Photography of lesser known Backroads
Calico is a ghost town located in the Mojave Desert region of Southern California. Founded in 1881 as a silver mining town, today it is a county park. It is located in unincorporated San Bernardino County off Interstate 15, 3 miles from Barstow.
The Virgin River has helped to create several impressive Southwestern landscapes, starting with the great white cliffs and canyons of Utah’s Zion National Park and ending at the upper end of Lake Mead in Nevada, where it eventually meets the Colorado River. In between, it flows across the very northwest tip of Arizona for 30 miles, through two gaunt ranges of hills – the Virgin and Beaver Dam Mountains, which have similar, Grand Canyon-like scenery of eroded, stepped cliffs and terraces of metamorphosed sandstone. The Virgin Mountains are the more extensive and isolated range, running alongside the river as far as the north edge of the lake, and forming the southwest edge of the Colorado Plateau; to the west stretch the flat, arid plains of the Mojave Desert, terrain that extends for hundreds of miles across Nevada and California. The Beaver Dam Mountains are a little more accessible but just as rugged and scenic, and part is a designated wilderness area – an untamed region of Joshua trees and cacti, lizards and mountain sheep, and much colorful, weathered rock.
Along the Virgin River if one wishes to experience the pioneer spirit one may wish to check this out along Interstate 15 just exiting the Virgin River Gorge to the north several pioneer ruins are visible although almost un-noticeable access can be found by taking Beaver Dam Littlefield exit and following it through Beaver Dam and following old highway 91. On the right you will see an access road stating Virgin River access the first authorized road on the right take this road and follow this map once parked you can hike the rest.
JENSEN LIME KILN – Built in 1903 by Jens L. Jensen, Richfield well known lime burner cured lim for mortar to be used in rock and brick structures. The kiln measures 20 feet high and about 20 feet in diameter, with a wall thickness of 8 feet. Over his lifetime, Jensen went blind because of the heat of the kiln. The kiln is located at the north end of Richfield (under the I-70) overpass and remains the same today as when it was operational.
History and Activities: Historically, the Swell was crossed by various expeditions during the exploration of the West but received virtually no permanent settlement. More recently, the area has seen sporadic mining operations – principally for uranium (most intensively around the Temple Mountain area) but also for small amounts of copper, silver, oil and gas; otherwise, ranching has been and continues to be the only major use of the land. Herds of wild horses and burros roam the plains, and bighorn sheep may sometimes be spotted in the canyons. Most of the tracks across the swell result from prospectors in the early to mid twentieth century, and these provided the only access until 1972, when the interstate was constructed, dividing the region in two.
Various exits now allow easy entrance to the middle section and link with the old tracks, most of which are good for regular vehicles and quite well signposted. Hiking and exploring are the main reasons to visit nowadays – there are trails to mountains, historic sites, old mines and the numerous canyons – these offer experiences ranging from extended, strenuous trips like the hike through the Black Boxes of the San Rafael River to easy walks such as that down Little Wild Horse Canyon.
Temple Mountain: The most accessible area of the San Rafael Swell is around Temple Mountain in the southeast, beside the road to Goblin Valley State Park. Half way to the park (6 miles from UT 24), a side track branches off westwards and cuts right through the reef, the only such road along the whole eastern edge apart from interstate 70. There are many good places for free camping either side of the road, all with nice views over the reef and the San Rafael Desert – a good alternative to staying at the Goblin Valley campground, where the fees are $15 a night. The road becomes unpaved but still fine for all vehicles as it follows the canyon of South Temple Wash into the reef, where multicolored walls of Wingate sandstone rise up to 500 feet. Two sections of the cliffs on the north side have quite impressive pictograph panels, though mixed with modern graffiti. The cliffs recede on the far side of the reef to reveal an angular landscape of numerous red ridges, ravines and cliffs, with a prominent peak to the north. This is Temple Mountain – site of one of the main mining areas in the Swell, it was in use from 1910 to about 1960, extracting large amounts of uranium ore from strata of the Chinle formation. Many shafts, stone buildings, spoil heaps, rusty iron equipment and other debris remain in place, plus a large winch tower, and a walk around the mountain on old mine roads makes for an interesting hike of 2 hours or so. The rocky badlands beneath the mountain are also strewn with many pieces of petrified wood, the Chinle sandstone being the same formation as found in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. The old tracks branch off the main road at the site of Temple Mountain village, a settlement that was built to service the miners and once included a gas station and general store, though little trace remains today.
Access: The largest town nearby is Green River, 18 miles east of the reef on I-70; this is also a convenient base from which to explore the Canyonlands region to the southeast and Desolation Canyon to the north. The town has a selection of shops and cheap motels, and the John Wesley Powell River Museum – besides its interesting exhibits this has a good selection of local books and topographic maps. UT 24 and its side roads give access to the southern swell, and along here is found Goblin Valley State Park, the most visited site in this area. The northern half falls between US 191/6 and UT 10 and amongst the routes heading inwards is the unpaved Buckhorn Draw Road which leads to the single most impressive viewpoint – the Wedge Overlook from where many square miles of eroded canyons around the San Rafael River are viewable.
The historic stone cabins built with native sandstone by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930′s as a shelter for passing travelers.
The Cabins – Anasazi Petroglyph’s
The petroglyph’s depicted here can be located upon the rock wall directly behind the cabins, once entering the park the directions to these formations are provided within the park informational pamphlet provided at the entrance gate.
Along Highway 95 in the eastern part of Esmeralda County is a town made famous by the Earp brothers, Wyatt and Virgil, following their famous gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Wyatt was already in Goldfield and wrote Virgil, who was living in California at the time, to move to Goldfield where “money was following like wine.” Virgil arrived in Goldfield in the spring of 1904. Soon after arriving in Goldfield, he was hired as a deputy sheriff. Wyatt was working as a pit boss in Tex Rickard’s gambling casino. On July 8, 19 05, Goldfield suffered its first major fire when a stove exploded in a millinery shop. The town was saved when the wind shifted but not before two blocks of business houses burned to the ground. Three months later, Virgil contracted pneumonia and died. Wyatt left Nevada shortly after Virgil’s death and spent many years mining in the Whipple Mountains on the California side of the Colorado River. He died on January 13, 19 29 at the age of 80.
Founded in 1902, Goldfield boasted a population of 30,000 during its boom year of 1906 when it produced $11million in gold. The town probably has the longest bar in the history of mining towns. The bar, Tex Rickard’s Northern, was so long it required 80 tenders to serve its customers. By 1912, ore production had dropped to $5 million. Those who recognized the signs began to leave and Goldfield eventually became what it is today-a ghost town. A drive south on highway 95 from Tonopah will take you to Goldfield-one of the must see towns
While there step back in history and visit the Santa Fe Saloon – Santa Fe Saloon was built. One of Goldfield’s oldest continuously-operating businesses, the saloon continues to offer four motel rooms as well as being a popular oasis in the desert. Complete with its false front, western wood sidewalks and rough floor planking, inside sports an original Brunswick Bar, dominating the Santa Fe’s back wall.