In 1878, the town of Clifton built a jail by blasting out two cells from a solid granite cliff. The jail was cut out by Margarito Verala who upon completion, Verala celebrated by heading to the town’s saloon for a drink of whiskey… or six. He was so pleased with his work that after imbibing whiskey, he proceeded to pull out his gun and shoot up Hovey’s Dance Hall to attract attention. He wanted to let everyone know that the jail had been completed! Unfortunately, the saloon’s proprietor was also the town’s sheriff and he did not take kindly to his saloon being shot up. Verala was arrested and became the jail’s first guest.
Sign just outside the cliff jail’s window.
It’s said that no one ever escaped from the jail. The last time the jail was used was in 1906, when flooding was so overwhelming that the prisoners had to be taken out by rope through a small window.
Window which prisoners had to be rescued.
Subsequent floods over the years have raised the ground level. When the jail was originally built, it was much higher than the town and had to be approached by climbing up the mountain.
Entrance to the jail is usually kept unlocked.
Looks like a cozy place to stay….
Chain left in the jail in cell #2.
Cell #2 was not as large as #1 with the window.
Just outside the entrance of the jail is Arizona’s first baby-gauge locomotive (named baby-gauge because of the size of the track they lay on).
After exploring the jail, we stopped by the main street of downtown Clifton. It’s rapidly in the stages of becoming abandoned. A lot of the windows are boarded up but some life still remains, like an antique store. I don’t know if Clifton should be classified as a ghost town as there are plenty of residents outside of main street.
Cliffside Jail of Clifton Ghost Town Overview
- Coordinates: N 33° 03.330 W 109° 17.958 (across from the American Legion at 158 Frisco Ave, Morenci, AZ 85540)
- Fees: FREE
- Usage: Light
- Time Length: Less than 30 minutes
- Bring strong flashlights or headlights as the jail cave is dark.
- Pets allowed: Sure