The most profitable gold mine in Arizona history is the mine called Vulture Mine, located in the desert of Maricopa County. The mine is in the ghost town, Vulture City, just south of Wickenburg, Arizona, a town aptly named after the founder of the Vulture Mine, Henry Wickenburg. Recently, I took a trip to Vulture City to learn more about the rich history that helped to shape the area and what that looks like today.
Henry Wickenburg was a California miner who found quartz in the Arizona desert in 1863. Upon further inspection, Wickenburg discovered gold deposits among the quartz and thus Vulture Mine was founded. Vulture City grew around the success of the mine. Vulture City became big enough to earn it’s own post office, with the population growing to over 4,000 people at one point.
At the peak of it’s success, the mine was producing hundreds of ounces of gold. Dozens of men were employed by the mine for jobs including mining for the gold, processing the gold, keeping track of the gold, and shipping the processed gold bars. A lot of the equipment used in this process has been salvaged and is on display in Vulture City.
One of the most important machines for the mine was the Pneumatic Air Compressor. It’s purpose was to power the drills for the mine, which made this machine crucial to the business. This behemoth of a machine was powered by a diesel engine that reportedly was so loud and powerful that when running, caused the building it was in to shake and the ground to vibrate. This powerful machine is still standing today, though it has been moved from the outcropping to the main area of town.
Unfortunately, Vulture Mine was shut down in 1942 by the government and Vulture City was abandoned and lost to time. It sat abandoned for decades, until the current owner purchased the land in the early 2000’s and began restoring the property. Due to the required shut down, the mine had not run dry before it’s closing, and gold still remains yet to be extracted to this day. A new mine has been established on the property with the aim of doing just that.
Today Vulture City has been opened up to the public and can be toured. The owner has restored several buildings and resurfaced many artifacts for you to enjoy. One of the main attractions is the infamous ‘Hanging Tree’ just outside of Henry Wickenburg’s home, where 18 men were said to have lost their lives by hanging for crimes such as stealing gold. For more information on planning your own visit to Vulture City, you can go to https://www.vultureminetours.com/information