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Name: Hackberry Cabin Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Easy 4WD though see trail description for more information)
Time: 4 - 6 hours Region: Central Arizona
Length: 10.3 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +1491 / -957 ft / +534 ft (one way)
Type: Out and back (through trail with alternate exit) Avg Elevation: 2600 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: May require a State Trust Land permit (see update on permit page).
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: January, 2013
Short Description: A spur road off the Ripsey Mine trail that leads to an old rock cabin, spring and dam
Offroad Passport Forum: Click here to join the discussion on Offroad Passport
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. Tin House; Big-Yuk-a; So Where's the Head?
References / Contact Information: Arizona Backcountry Adventures
Points of interest: Hackberry Rock Cabin/Pump House, Hackberry Mine, Hackberry Spring, tall dam, Kelvin, Gila River, Kearny, Ripsey Mine
Special Considerations: Route finding can be difficult (even with GPS and maps). May require a State Trust Land permit (see update on permit page).
How to get there: Take Hwy 77 north out of Tucson, past Oracle, Mammoth and turn left on Hwy 177 at Winkleman. Drive 16 miles on 177 past Hayden and Kearny. Take a left on the Florence-Kelvin Hwy. The road is paved at first, then you cross the Gila River and it turns to a well-graded dirt road. Drive 4 miles west until you reach the Ripsey Wash at Waypoint 001. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

We made this trip the weekend after the Ripsey Mine run. I found pictures on Google Earth of the dam and the rock cabin, which I found out later was really a pump house.

I show the start of the trail as the intersection of the Ripsey Wash and the Florence-Kelvin Highway. From there, you'll follow the scenic and fun Ripsey Wash until you get to the Ripsey Mine / Hackberry Cabin junction. This is where you deviate from the Ripsey Mine Adventure (at least if you did it in the opposite direction as described). You'll travel up and down the rolling hills and valleys of the Tortilla Mountains. The scenery is rugged and beautiful. Most of the trail is very easy 4WD, but there are some steep sections that could get washed out easily. I rated this as an easy 4WD trail though that can change after a few heavy rains.

The descent down to Hackberry Wash is a little frightening if you don't like heights like me. Although the road is fairly wide, it's nice and steep. It got my heart pumping a little.

You can see the rock cabin from the shelf road leading down to the wash and it's a quick drive to it once your tires hit sand. The rock building is adjacent to the Hackberry Mine (though this can be hard to see due to the thick vegetation). I was told that this building housed a pump to keep the mine dry. The building has a large opening in the front. I guess that's what was needed to get the pump in. I heard that the pump was still there in the 1970s. Now, water flows freely out of the mine from the Hackberry Spring. There is a metal shed to the right of the rock building that is also hard to see due to the large amount of trees surrounding it.

After exploring the rock building, you'll want to visit the dam in the next canyon up the wash. It's a small (but very high) dam in a narrow canyon. There are some nice trees for a shady lunch, and if you're lucky, a little bit of water. You can also drive to the top of the dam (though I never have), but be careful. There is no warning of impending danger and if you're not paying attention, you could drive right off the dam!

Click here for a personal report on this adventure with pictures and trip information.

Google Maps and Google Earth

GPS tracks for this adventure were recorded with My Tracks software on my Android cell phone. This is an awesome piece of free software that allows you to record GPS tracks, waypoints and historical data. It will tell you things like elevation gain, time history, average speed, etc. It will also let you take a tour (similar to playing a time accurate movie) of your track on Google Earth. You can send your tracks to friends or upload them to Google.

Google Maps
Click here to view this adventure's track on Google Maps.

Google Earth
You can also download a Google Earth movie (called a tour) of this adventure (must have Google Earth on your computer). Right click here to download the .kml file, then select "save target (or link) as..." For help on how to play the movie on Google Earth (not very intuitive), click here.

General Information and History

I don't have any information on the Hackberry Cabin (pump house) or the Hackberry Wash itself, but here's some information on the Old Ripsey Mine which is in the area.

The Old Ripsey Mine began operations in the late 1800's. At the time, it was touted by several newspapers as "...the ideal of ideals for bona fide mining beyond all question." and "The gold here is in great abundance beyond all question as well as silver and copper, if anybody wants the latter two." These two quotes came from the Arizona Weekly Citizen (based in Tucson) on September 29, 1984.

I really enjoyed the last quote as if there was so much gold, that they were discarding the silver and copper.

There is no doubt that Old Ripsey Mine was in operation for a time. Some references say that it went idle in 1910 or 1911, others say in the early 1940s (evidence out there suggest that there has been at least some workings much later than that: 1960s? 70s? Maybe even a little work in the 90s or 2000s).

But it was never the huge strike that was declared a certainty by many newspapers around the state.

Old Ripsey Mine (and the Ripsey District) is associated with what many believe are the fictional town sites of Thomasville and Dagger Well. There are many references to these places in newspapers from 1894 to 1912.

From the Arizona Republican, September 13, 1908: "Dagger well is an ideal town site, being a practically level country five miles square, having plenty of good water and excellent roads, etc, for shipping purposes. The altitude is about 3,800 feet."

