By Nicole Underwood / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(APACHE JUNCTION, AZ) - Arizona is full of rich history and alluring desert mystique, creating curiosity for those who have never explored its vast terrain. One such area of curiosity surrounds the history of mining towns and the people who once lived in these now vacant, dusty wooden buildings.
The west was once a region of life and vibrancy in the age of mining booms; the stories surrounding these spaces that were bursting with life — now a shell of secrets whispering what they used to be — is enough to attract people from around the world, for a chance to catch a glimpse, even if reenacted, into that time period.
Abandoned towns are commonplace in the history of Arizona and other southwestern states. The majority of these towns were originally built in the late 1800s to early 1900s, with over 130 documented ghost towns in Arizona alone. These sites include both abandoned and neglected sites, many of which are located in Cochise, Mohave, and Yavapai counties. However, there’s an estimate suggesting as many as 300 sites exist throughout the state, open to interpretation on how one defines ghost towns or abandoned buildings.
The most popular of these sites were former mining boom towns left abandoned when the earth’s riches disappeared, and mines shut down. Some spaces no longer exist due to the lack of preservation, while other places like Goldfield Ghost Town, located in Pinal County, have been recreated to offer a replica of what once was.
Goldfield Ghost Town is currently a town of entertainment to reenact moments of history while offering visitors a family-fun experience. Temporarily revived as the town of Youngsburg in 1920, named after then Phoenix Mayor George U. Young, the town has a long list of attractions, including an underground mine, a narrow-gauge train, a saloon, and activities like horseback rides, ziplining and an underground mine tour. While some aspects may not be historic, it provides a worthwhile day of learning a bit about history while having good ol’ fun relishing in nostalgia.
While the recreated town isn’t original, Goldfield was a real town over 100 years ago that resided close to the Superstition Mountains, and, true to its name, settlers discovered gold in the area. Miners flooded the region, mining, and shipping literal tons of gold from the area. As they settled, what is now known as Goldfield emerged, which had classic western town amenities like saloons, general stores, schools, and more.
The town boasted 28 buildings at its peak, with a community of up to 4,000 people. Now, less than 200 people call this place home. Goldfield boomed for the first time in the late 1800s and again in the early 1900s, but only for five years. The town was twice abandoned by its residents. As the stories of these towns typically go, once the gold was gone, so were the people, with a failed attempt to revive it in the late 1920s. Once a fire claimed its remains in the 1940s, there was little else left to restore.
The town's recreation was led by Robert F. Schoose in the 1980s, known today as “Mayor Bob.” Like many, Bob had a keen interest in the history of mining towns. Unlike most, he chose to invest in the land to offer an option to other curious travelers to experience the echoes of the past with the rebuilding of Goldfield Ghost Town. The attraction is free to visitors and is claimed to be laid out exactly how the town was in the 1920s, including the foundation transported from the original site.
Those interested in authentic history will enjoy the underground mining tour, offering a glimpse of what it was like for miners to work in those conditions. The tour has original, antique mining equipment for visitors to observe and learn about their techniques. You can learn more history about the area from the town’s museum and on the Superstition Narrow Gauge Railroad, a 20-minute ride around town with a storytelling train conductor giving you an overview of the town.
For those looking for more classic old western entertainment, you’ll enjoy the street western gunfight reenactments (which only take place on the weekends), the newly-added zipline attraction to enjoy a vantage point of the town from the sky, and the popular mystery shack, which includes optical illusions and quirky, gravity-defying surprises within. True to any attraction, you can enjoy their local gift shop as well to bring home a memory or their saloon-style restaurants to replenish after your dusty, western-town day.
Whether you crave a day of cowboy entertainment with your family or are curious about old mining days, Goldfield Ghost Town is a classic reconstructed western relic worth a stop.