|Name: Corral Canyon (FR4690) and Mowry Ghost Town||Author's Rating:|
|Author: Matt Marine||Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet|
|Type: 4WD||Difficulty: (Moderate 4WD)|
|Time: 4 -6 hours||Region: Southeast Arizona|
|Length: 4.4 miles (one way) for Corral Canyon; 0.4 miles for Mowry Ghost Town||Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +676 ft / -155 ft / + 521 ft (one way - Corral Canyon); +118 ft/ -0 ft / + 118 ft (one way - Mowry Mine)|
|Type: Through Trail (Corral Canyon); Out and back (Mowry)||Avg Elevation: 5200 ft|
|Best time to go: fall, spring, winter, after summer rains||Fees: NA|
|Fitness rating: Low||Educational Merit: Medium|
|Danger/fear rating: Medium||Scenic Beauty: High|
|Hours of Operation: NA||Last updated: August, 2014|
|Short Description: A wonderfully scenic 4WD trail through a remote canyon. Also included is a side trip to the well-known town site and mine of Mowry|
|Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: Mowry Attraction; American Peak; Land of No|
|References / Contact Information: Soutwest Arizona Ghost Towns; Wikipedia; Discover SE Az; Desert Museum|
|Points of interest: Scenic canyon in southeast Arizona, Mowry town site, Mowry mine, beautiful Arizona grasslands, lots of other Arizona ghost towns nearby|
|Special Considerations: 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). Use extreme caution around the Mowry Mines. They are very deep.
|How to get there: From Tucson, head east on I-10, take the Soniota exit and drive south on highway 83, then turn right on highway 82 toward Patagonia. Once in Patagonia, turn left onto Taylor Ave, then another quick left onto Mc Keown Ave, which quickly turns into Harshaw Rd. Drive 4.8 miles on Harshaw Road, then bear left at the major intersection (Harshaw Creek Road). Drive another 1.5 miles, then turn left onto San Rafael Valley Road. Continue south on this main road for approximately 2.7 miles until you reach the trail head at Waypoint 0001. Click here for directions.|
This trail winds its way through Corral Canyon south of Patagonia in the Coronado National Forest. During our trip in early August, the area had a nice monsoon the night before and there was intermittent water throughout the canyon, which made it extra nice. The trail criss crosses the wash numerous times and if you go during a heavy rainstorm, you may find yourself stranded until the water recedes.
Some areas of the canyon are covered with large trees and shady spots, while others are wide open with meadows and thick with grass. You will also pass by Farrell Spring which contains a working windmill and some small cattle troughs (where we met the Frog Prince).
A short excursion near Corral Canyon that shouldn't be missed is the old town site of Mowry. Although there's not a great deal left of the town, you'll be able to see some adobe and stone ruins leftover from its heyday. You can also visit the Mowry Mine, but be very careful. Although one of the shafts is gated for safety, another is not and they are extremely deep (I've heard people estimate it at ~400-600 feet deep).
If you're a ghost town fan, you'll find a ton of places to visit nearby. Harshaw, Dusquesne, Sunnyside, Washington Camp...
As with much of the history in this area during this time, details are hard to find and some seem to conflict with each other. This is the best I could gather from reading several sources. It is not meant to be a fully researched and verified history of Mowry.
The Mowry Mine was originally known as the Patagonia Mine and had been worked as early as 1857 by Mexicans, though some think the Indians worked it even earlier. In 1859 (different sources say 1860), Lt. Sylvester Mowry, who was stationed at nearby Fort Crittenden, bought the mine and gave it his name.
The mine began to produce decent quantities of silver, lead and zinc and a small town, also called Mowry, formed nearby. The mine produced about $1.5 million in ore during its life. Then the Civil War began and things went downhill. First, the Apache took advantage of having most of the soldiers called back east to fight the Civil War and they waged a determined and bloody war against the white settlers (and the Mexicans). Most of the miners and ranchers of southern Arizona either left, moved to larger and safer towns (Tucson) or were killed.
In 1862, Sylvester Mowry was arrested for selling lead to make bullets to Arizona Confederate militias. He was sent to the Yuma state prison and was imprisoned there from July 1862 to November 1862 when the state found no evidence to support the claim. Although found innocent, his mine had already been sold and he spent some years trying to regain it in his name. Ultimately, he failed to do so before his untimely death in 1871.
During the time that Mowry was away, the mine and town was almost completely destroyed by the Apache and deserted. Some sources say this was in 1863, but it was visited by John Ross Browne in 1864 and seemed to be either rebuilt or had yet to be destroyed. No matter when it was plundered, the town never fully recovered, though after the war, the mine reopened and was worked on and off until the early 1900s (though it never made a profit again).
Mowry had a post office from 1866 to 1913, with a period between 1880 and 1905 when the post office was closed. Author John Ross Browne visited the ruins in 1864. He would write the book Adventures in the Apache Country, in which he describes the mine and area before it was destroyed. Click here to read some excepts from his book and his description of the Mowry Mine.
