With its rich history in mining, Arizona is home to over 200 ghost towns. Unfortunately, majority of these have been reduced to nothing more than the rubble of building foundations or no longer have any trace of civilization and have simply reverted back to empty land. Here are 10 of our favorite ghost towns that have been well preserved (considering Arizona’s harsh climate)… and are actually worth visiting.
Nestled in the Black Mountains near California’s Mojave desert is a ghost town ruled by wild burros. Oatman was founded in 1908. During its height, its mines produced over 1.8 million ounces of gold. Today, the town has a population of 135 –that doesn’t include the burros. Burros first came to Oatman with early day prospectors. As the mines closed and people moved away, the burros were released into the surrounding hills. The donkeys today are descended from the pack animals turned loose.
See our trip report & photos of the Oatman Ghost Town:
Close to the US-Mexico border and with a definite aura of creepiness from being in the middle of nowhere, Ruby is one of Arizona’s top preserved ghost towns. Founded in 1870 and closed by 1940, Ruby is notorious for the Ruby murders, which led to the first largest manhunt in the history of the Southwest.
See our trip report & photos of the Ruby Ghost Town:
Clifton is actually a town that still has a pretty robust population for a ghost town. With a 2014 census of 3,626, Clifton residents have proved to be more resilient than most ghost towns. At its height in 1910, the population was at 5,000. What makes the town unique though is its jail built inside a solid granite cliff.
See our trip report & photos of the cliffside jail in Clifton Ghost Town:
4. Vulture City
Vulture City was one of the richest gold mines in the United States. It produced up to $200 million in gold until it was closed in the 1940’s. It is one of the few well preserved ghost towns in Arizona, still retaining the founder’s original cabin, which is right next to an old ironwood tree on which 18 men were hung. Because of the violence and turmoil throughout its history, Ghost Adventures filmed a “lockdown” investigation of Vulture City (season 4, episode 7).
See our trip report & photos of the Vulture City Mine Ghost Town:
5. Castle Dome Landing/City
The original Castle Dome Landing, once located on the banks of the Colorado River, is now submerged beneath the Imperial Dam reservoir in Martinez Lake. In 1994, restoration and relocation began on nearby property that was part of the previous Castle Dome town and mining camp. You may be disappointed that this isn’t the original site however, seven of the buildings on the new site are original and this ghost town is packed to the brim with period artifacts –about 70% were originally from Castle Dome. If you love looking at old stuff, Castle Dome is a must visit.
See our trip report & photos of the Castle Dome City Ghost Town:
In its heyday, the mining town of Jerome had a population of 10,000, significantly more than the 444 residents today. At some point the town dwindled to fewer than 100 but was saved from oblivion when the residents turned to tourism. Jerome made its mark on the world when it became the focal point of a 1917 strike in which those involved were expelled at gunpoint, loaded onto cattle cars and shipped west.
See our trip report & photos of Jerome:
Bisbee is another ghost town similar to Jerome that saved itself by turning to tourism. Bisbee was discovered in 1877 by Jack Dunn, who stumbled across a mineral deposit when he was tracking a band of Apaches. Bisbee has a very colorful history in which its residents of the past seem to still be hanging around. Nearly every hotel has a couple resident ghosts, including John Wayne.
“The town too tough to die” is un-arguably the most famous ghost town of the American Wild West thanks to the Earp and Clanton conflict that led to the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”. Tombstone, founded in 1879, had a population of 100, grew to 14,000 (and 110 saloons) in less than seven years, then dwindled down to 600. Today it stands at 1,380 with just a handful of saloons remaining, and draws revenue from tourism, which includes the ability to watch a reenaction of the infamous gunfight 3 times a day.
Fairbank is one of the towns that never really took off. At it’s height in the 1880’s, there were only 100 residents. It sort of lived off of Tombstone by holding the nearest railroad station. It acted as a way point between Tombstone and the rest of the country. So when the Tombstone mines went underwater (literally), so did Fairbank. It did have its fair share of lawlessness like Tombstone, including an attempted train robbery by the Burt Alvord gang. Today it is managed as a museum town by the Bureau of Land Management.
See our trip report & photos of the Fairbank Ghost Town
Although deemed a “tourist trap” on many review sites (majority of the reviews are positive for the most part), Goldfield Ghost Town is actually the site of a real ghost town. Goldfield was created in 1892 by the rush that followed the discovery of gold in the vicinity. By late 1897 the gold mines had played out and the population moved out leaving a ghost town.
See our trip report & photos of the Goldfield Ghost Town:
Visit our ghost towns tag for more abandoned sites not listed here.