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Name: Arivaca Adventure Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: - (Easy 2WD/4WD to Moderate 4WD - See description)
Time: 6 hours to an entire day if you want to do all the trails listed in this adventure Region: Southwest Arizona
Length: 23.3 miles total (roundtrip) Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +1024 ft / -10224 ft / 0 ft (roundtrip)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 3600 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Low-High Scenic Beauty: Medium
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: December, 2014
Short Description: A series of typically easy trails near Arivaca that take you to an old mine, ghost town, mock tanks, mill site and an arrastra
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: Colorado Peak; Turkey Lurkey; Cholla Hill
References / Contact Information: Arrastras; 2S1 Self-propelled Howitzer; Cerro Colorado; John Poston; John Poston Grave; Charles Poston; Cerro Colorado Mine; Good Enough Mine;
Points of interest: Good Enough Mine, Las Guijas town site, mock tanks, an Arrastra, John Poston's Memorial
Special Considerations: Please be respectful of the ruins, arrastra and everything else you see out there. This is our history. Let's preserve it! Also, entering mines is extremely dangerous. I do not recommend it and do so only at your own risk. Route finding may be difficult. Lots of unmarked roads in the area, not all of which are noted herein. Lots of old mines in this area, stay away from open mine shafts and be careful of mine tailings.Trail is located in illegal immigrant and smuggler high traffic area, see page regarding warning (it's not as bad as it sounds).
How to get there: From Tucson, head south on I-19 for about 33 miles until you reach the Arivaca Road (Amado) exit (Exit 48). Take a right after exiting, then at the stop sign, take another right, then take your first left onto Arivaca Road. Head west on Arivaca Road for about 14.5 miles until you reach Waypoint WPT001. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is a series of short trails that make an awesome day exploring some beautiful and historic places in southern Arizona. To begin, you will pass the grave of John Poston. Actually, that's not quite right. It's not where John Poston is buried. It's the grave of a Mexican miner who died 40 years after John was murdered. Hmmmm. Then there's rumor of buried treasure in the area. But don't grab your metal detectors just yet. Read the history of John Poston and Cerro Colorado and decide for yourself if there's hidden silver out there waiting for you to find it.

You will also see what I call the "Arivaca Armory" - three Russian tanks sitting by themselves in the desert. Ok. I just lied again. They're not tanks, but actually self-propelled howitzers. And they are not actual running hardware. They are mock-ups which are most likely used for instrument and weapon calibration by the Air Force.

If you're brave enough, you can also go visit the Good Enough Mine. This is not the famous Good Enough Mine in Tombstone and I doubt if it would pass a safety inspection to bring in tourists, but it's very interesting just the same.

You can have lunch at the ghost town of Las Guijas. There are a bunch of old foundations and some ruins to what looks like an old mill.

Finally, you can view the rock walls of another mill and an old arrastra. See the history below if you don't know what an arrastra is.

Most of the trails are easy 4WD to moderate 4WD. The hardest section is a washout on the way to the Good Enough Mine. This road has deteriorated greatly due to the past year's summer rains.

General Information and History

Arivaca Armory
This is my name for a set of three "tanks" out in the middle of the desert northeast of Arivaca. These "tanks" are not really tanks at all. They are sheet metal mockups of Russian 2S1 self-propelled howitzers sitting on trailers. They have been out there for years. It appears the Air Force still uses them for practice. Luckily, it's not bombing or gunnery practice. I believe they may use them to help calibrate their instruments or weapon systems. Friends of mine have been there while the jets flew by, low and fast. It can be quite exciting (or scary) to have a jet sneak up on you over the hills and blast over you only 100 feet off the ground.

2S1 "Gvozdika"Self-propelled Howitzer
Here's a photo of an actual 2S1 howitzer. This 122mm self-propelled howitzer was first deployed by the Soviet Union in the early 1970s and is still in use by many countries today. It had a crew of four, weighed in at 16 tonnes, and could fire a conventional round out almost 10 miles.

