DAY TOUR WEST
Click here for MAP and driving directions from down town Tucson.
TUCSON MINERAL AND GEM WORLD, OLD TUCSON, ARIZONA SONORA DESERT MUSEUM, SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK WEST, PICNIC AND HIKING TRAILS
Traveling west out of Tucson on AJO WAY RT. 86, turn right on Kinney Rd. Near by off Bopp Road is the Triple C Chuckwagon dinner Club Call 520-883-2333) for information and reservations. Next at 2 miles from Ajo Way
TUCSON MINERAL AND GEM WORLD.(click for website) There are more than 100,000 Minerals, Fossils, Artifacts, Gifts and many Earth Science related items available for sale, Don't forget to check out the museum in back, you might be pleasantly surprised
Next down the road 2 more miles OLD TUCSON
OLD TUCSON famous movie location
Dial 520-883-0100 for information and prices
Two more miles down the road: or Click on Link for Information.
ARIZONA SONORA DESERT MUSEUM, a living museum that displays Animals, Plants, Geology of southern
Arizona and the Sonora Desert Dial 520-883-2702 for times and entry fees. (click for further information.
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK WEST, you are now in one of the largest stands of Saguaro cacti in the world some of these plants are hundreds of years old, a must see is the new visitors center located on Kinney road in the middle of the park, here there are numerous hiking trails and picnic areas.
Gilbert Ray campground, a State Campground areas has # of spaces with some full hookups available.
Backing up a bit and going east over Gates pass (the stop at the top in the overlook /rest area will give you a great view)
Continuing east you will come to the International Wildlife Museum (click for information link
Further east the road splits to the right is St. Mary's road,St Mary's hospital, Pima college West, and a number of Great Hispanic restaurants in the area then on to I-10.
Left at the split puts you onto Speedway Blvd. And back into town. This is a good loop for a nice day drive
DON'T LET YOUR OUT OF TOWN GUESTS PASS UP THE TUCSON MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCE
COURTESY OF DESERT TIMES / MONUMENT NEWS
by Ron Ratkevich
On the west side of the Tucson Mountains, Kinney Road is the main traffic artery that connects both private land and public facilities. This road is well paved and continually being improved by Pima County, and it courses it way through some of the most majestic Sonoran Desert scenery remaining within easy reach of the average tour buff. Kinney road actually is part of long circuit of roads that circles the craggy mountains joining Gates Pass Road to down town. Ajo way takes you there from the south side of Tucson and Mile Wide Road on the north and joins up with Picture Rocks Road and eventually, through a beautiful twisting mountain pass that weaves you back to the City.
These loops of roadway provide a great opportunity to show off our desert environment to out of town guests, or just as a get a way while the city below trembles with the scrambling of hundreds of thousands of people noisily on the move. Apart from an infrequent Harley convention or more frequent bicycle marathon, there is none of that constant commotion that is associated with urban living.
Once you access Kinney Road from Ajo Way, there are quite a few conveniences. A new McDonalds on the corner of Ajo Way and Kinney is a clear sign that the quite solitude of the west side will not last forever. A planned resort, a major golf course and high-end housing development is in the planning stages, but for now there's a mile-long stretch of desert and roadside peddlers before you reach "civilization," with a gas station, a convenience store, Tucson Estates,the Foothills, Sierra Villas developments and a fancy RV park. This is also restaurant alley with a business plaza and even a rock shop.
Development ends as you enter Tucson Mountain Park, a County Park the is not only spectacular for its pristine environments, but it also has some great recreational or tourist possibilities. The Pima County Archery Range that includes a practice range with targets from 15-100 yards, and two 14-target units lay out in field, hunter and animal distances. Water and restrooms are available and there is a $2 per person fee. It's open from 7 a.m. until dusk. A rifle and pistol range are close by with a rangemaster is on duty whenever the range is open (call 740-2680 for opening schedules).
If you are into camping but like to be semi-close to conveniences, Pima County's beautiful Gilbert Ray Campground offers 146 R.V sites with individual 30 amp electrical hookups and sites without electricity for tent camping. There is a $9.50 per day fee for a site with hook ups, and a $6 per day for sites without utilities. (Call 883-4200 for more information.).
Both tourists and locals regularly enjoy Old Tucson Studios, where many films and commercials have been made since 1939, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a zoo and botanical garden, fills the needs of any nature lover. Both are open most days of the year, but it's best to call for prices and schedules. Both attractions are rather expensive, especially if you have a large group with you, but you can spend much of a day at either establishment and soak up what the old west was like for the silver screen or get a feel for biodiversity. Both places have their own restaurants, shack bars and of course gift shops.
Just North of the Desert Museum, you enter Saguaro National Park, one of the gems in the crown of the National Park System. A new visitor's center will introduce you to all there is to know about the Sonoran Desert, and there is no admission charge. Hiking possibilities are nearly limitless and the stands of gigantic Saguaro cactus and other desert plants are second to none.
As usual, a visitor to some of these remote areas should become aware of some of the aspects of this desert that are potentially hazardous; Summer monsoon storms that can cause instant floods especially at dips in the road, but these are usually marked "Do not enter when flooded." lighting strikes during afternoon summer storms can be a hazard and rattle snakes can be common along hiking paths, In the summer heat, dehydration can creep up on you without warning, so bring lots of water and guzzle it even if you don't feel thirsty. Cactus, though beautiful, can be a nuisance for you or your pets if care is not taken to avoid bumping into some of the varieties, like the cholla, or so called jumping cactus. In reality, there are no more hazards here than any other wild place, only they are different and may be unfamiliar or unrecognized. The best advice is to read a couple of books on the Sonoran Desert before venturing out. Not only will learning about the plants, animals and geology make your journey more enjoyable, but you will feel more comfortable in this unique and unfamiliar setting. Finally, don't miss the unbelievable sunsets from the top of Gates Pass. Simply find a rock to sit on and wait for the sky to catch on fire as the sun slowly dips below the western mountains.
