Arizona conjures images of dusty landscapes speckled with prickly, statuesque saguaros, rolling tumbleweeds, and the blazing sun.
And though the state is technically still quite young—founded just over a century ago—passers-through still associate it with the gun-slinging showdowns and bombastic gold rush days of the Wild West.
It’s one reason why kitschy ghost towns like Tombstone and Goldfield bring in such huge crowds day after day. What many tourists (and even locals) don’t realize, though, is that Arizona’s most profitable mining town, Vulture City, isn’t too far from either—and it arguably offers a more authentic glimpse into those raucous, gold-happy days.
THE DAVID RUSH TRAVEL SHOW
Vulture City Making A Comeback
The 1863 gold mine which gave life to Wickenburg is all but forgotten by modern residents of the town, but that may change in the near future. Restoration is being breathed into the ghost town which surrounded the mine, and owners hope to make it a tourist destination.
The Birds Have Flown Vulture City
Arizona has many ghost towns, but among the finest is Vulture City near Wickenburg. It began life in 1863 after Henry Wickenburg discovered the Vulture mine (supposedly he was retrieving a vulture he’d shot when he found it). Gold fever would lead to a town of some 5000 people with a school, post office, saloon, stores, brothel, assay office (and, in later years, a gas station) becoming, at the time, one of the richest towns in Arizona.
Mine Tales: 'Comstock of Arizona' yielded millions in gold, silver
While prospecting along the Hassayampa River in October 1863, Henry Wickenburg and several associates discovered a gold-bearing quartz outcrop 500 feet long, 400 feet wide and 100 feet tall.
Wickenburg named the future mine the Vulture after he saw turkey buzzards hovering over a nearby peak.
THE VINTAGE NEWS
Vulture City, once home to Arizona’s most productive gold mine, ended up a ghost town
In the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, prospector Johannes Henricus Wickenburg discovered a deposit of gold in 1863. As often happened, once the mine was established, a town grew up around it. The Vulture Mine was the most productive in the state’s entire history.
With the advent of World War II, the mine was closed in 1942 by the War Production Board as it was considered a “non-essential mine” that did nothing for the war effort. Protests from the miners caused the mine to reopen, but it never regained the potency it once had, and a few years later it was closed for good.
Vulture City: A Ghost Town comes back from the dead in Arizona
What makes a great ghost town? Lots of buildings to see and explore, artifacts to see and wonder at, an easy to reach location, great legends, true history and the possibility of being haunted. Vulture City has all of these qualities and a Hanging Tree too.