You might be asking, “Were there dead horses?”. Not that we saw now but the owner of this ranch named it that after finding one when he bought it in the 1940s. There are live horses there today. For a small fortune you can go for a horseback ride.
The Dead Horse Ranch is along the Verde River and was one of the few that had water rights, a pretty important feature if the ranch was going to prosper and it did. They raised cattle and a family. In the 1970s the family donated the ranch to the state to become a state park. This is the same Verde River that flows through the valley at the base of McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
The park is on the outskirts of Cottonwood, AZ, a town of 12,000 between Prescott and Sedona. The plan was to stop here on our way to Winslow AZ and then over to Santa Fe. It turned out our friends Scott and Carol are campground hosts here for March, April and May. So we had a chance to see them as well.
Don’t they look official? We had dinner with them at their coach one night, Scott did a Boston Butt on his smoker grill. Their son and his family were there too. Lots of fun and energy with grandkids about. Another evening we went into Old Cottonwood for a supper and a stroll around the old town. It is always nice to see Scott and Carol.
The park has three lagoons (ponds) that were fun to ride our bikes around. One evening the late day light was good
Cottonwood exists because of the mining operations a couple thousand feet higher on the side of Cleopatra Hill in Jerome overlooking the Verde River Valley. Early explorations looked promising for copper. In the mid 1800s the first of the major mines began operation. The dangerous work and smelting operations didn’t keep more than 10,000 people from calling Jerome home by the 1920s. The first mines failed when the price of copper plummeted in the late 1800’s. New owners added a narrow gauge railroad from Prescott and better mining techniques. Another owner exploited a second copper deposit said to be one of the biggest ever found anywhere.
Over its 77-year life (1876 to 1953), this mine produced nearly 33 million tons of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc ore. The metals produced by United Verde and UVX, the other big mine in Jerome, were said to be worth more than $1 billion.
There are miles of tunnels under Jerome. Dynamite was used to open up new ore deposits. Eventually most of the Cleopatra hill side became unstable and much of Jerome slid down the hillside. The jail slid more than 250 ft down the slope. Fires were another frequent event. Much of the town burned down and was rebuilt over and over.
By the time the Hippies moved in the town was mostly a ghost town. By 2010 the population had rebounded to just over 400 people.
Today Jerome is a quaint tourist destination at the end of a very steep, winding and narrow road. More than 5000 ft elevation, lots of craft and gift shops, a museum, restaurants and a pretty good ice cream shop. I hope it stays as it is. There isn’t much room on the hillside to fill it up with the unappealing crowds, traffic and stores full of imported useless knick knacks.
A long way down to the valley below.
Everything is precariously perched on the hill.
Even the Bordello.
And the hippie vintage VW bus.
That is a good question. Look closely, Northern Sun Merchandising, Minneapolis, MN.
And a bit of an inside joke to just a few who can face up to it.
There was a street side local vendor selling her jewelry. This caught my eye.
From the valley at night Jerome is just a bunch of blinking lights.
We decided to take a drive up to Sedona. Lots of red rocks, stores with “Mystic” in their names, traffic congestion and crowds. Mostly a big giant tourist attraction, much bigger than is appealing to us.
The hardest choice was to turn around and go back (we never found a parking spot, didn’t try very hard) or continue on up through Oak Creek Canyon. We chose to press on to the proverbial winding road.
Looking back down the canyon from the top was better than looking at Sedona.
We got a selfie in at the top of the hill. Down the other side to I 17 and south back to Cottonwood. We had lunch at a new place in Cottonwood, sort of a 50s drive in.
A real chocolate malt, great onion rings and a couple good sandwiches in plastic baskets with checked paper. It was fun and good.
We really liked Deadhorse and Cottonwood and Jerome. This would be a great place to visit again and stay longer.
We are off to Winslow and the Meteor Crater.
More later, Much Love.
Roger and Susan
One thought on “Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ March 2019”
Great information on a by gone era! Wonderful photo of the early evening shine on the water!