AJO, ARIZONA, A WORTHWHILE DAY TRIP
COURTESY OF DESERT TIMES / MONUMENT NEWS
by Ron Ratkevich
Ajo, the birthplace of copper mining in Arizona is a beautiful 2-hour trip from Tucson,and worthy a destination if you are in the mood for a day trip. In 1847 when Tom Childs came to the area, he found an abandoned mine with a 60 foot shaft, wooden ladders and rawhide buckets. In 1906 the New Cornelia Copper Mine, formed by Col. John Greenway using new methods for recovery of low grade ore, expanded the mine. Phelps Dodge bought the mine in 1921 and operated it until the mid 1980's employing, at times, more than 1000 miners. The mine is in the process of re-opening with plans to employ about 400 persons.
Ajo (pronounced ah-ho) comes either from the Tohono-O'Odham Indian word for red paint or the Spanish word for garlic. The Ajo lily is an onion-like plant that grows in this area.
Ajo, an unincorporated area of western Pima County in southwest Arizona. At a 1798 foot elevation, Ajo is surrounded by Sonoran desert and Mountains, isolated by the geo-political entities of Mexico, the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and the Barry M. Goldwater Range. The population is estimated at 3,500 plus a large influx of winter residents.
At the heart of the town of Ajo is a Plaza surrounded by arches and churches and lined by palms. Here you can find the railroad depot much the same as it was in the 1920's. While in the Plaza stop for coffee or sandwich at the Plaza Deli. Enjoy the view from their sidewalk tables, and chat with the locals. The Plaza presents a problem for large RVs, but there is a large parking area 1/2 block southeast next to the Chamber of Commerce building
Most of the businesses are located on N. 2nd Ave (HWY 85). Some are small and hard to find without a map from the Ajo/Why Business Association, available at Sue's Trading Post and Flowers as you come into town from Gila Bend. Maps of the town are also available at Ajo Copper News and the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce.
The old Indian Mission on the hill, overlooking the pit of the soon to re-open Phelps Dodge copper mine, is now the Ajo Historical Society Museum.
Next to the museum is the Window-Pane Observatory with it's 18 inch telescope. The low light pollution of this isolated location makes for interesting star gazing. This is a great place to observe an eclipse of the moon or a passing comet. For information write Box 842, Ajo, AZ 85321 or call (800) 727-4367.
About 50 miles east of Ajo is the Kitt Peak National Observatory.
To the east of town remains the tailing ponds, once the longest earth filled dam in the world.
There are many interesting geological formations in the area, most of which are volcanic in origin. Be sure to take the scenic loop drive around behind the mine. A loop drive guide/map is available at Si Como No! gift shop located near the Plaza across Talado Ave. from Don Juan's Cafe.
Take a walk in the past
Bisbee is the picturesque county seat of Cochise County and is only 100 miles southeast of Tucson. The community was founded in 1880 and named after Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the Copper Queen Mine. This old west mining camp proved to be one of the richest mineral sites in the world, producing millions of ounces of gold and more than eight billion pounds of copper, not to mention the silver, lead and zinc that came from these rich Mule Mountains. By the early 1900s, the Bisbee community was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco. It had a population of 20,000 people and had become the most cultured city in the Southwest. When mining operations became unprofitable in 1975, Bisbee could have become just another of Arizona's ghost towns, but it soon was "discovered" and was transformed into an attractive artist colony and retirement community. Since the late 1970's, Bisbee had attracted people from all over the world who savor its unique charm...an uncommon bled of creativity, friendliness, style, romance and adventure all wrapped in the splendor of the old west.
To stop in Bisbee, is to stop in time. Nestled in the mile high Mule Mountains of southwestern Arizona, Bisbee has maintained an Old World charm seldom found anywhere in the United States. It is so well preserved that it has been featured in many movies, not as Bisbee, but with a little movie magic, the town was transformed into turn of the century New York, Spain, Italy and Greece, to name a few.
The fine collection of well preserved, turn of the century, Victorian structures are full of old west history and copper mining lore. Old miners' boarding houses have been refurbished into many charming small Bed and Breakfast establishments, of which no two are alike. Former Saloons are now quaint shops, antique stores or art galleries, cafes and restaurants.
If you are taking a walking tour don't miss the world famous Brewery Gulch, which in its heyday, boasted 47 saloons and was considered the liveliest spot between El Paso and San Francisco. Other activities include the Queen Mine Tour, that transports guests down, into the now inactive copper mine, and a visit to the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. The Muheim House, best seen on your walking tour, is an outstanding example of 19th century architecture and elegance, and the Lavender open Pit Mine is breathtaking in its size and is a monument to miners who struggled to extract metals which laid hidden below hundreds of feet of solid rock.
Visit the Chamber of Commerce, located at 31 Subway Street, to pick up a free copy of an excellent walking tour guide of historic Bisbee.
If you are new to Tucson, don't miss the opportunity to visit Bisbee. If you have already been to Bisbee, you are probably hooked and will visit this remarkable community many times. For more information about Bisbee, call (520)432-5421.