It’s been seven years since we’ve explored the rolling grasslands of Sonoita. We thought enough time had passed to warrant another visit south and with the temperatures slightly cooling down, we decided to take the adventure-mobile in search of the old mining town of Kentucky Camp!
In 1874, some lucky miner found placer deposits of gold (mixtures of gold, sand, and gravel. Water is used to separate the gold from the dirt) in the Santa Rita Mountains. With this discovery, a gold-rush caught on and the Greaterville Mining District was developed in 1875.
There was a problem though.
We’ve mentioned this once, twice… okay a dozen times in our past blog posts, but southern Arizona is very dry. So how did those miners separate the gold from the dirt?
There were a few running streams (seasonal runoff) in the area so miners would haul sacks of dirt to these small streams. This was extremely labor intensive so by 1886, the easy pickings were exhausted and most of the miners moved on. In 1902, an engineer from California by the name of James Stetson brought his hydraulic mining idea to Tucson investors. They formed the Santa Rita Water and Mining Company and Kentucky Camp became their headquarters. By mid-1904, the water system was complete. In 1905 however, 1 day before a stockholders meeting, James Stetson fell to his death from a window at the Santa Rita Hotel in Tucson. By 1912, Kentucky Camp was abandoned.
We used the GPS coordinates 31.736944,-110.728611 to find Kentucky Camp however, once off the main road and on the dirt road, GPS became uncooperative. The road splits into two, left towards the Santa Rita Abbey, right towards private property. We ended up circling the Abbey several times –this was the wrong way so hopefully we didn’t disturb the nuns of the monastery… To find the correct route, take the right in the split in the road. You’ll bypass quite a few private property signs but eventually there will be signs pointing the direction to Kentucky Camp.
The dirt parking lot is .25 miles away from the camp. On a good day, the gate enclosure to Kentucky Camp is open and visitors can drive right up to the site.
The 800-mile Arizona Trail runs right through Kentucky Camp.
First cabin spotted. This cabin has the original flooring therefore it is closed up.
The assay/main office, which is filled with information and old furniture.
Looks like husband has been trying to cook again….
Hydraulic mining equipment. This would shoot water onto the hillside deposit.
We explored parts of the Arizona trail but it was still a very warm day so we didn’t tarry too long and instead went in search for sustenance at the nearby cowboy watering hole.
Sonoita is popular in Arizona for its vineyards so after lunch, we ventured into Winery Row and ended up at our very first winery, Kief Joseph Vineyards. We are not wine-people (any wine with an alcohol content over 7% has fumes too overpowering >_<) but we did enjoy our visit to Kief Joseph.
Kentucky Camp Ghost Town Overview
- Coordinates: 31.736944,-110.728611
- Fees: FREE
- Difficulty: Easy
- Usage: Light
- Things to note:
- High clearance vehicle recommended.