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Name: Carpenter's Well Ruins Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: No votes yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Easy 2WD/4WD)
Time: 3 - 5 hours Region: Southwest Arizona
Length: 16.5 miles total (roundtrip) Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +820 ft / -820ft / +0 ft (roundtrip)
Type: Loop Avg Elevation: 3700 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: November, 2015
Short Description: An easy 4WD trail to some ruins and an old dam down near the border
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: Cholla Hill; Jolly Roger; It's Mine!
References / Contact Information: Buenos Aires Refuge
Points of interest: Old adobe ruins, Yellow Jacket Dam, beautiful scenery, Buenos Aires Visitor's Center
Special Considerations: Trail is located in illegal immigrant and smuggler high traffic area, see page regarding warning (it's not as bad as it sounds). Short hikes are required to visit the ruins and the dam.
How to get there: Click here for details on how to get to Buenos Aires Visitor's Center from Tucson. Take Ajo Way (hwy 86) west out of Tucson until you reach Three Points (~20 miles). Turn left onto Sasabe Road (hwy 286) and drive 37.5 miles until you reach the Buenos Aires Refuge entrance. Turn left and drive 2.1 miles until you reach Antelope Drive on right at Waypoint 001.

Trail Description

This is an easy trail which takes you through some beautiful desert country down near the border where you can hike to some old ruins and a good-sized dam.

The trail begins near the Buenos Aires Visitor's Center. If you have time, stop in to the center. Although small, there are some interesting displays inside.

Most of the trail is high-clearance 2WD, with only a few areas that may require 4WD. In bad weather, this trail may become much more difficult. You will have to cross and drive in several canyons and washes that may flood during heavy rains.

Carpenter's Well Ruins
You should be able to reach the ruins with a high-clearance 2WD vehicle in most weather.

To get to the ruins, you will have to park near Waypoint WP004 (there's not a lot of parking there) and hike through the desert. There is a small turnout or bypass not too far south of there that may accommodate more vehicles. There used to be a road leading to the ruins, but it has been closed off - please do not try to drive there from the main road. But you can hike along the old road, though it can be difficult to follow at times. The ruins can be seen from the main road, so you shouldn't get lost.

The ruins look like they were originally done with adobe, then the adobe was plastered at a later date and bricks placed on top of the wall. They are more extensive than I originally thought, with a few large rooms. It is obvious the building was lived in during more recent times with semi-modern plumbing and electricity.

I found it interesting how the plaster was becoming separated from the adobe walls. We also found what we believed were the ruins of the old outhouse and at least one more building (perhaps a tack room?). There's also an old corral and water tank near the homestead.

Yellow Jacket Dam
Yellow Jacket dam is a concrete dam which spans a narrow section of an unnamed canyon. It is typical of the dams located throughout this area in that it is filled in with sediment and made from hand poured concrete in short levels. It is curved correctly (I have seen some that are backward) toward the water. We found some of the actual buckets used in the construction of the dam.

Arrieta Mine
This is a two mile side trip to an old mine in the foothills. We thought we may find an old arrastra up there (from Google Earth images), but they turned out to be water tanks. There is an old dam near the mine. We did not have time to check it out. The mine is typical of those in the area and may not be worth the detour. There are some nice corrals near the start of the trail.

Castle Rock Tank
With a name like Castle Rock, I expected more out of this side trip than what it turned out to be. It was a fun trail and at only 1.5 miles, it doesn't take too long, but again, not a lot out there but a large dirt tank.

General Information and History

I do not have any information on Carpenter's Well Ruins or Yellow Jacket Dam. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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The Trail

You should be able to reach Carpenter's Well Ruins with a high-clearance 2WD vehicle in most weather. After that, this adventure may require 4WD.

At WPT001, head south on the dirt road just before you reach the Visitor's Center. Note: There are LOTS of trails leading off this trail in either direction. Not all of these are noted in the description.

Follow this road southeast for about 1.8 miles until you reach Waypoint 002. Keep straight past the road on your left. Drive another 1.95 miles until you pass a road on your right at Waypoint 003. Keep straight.

Keep an eye out for Carpenter's Well ruins on your left. Drive almost another 0.2 miles until you reach Waypoint 004. If you have room, park here. It may not be possible to see the old road leading to the ruins, but it's there. Hike the 0.15 miles to the ruins at Waypoint "Carpenterswell".

When you're done exploring the ruins, walk back to your vehicles and continue southeast on the main road. Drive 0.7 miles until you reach Waypoint 005 at a road on your right (there's a road to the right just before this that is NOT the road - it is a dead end).

This road is also well-traveled. Take a right at Waypoint 005. Drive 1.5 miles east on this road, going up and over a small saddle about 2/3 the way through. At Waypoint 006, take a left onto another well-traveled dirt road.

Drive south for 0.27 miles until you reach a small open area for parking on your left at Waypoint 007. You can see Yellow Jacket Dam as you head down the hill just before you get to the parking area. You can then hike the 0.13 miles to the dam (Waypoint Yellowjacketdam) from here if you wish. It is all bushwhacking. We found that quickly crossing the wash and staying to the right of the canyon was the easiest route. If you're lucky, there will be water running over the dam. Once you're finished with the dam, hike back to the vehicles and continue driving on the road you came in on.

Drive 0.6 miles until you reach Waypoint 008. Take a left here onto another well-traveled dirt road. Drive 1.0 miles until you reach Waypoint 008a (passing Rock Tank on your left) before turning left at the intersection and heading up Arrieta Wash.

Drive 1.0 miles up the wash until you reach Waypoint 008b, keeping left at the intersection. Head northeast for almost 0.5 miles before reaching an optional spur road at Waypoint 009. Taking a right here will lead you to Arrieta Mine about 2.0 miles away (Waypoint Arrietamine). To continue without going to the mine, keep straight at this intersection.

Drive 0.72 miles north until you reach another spur road at Waypoint 010. A right here will take you to Castle Rock Tank (Waypoint Castlerocktank) about 1.5 miles away. It's a nice, scenic drive, but not too much different than what you've already been on. To continue, keep straight at this intersection. You have almost completed the loop. Drive 1.66 miles until you reach Waypoint 005, which is where you left the trail a while back. Keep straight here and continue down this road until you reach pavement near the Visitor's Center again.

Have fun and be safe!

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