John Poston Memorial and Cerro Colorado
John Poston (1830 - 1861) was the brother of Charles D. Poston, who was known as "The Father of Arizona". John was killed by Mexican miners and outlaws in 1861 near the grave site in the small town of Cerro Colorado.

Cerro Colorado was established by Charles Poston in 1855. It was one of the first mining towns in Arizona. The main mine in the area was the Heintzelman Mine (now known as the Cerro Colorado Mine). The mine produced a good deal of silver, some of which was stolen by Mexican miners who brought their loot back to Sonora, Mexico.

Times were tough for everyone in those days in Arizona, but they got exponentially tougher for miners in 1861. The US Civil War broke out and the government pulled all of the soldiers out of Arizona to help fight the war. This left a huge vacuum in Arizona. Lawlessness ensued. Outlaws and the Apache took advantage of the lack of a military appearance and began to wage a 10 year bloody war on all settlers in the area. Most ranches, small towns and mines were attacked and ultimately deserted by the settlers.

The town of Cerro Colorado was no different and Charles Poston left the area in 1861, leaving his brother in charge of the mine and town. During that time, a portion of the mine collapsed, killing 15 Mexican and Indian men who worked there. Many of the remaining Mexican miners thought the mine was haunted and left for their homes in Sonora.

One day, John's mining foreman, Juanito, was caught taking some stolen silver back to Sonora. Having enough of these thefts (the mining operation was halted many times to deal with this problem), John decided to execute Juanito as an example to the other miners working for him.

In the end, this worked against John. Not only did the execution not stem the tide of thievery, but it reportedly increased afterwards. Since the missing silver was never recovered, rumors grew that Juanito had buried it close to the mine before he was caught. This brought on many Mexican outlaws looking for the treasure.

A group of Mexican banditos (working in conjunction with the remaining Mexican miners) destroyed the mine looking for the silver, then tortured John Poston and some German miners in hopes they would tell them where the silver was hidden. They didn't and were killed. The silver has never been found. But, I doubt it is still there, if it was ever buried at all. My guess is that it was found shortly afterwards by others in the area and they smartly did not tell anyone else they'd found it.

Back to the grave. The concrete memorial sitting just outside of Cerro Colorado is not the eternal resting place of John Poston though. It appears he was taken to Arivaca by his brother and buried the same night as his murder.

The grave at this location began as a grave for a Mexican miner who died when the roof collapsed in a mine in 1901. At that time, It was just a flat slab with a grave below. Mexican bandits and Indians robbed the grave for loot and destroyed it doing so.

Much, much later, one of John Poston's great grandsons decided to make a monument to him and built the concrete grave/memorial you see there today.

Las Guijas
I don't have any information other than the site was discovered in 1860 after miners found gold in the area.

From Wikipedia:
An Arrastra (or Arastra) is a primitive mill for grinding and pulverizing (typically) gold or silver ore. The simplest form of the arrastra is two or more flat-bottomed drag stones placed in a circular pit paved with flat stones, and connected to a center post by a long arm. With a horse, mule or human providing power at the other end of the arm, the stones were dragged slowly around in a circle, crushing the ore. Some arrastras were powered by a water wheel; a few were powered by steam or gasoline engines, and even electricity. Arrastras were widely used throughout the Mediterranean region since Phoenician times. The Spanish introduced the arrastra to the New World in the 1500s. The word "arrastra" comes from the Spanish language arrastre, meaning to drag along the ground. Arrastras were suitable for use in small or remote mines, since they could be built from local materials and required little investment capital. For gold ore, the gold was typically recovered by amalgamation with quicksilver. The miner would add clean mercury to the ground ore, continue grinding, rinse out the fines, then add more ore and repeat the process. At cleanup, the gold amalgam was carefully recovered from the low places and crevices in the arrastra floor. The amalgam was then heated in a distillation retort to recover the gold, and the mercury was saved for reuse. For silver ore, the patio process, invented in Mexico in 1554, was generally used to recover the silver from ore ground in the arrastra.