Unfortunately, not much more than a few foundations, adobe walls and a stone building remain of the site today.
Note: There's confusion and inconsistencies in maps for the forest roads in this area. This information is the best of my knowledge at the time.
From FR58 (San Rafael Valley Rd), take a right onto FR4690 at Waypoint 0001. Caution: there is a private property drive just before this drive, which is not the correct road. Initially, the trail heads more southeast, but it will turn quickly toward the southwest. There are many signs in this area to keep OHV traffic on the road and off the fragile meadows. Please keep your vehicle on the road.
You will see a home with vineyards on your right (on the other side of the wash). Keep going down the main road. This first section is fairly wide open and the canyon will begin to narrow within the next half mile or so.
The road will criss-cross the wash numerous times while in the canyon. Be careful if you're driving this during the monsoon season (or any heavy rains). This canyon probably gets some substantial water and you may find yourself stranded (or worse) for a while.
Keep driving southwest along the main road. A few side roads lead off in both directions, always stay on the main road. I did not take any of the side roads during my trip and do not have waypoints for each intersection.
At Waypoint 0002, you will come to a large open field, corrals, gate and a unique water pump. At first, I thought the water pump was some sort of strange yard art. It was very cool. Pass through the gate and continue onward. This is a beautiful area with large trees, and if you go during the rainy season, green fields of grass near the corral.
Bear left at Waypoint 0003, the road to your right leads down a short canyon. I don't believe it goes anywhere of interest, though I did not take it during our trip.
Keep going down Corral Canyon to the southwest, after about 2.5 miles from the starting point, you will come to an intersection at Waypoint 0004. The road on the left is FR5526 and maps say this is a shortcut to the end of the trail, but I have not been on it and do not know the condition.
To stay on the main trail, continue straight here. After a short distance, you will come to Waypoint 0005 near Farrell Spring. We found the windmill in working order and two small cattle troughs filled with water. We also found a good-sized frog in one of them whom I named the Frog Prince of Corral Canyon. This beautiful creature was a Leopard frog and he seemed to have a grand domain to rule.
Not too far after Farrell Spring, you will come to a cattle pond at Waypoint 0006. We've been there when the pond was completely dry, but this time it was almost full. A thin line of clear water from the recent rains fed the pond from the mountains to the southwest.
Immediately after the pond, take a sharp left turn back to the southeast. You will begin a climb up to the ridge. This was the most difficult part of the trail when we ran it. Some of it is fairly steep, with decent sized rocks, sharp corners and a few tight spots (mine shaft of one side with a sharp drop on the other).
Ten years ago, a friend of mine said this portion of the trail had a very difficult boulder section in which he actually broke his CJ5 frame on. I don't know whether the Forest Service did some repairs on it or the rocks just got filled in with dirt over time, but it wasn't "frame breakingly" difficult when we went.
Once you get to the top of the ridge, the going gets much easier. You will pass some more mines on your right at Waypoint 0007. Keep straight. At Waypoint 0008, bear right to stay on the main trail which turns into FR5525 here. A left here will take you to FR5526 (the shortcut mentioned earlier) and back down into the canyon.
Head down the hill and through the large trees in the valley out to FR214 at Waypoint 0009, a semi-maintained dirt road that can take you to the Mowry Town site trailhead. Just prior to FR214, you will need to bear left again, the right heads back into the valley, but doesn't go anywhere significant that I know of (dead ends fairly shortly).
Mowry Mine and Town site
From the junction of FR5525 and FR214 at Waypoint 0009, head west along FR214 for 0.4 miles until you reach the second turnoff to the right at Waypoint 0010. It is not clear if these Forest Roads are open, you need to choose to park here and walk up or not, the directions are the same.
In less than a tenth of a mile, you will come to the Mowry Town site ruins on your right (Waypoint 0011). There are some old adobe walls and concrete slab right next to the road. Did you notice the bricks holding up the slab on the south side? As far as I know, this is all that is left of the town site now, though there may be more ruins in the surrounding area hidden by the thick growth. From historical accounts, most of the original buildings were destroyed by the Apache in the 1860s.
The adobe walls are in bad shape. I do not expect them to last much longer. Without proper maintenance and a roof to protect them from the elements, they wear down very quickly.
Once you're done exploring the town site, continue heading straight on the main road to get to the mine. The road on your right immediately after the adobe building may be a shorter way to get to the mine on foot, but it's probably a bit more treacherous.
There are a few side roads on your way to the mine, stay on the main trail. At waypoint 0012, you will find an old stone building. There are also two VERY deep mines nearby, one on the main road that has some steel bars over it for safety's sake, and another on the road heading slightly downhill from the stone building (this one doesn't have any safety features). Be careful. If you fall into one of these, you will probably not be getting back out. After exploring the building and the mines, turn around and go back the way you came in.