Sunday, February 25, 2007

Richmond Basin Exploring


We've finally got some fantastic weather happening here in Arizona. Sunny and cool, perfect for exploring the backroads!

We went to Richmond Basin yesterday with Larry & Jean.The road is a great one for Jeeping, not too tippy, (well, maybe in a few places) some pretty good canyon drop-offs to keep us on our toes and gripping the seats. The views were spectacular.

So much mining took place in Richmond Basin, with huge operations beginning in the 1800s. The largest being the Silver King Mine. (A German prospector looking for gold traded his claims for a mule, the Silver King and Silver Nugget Mines turned out to be the most profitable silver mines ever worked)
In the book "History of Arizona and New Mexico, 1530-1888," By Hubert Howe Bancroft and Henry Lebbeus Oak, they wrote, "The Silver King lode differs from any other known, being a circular chimney of ore, with thousands of veins centring <sic> in it. The mine has a depth of over 800 feet, and though the ores are refractory, the production has been over $6,000,000. in silver". (this was in 1889 dollars)
Today, little remains of the camp which once employed up to 700 miners working the Silver King and surrounding mines. Standing on the mesa overlooking the Richmond Basin you can still see where the majority of workers and their families once lived. Vague remnants of structures and stone outlines are all that remains. Scattered throughout the Richmond Basin area are quite a few sample digs, deep, ominous looking vertical shafts, crumbling headframes, remnants of stamp mills, bridges, tailings, sample cores and roads that no longer lead anywhere.
There were several modern-day claim markers in the area, probably people still looking for gold as evidenced by the black sand piles we saw. There is silver ore imbedded in many of the tailings we found, but of course it wouldn't be profitable to try to recover it due to the high cost of silver reclamation and today's silver prices.

The Richmond Basin area would be an ideal spot to camp and take a few days to fully explore what's left. The scenery is some of the best we've seen in Arizona, mountain views, huge canyons and clean, crisp air.