Thursday – February 26, 2015
Castle Dome Mines Museum
A warm, sunny day beckoned to us as we paid a visit to Castle Dome Mines Museum today. The museum is located 30 miles north of Yuma in the ghost town of Castle Dome. Once a thriving industrial town bustling with more than 3,000 inhabitants, Castle Dome is now a deserted town-turned-museum filled with rich Arizona history.
Castle Dome Mines Museum is located in the Castle Dome Mountains of Yuma County, Arizona. It was first settled as a silver mining camp in 1864 in what was then the Arizona Territory. Silver was mined here until 1979.
The property that was previously Castle Dome town and mining camp was purchased in 1994 by Allen and Stephanie Armstrong, and turned into the Castle Dome Mines Museum. The museum site houses 35 restored and recreated buildings — seven original to the town, and the rest are period representations built mostly from locally scavenged materials. Each building, among them a saloon, a hotel, a mill, and a blacksmith, is staged to look like it might have looked in the town's heyday, some 100 years ago. There is so much to see here, so plan on spending at least half of a day exploring this wonderful site… a full day would be even better.
October: Tuesday-Sunday, 10-5
November – April: Daily, 9-5
May – September: Call for times they will be open.
Children 6 & Under: Free
Exit at Mile Post 55 on U.S. Highway 95. The entrance is 10 miles on this road.The first 3 three miles are paved, the last 7 are gravel. Four-wheel drive is not required during dry weather.
When the first Americans reached the Castle Dome Mountains in the early 1860s, there were already signs of previous mining activity. It was generally believed that Native Americans had engaged in mining in the Castle Dome Mountains some years before and backpacked the ore 18 miles south to a processing site on the banks of the Gila River, where remnants of adobe furnaces were found.
As mineral deposits began to be discovered up and down the Colorado River in the early 1860s, numerous mining camps and steamboat ports grew into towns along the river. Heading north from Yuma, prospectors staked gold and silver claims along the river and in the surrounding mountains.
Though prospecting and planning commenced years earlier, modern mining in the area didn't begin in earnest until 1869 due to hostilities with Native Americans.
The population of the town is said to have peaked at over 3,000 people, and rivaled Yuma in size as of 1880. At its peak, it housed a post office, a hotel, a saloon, a general store, and smelting facilities.
As with many mining boomtowns, mining activity diminished through the 1880s. Renewed mining activity began in 1890 as the area became a significant source of lead for both World War I and World War II.
After World War II, the demand for lead decreased, and the town again went into decline, though mining activity continued for some years in the area. The school was shut down in 1950, and the mines went into and out of use as the price of silver, still found in the area, rose and fell. By 1979, the mines were all shut down, and the last of the residents were gone.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.