak.
The Vulture Mine tour:
Text and Photos by Carrie M.
The legendary Vulture Mine offers
visitors a glimpse of a vanished world, the chance to meet some
ghosts, and an object lesson in the grim cost of striking it rich.
Although the Vulture was the largest producing gold mine in Arizona,
it never paid off for its investors or its discoverer, Henry
Wickenburg. The mine changed hands several times due to theft
(better known as "highgrading"), the lack of a reliable water
supply, and a series of financial scandals and setbacks. It shut
down for good in 1942. Now, it is a popular tourist attraction,
luring visitors from nearby Wickenburg, the town named for the
The Vulture Mine’s self-guided
tour begins at the Vulture’s Roost, a wood-framed building
housing a collection of mining memorabilia and ore samples from
the mine and surrounding area. Visitors pay their admission, and
they are given a "treasure map" of the town, once known as
The first stop on the main street is the assay office and
manager's headquarters, one of the most complete buildings in
the ghost town. The structure’s walls, built from low-grade ore,
contain an estimated six hundred thousand dollars in gold and
silver. Visitors cannot enter the assay office itself, but they
can wander through the other sections of the building, including
the bullion storage room where gold and silver bars were stored
in an underground vault.
The ground floor of the living quarters is scattered with
remnants from long ago, including an
old Brunswick turntable, a Singer sewing machine, table and
chairs, and even an assortment of tattered clothes and shoes.
Antique bottles sit in an open window, festooned with cobwebs
and glittering with reflected sunlight. Those who brave the
steep flight of wooden stairs find themselves in the bedroom,
where an old metal cot lies in need of a mattress. The buckling
of metal in the wind and the creaking floor discourage the wary
The tour trail loops around to the stamp mill and the headframe,
which loom over the remains of the white quartz butte that first
attracted Henry Wickenburg to the area in 1863. Although
Wickenburg held the original claim to the rich mine, he ended
his life on the bank of the
Hassayampa River with a bullet in his head and pennies in
The tour continues to the Glory Hole, a pit that originated in
1923 when some miners chipping ore out of the rock walls cut
into support pillars and brought down one hundred feet of rock
on their heads. Other miners dubbed the resulting depression the
"Glory Hole" because seven of their companions and twelve burros
were "sent on to glory" in the incident.
Not far from the Glory Hole, the main shaft of the Vulture Mine
drops to a depth of two thousand one hundred feet at a perfect
thirty five percent incline. A concrete slab at the entrance
marks the place where Henry Wickenburg first made his strike.
Miners eventually removed two hundred million dollars of gold
from the bonanza and perhaps as much
into the pockets of miners, supervisors and freighters. Jacob
Waltz, better known as the "Lost Dutchman," worked at the
Vulture Mine for several years, and some stories hold that his
famous find actually originated from the common practice
stealing the Vulture’s rich resources.
The wooden headframe still towers over the entrance of the main
shaft. The opening is partially boarded up to protect visitors,
but one can still peer into the dark tunnel where bats drop from
the rafters to flutter uneasily at the echo of human voices. The
blacksmith shop sits next to the main shaft as if waiting for
operations to resume.
South of the blacksmith shop, a road leads visitors to the ball
mill where steel balls crushed rubble and low grade ore for the
cyanide leaching process used in the later years of the mine’s
production. The cyanide storage room, with its heavily barred
windows, and the ball mill sit at the far end of town
overlooking the white-encrusted leaching pits.
From there, the trail loops back to its beginning past the
mine’s tailings, Henry Wickenburg’s original home, and the
infamous Hanging Tree, where eighteen residents ended their
lives for the crimes of rape, murder and high grading.
Another group of buildings served as bunkhouses, a jail,
whorehouses, hotels and even apartments. Visitors also can tour
the old mess hall with its cast iron stove and wooden ice chest
and the odd assortments of pans, dishes and canisters.
Although it is not shown on the map, the original schoolhouse,
on the other side of town, is open to the public. A second
schoolhouse, built to accommodate the city’s growing needs, is
used for storage. Outside the schoolhouses, wooden picnic
tables, the remains of two wooden teeter-totters, and a
dilapidated slide and swing set entertain the imagination.
At its peak, Vulture City reached a population of five thousand,
but it now mainly houses rattlesnakes, lizards and an occasional
ghost. Speculation holds that the Vulture’s doors will once
again open to a flow of gold, as local lore hints that most of
the mine’s rich resources still lie untouched. Overhead,
vultures soar in the thermals as a grim reminder.
To reach the Vulture Mine, take Route 60 west two and one half
miles out of Wickenburg to the Vulture Mine Road. Turn south on
the road and travel twelve miles to the mine.