Arrastras can be very old or could have been built more recently (early 1900s). They were a cheap and fairly easy way to extract desired minerals from ore in small quantities.

You will see different spellings for arrastras, sometimes with only one 'r' (arastra) and sometimes with an 'e' (arrastre).

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The Trail

NOTE: The are a LOT of trails in this area. I have not created waypoints or directions for every intersection. Typically, stay on the "main" trail unless otherwise noted. I also may not have included all the gates, etc. Route finding may be difficult without a GPS or detailed maps.

See Map page for Google Earth images also.

Arivaca Armory
(Easy 2WD/4WD)
From Arivaca Road, head northwest on Las Guijas Cerro Colorado Road at Waypoint WPT001. There's a nice place to air down your tires just off the pavement here.

Continue 0.2 miles along the road until you come to a small parking area on your left (Waypoint WPT002). There's an above ground concrete grave for John Poston here. As noted in the history, I do not believe his remains are here, rather they are in Arivaca. But this is a nice memorial.

Keep straight after another 0.2 miles past the road on your right at Waypoint WPT003. Do the same thing for Waypoints WPT004 and WPT005 after another 1.3 and 0.2 miles respectively.

Drive along the main road for another 0.7 miles until you reach Waypoint WPT006. Take a right onto the side trail. Keep driving. After 0.65 miles, pass a road on the right at Waypoint WPT007. Also, keep straight past road on left after another 0.25 miles at Waypoint WPT008.

Keep going straight for another 0.7 miles until you reach the tanks at Waypoint WPT009. You will find three mock tanks sitting on trailers. It's fun to back up next to one and take a picture as though you're actually towing it.

The tanks are made out of sheet metal and are a little flimsy. Please be careful around them and don't damage them in any way. If you want to climb on them, do so along the frame under the sheet metal seams. Also, please don't deface or actually hook up and try to tow these. We want them to continue to be open for all to see.

When you're done enjoying this unique feature of the Arivaca area, head back the way you came in. Drive back to Waypoint WPT008. If you want a different way out, you can turn right and drive the 0.88 miles to the main road at Waypoint WPT010 (or you can go back the way you came in until you reach Waypoint WPT006. Turn left to go back to the trail head or turn right to continue your Arivaca adventures.

From Waypoint WPT010, head west along main road. Drive southwest, passing the road on your left at Waypoint WPT011 after 0.27 miles. You will pass another road after an additional 0.58 miles on your left at Waypoint WPT012. Keep these roads in mind, you will be using them if/when you do the side trail to the mill and arrastra. For now, keep straight.

Shortly after Waypoint WPT012 you will enter the Las Guijas Wash. Keep driving for another 0.47 miles until you see the corral, windmill, water tank and ranch on your left at Waypoint WPT013. Keep straight to go to the Good Enough Mine and Las Guijas town site

Good Enough Mine
- (Moderate to Demanding 4WD)
From Waypoint WPT013, continue west on main road. Drive 0.38 miles until you reach a gate at Waypoint WPT014. Go through the gate and drive another 0.72 miles on the main road (you will see some trails off to the left shortly after going through the gate). At Waypoint WPT015, take a left onto the side trail.

Very shortly after making the turn, you will come to a shallow wash and road on your left (Waypoint WPT016). Continue straight across on the main trail. The far side of the wash crossing is deeply rutted and the most difficult section of the entire adventure. I don't believe it would be an issue for any stock Wrangler, but other stock 4WD vehicles without as much articulation and ground clearance may have issues here. If you're concerned, park your vehicle and hike up to the mine. It's not too far (about a mile round trip). It is my understanding that this wash crossing has gotten significantly worse since the summer rains and could easily become further washed out after any big rain storms.

Go through the wash and over the washouts toward the mine up in the foothills. The trail can become overgrown in this area and hard to follow in fields of tall grass. After 0.45 miles from Waypoint WPT016, you will reach the end of the road at Waypoint WPT017. The road used to continue, but has been severely washed out. Park here and hike up to the mine. See map and Google Earth images on Map page for more info.

As you look toward the mine you will see three levels of tailings. The mine entrance is on the lowest level. We did not climb up to the two upper levels of tailings. I have heard it's not worth the climb. You can hike up the remains of the road and pass by the numerous refrigerators littering the area. There must be 5 - 10 around. I wonder why they needed all the refrigerators?

There's a shallow wash on your right and when you reach it's apex at the base of the lowest tailings you're there (about 0.1 miles). There's a mine on your left and one on the right that looks more like a crack than a mine opening. We went into the mine on the right. I have heard the one on the left has nothing of interest.

NOTE: Entering mines is dangerous and can result in serious injury or death. I don't recommend it. If you do go, be prepared. It's best to bring lots of flashlights and backup batteries, hard hats, etc. Don't disturb items inside the mine. Watch for vertical shafts. Have someone outside as an emergency contact. Be safe!

We only went back about 100 yards, to the wooden chute with the vertical vent shaft next to it. From there, it split and I don't know how far it goes beyond this.

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of mines and usually never go in, but this one was pretty cool. However, I did get very scared when I thought about those old boards holding back the tons of rock and how they could break at any moment, sealing us in. Although interesting, it was nice to make it out to the sunshine again.

When you're done looking at the mine and the old fridges, head back to the vehicles and back down to the main road. When you reach Waypoint WPT015, take a left to go to the Las Guijas town site if the mood suits you (or turn right to head back home).

Las Guijas Ghost Town site
(Easy 2WD/4WD)
From Waypoint WPT015, drive west in the wash for 1.18 miles until you pass the road on your right at Waypoint WPT018. Then it's only another 0.62 miles until you reach the town site at Waypoint WPT019. There's a large parking area on top of the hill with ruins and foundations on all three sides of the hill. This is a nice place for lunch if you choose to do so. Take some time to explore the area and try to figure out what some of the left over equipment was used for. It's also nice to go down below the main set of ruins to see the "Las Guijas Beach" (my words).

When you're finished, return the way you came in. Drive all the way back to Waypoint WPT012. If you want to see some more history, take a right onto this side trail.

Mill and Arrastra
- (Easy to Moderate 4WD)
Head south from the main road at WPT012. Continue on this road for about 1.13 miles and go through the gate at WPT020 (road on right). Keep driving for another 0.48 until you overlook a small valley on your right. At Waypoint WPT021 you will find the rock wall remains of what appears to be a small mill on the right side of the road (near the valley). On the adjacent small hill on your left you will also find circular stone walls that may have been a cattle tank or lookout.

After looking at the mill, drive down the hill to the wash in front of you. Bear left at Waypoint WPT021A (0.17 miles from mill) and head back up the other side. This section is the hardest of the trail and can give your vehicle lots of new scratches.

It's another 0.45 miles to Waypoint WPT022 and the arrastra on your right. There's a small parking area here and the arrastra may be difficult to find if you don't know where to look. It's only 20-30 feet from the parking spot, but the grass can hide it effectively. There are lots of mines and mining trash in the area too.

From the arrastra, continue along the trail for another 0.1 miles until you see a mine on your left at Waypoint WPT023. No parking here. More mining trash. An old gas tank, etc.

Continue along the road for another 1.2 miles until you take a left at Waypoint WPT024, then it's another 1.2 miles until you reach Waypoint WPT025. Bear right and drive the last 0.2 miles until you reach the main road at Waypoint WPT011.

Now, all you have to do is follow the main road back to Arivaca Road a little over 3.5 miles away.

I hope you had fun on this adventure.

Have fun and be safe!

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