From the Arizona Weekly Citizen, September 1, 1894:

A Town of Tents, the Forerunner of a Great Camp


Great Excitement Over the New Find in Pinal Count

Another wonderful gold region has been opened up in Pinal county… It is undoubtedly the largest and richest gold field yet discovered in Arizona. A city of tents has already sprung up and prospectors are flocking in daily. The starting of the boom was the recent rich discoveries in the Peoria mine [previously known as the Ripsey Mine], located about two miles from the big well formerly owned by James Thomas and Dick Forman, of Florence and known as the "Dagger Well.""

In September, 1894, the Florence Tribune reported that Dagger Well and Thomasville were fabrications. As told by the Arizona Weekly Citizen:

"Thomasville a Myth

Florence Tribune

Pinal County is undoubtedly a rich mineral bearing section, and to-day is proud to boast of a number of fine gold properties which will compare very favorably with those of any other portion of the territory, or the Pacific coast. There is ample room for prospectors, and ample opportunity for capitalists to invest in paying property already developed. With these facts before the public, we have sufficient faith in the future of our country to rest easily upon the truth. The exaggerated and highly imaginative article which appeared in the Citizen of the 26th, is from the pen of Joseph Mulhatton, widely known in the east and south as an erratic, imaginative, and highly sensational newspaper contributor. Undoubtedly with his vivid imagination, he can already see fifty or one hundred stamp mills pounding away upon rich rock, in his new creation, Thomasville. From the best information we have, there are a few prospectors, as there always are, in the neighborhood of Dagger Well, but as to there being a city of tents, it is bosh. We advise all who read the article to curb their excitement; avoid the dangerous rush."

And, "That we have vast undeveloped resources, both mineral and agricultural, no one who has visited us will deny; and upon these veritable resources we will build an everlasting monument of success and prosperity. But, for the sake of truth and humanity let us not, by a course of willful representation, induce people to spend their money with no possible snow of return."

Even with these relevations, publications regarding huge gold strikes and boom towns continued until 1912. The Arizona Republican reported in a title called "Mulhatton's Mine - As it Really Is" on August 11, 1908, "Mr. Mulhatton claims to have the best proposition in Arizona. This is no cock and bull story but plain facts and anyone desiring to pay a visit to Dagger Well can see for themselves and they also will be well taken care of by Mr. Mulhatton and others always on the ground."

Also, the Arizona Republican reported on January 28, 1912, "Joseph Mulhatton was in Kay Friday on business and stated that within a short time construction work will be under headway on his mining property at Dagger Wells. Mr. Mulhatton said in a year from now this district will be the largest copper camp in Arizona and the large smelter in Hayden, which will be completed in April, will have plenty of ore to handle."

It seems like Mulhatton was one of the major players in keeping this myth alive. . He was a very interesting character in Arizona's history. There's a lot more history here to uncover. Look for some additional stories on Dagger Well, Old Ripsey and Mulhatton coming soon.

Obviously, history has shown that the huge gold bonanza at Ripsey Mine and the sites of Thomasville and Dagger Well never happened. Or did they? And are they just waiting to be rediscovered ...

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The Trail

NOTE: A portion of this trail is along the Ripsey Mine trail, which you can read about by clicking here. The trail head starts at Waypoint 001 at the intersection of Ripsey Wash and the Florence-Kelvin Highway. Head south along the sandy wash. You will probably see trash and shotgun shells along the first 1/4 miles of the wash. If you have some time, please pick up some of the trash and take it home with you.

The wash is easy, and unless you hit deep sand, 2WD truck traversable. This portion of the trail is fun, smooth and scenic. Enjoy watching the canyon narrow and widen as it winds its way south. There are numerous side trails leading out of the wash. Stay on the main trail in the canyon. After about 2.75 miles, you'll come to a gate and a corral on the left (Waypoint 002). There's a nice side canyon to explore on your right. A short adjacent trail that leads back to the main trail heads off just before the gate. The side canyon can be explored on foot.

After almost another 3 miles, you'll come to Waypoint 003. Keep straight in the main wash, a right here will take you an alternate way out to the Florence-Kelvin Highway (see Ripsey Mine adventure - green track).

Not quite a half mile later, you will take a hard left on the main trail out of the wash at Waypoint 004. This section bypasses a tall "washout" between the two intersecting washes. You will see this as soon as you get to the top of the shelf road a few hundred yards beyond Waypoint 003. I don't think the trail ever really went through the washout area, but coming the other direction, it sure looks like it could. A right here takes you to Ripsey Mine.

You will start heading more or less east along another smaller wash now. A short distance later, go through the gate at Waypoint 005 and continue down the wash. After about 1/3 of a mile, you will come out of the wash at Waypoint 006. Keep left here. A right here is another way to Ripsey Mine.

After Waypoint 006, you will begin to travel along a ridge line. Keep straight on the main track at Waypoint 007. Drive a little more than a half mile from Waypoint 007 and you will be in the wash again around Waypoint 008.

If you look close on the right as you pass Waypoint 009, you will see a small corral. Keep in the wash for another 1/4 mile and you will come to a large wooden corral on your right (Waypoint 010). You can also visit the old water tank that's a few hundred yard further up the wash from the corral. I thought it was one of the coolest tanks of this kind I've ever seen.

Take a right on the main trail at the corral to come out of the wash. This will take you to Hackberry Wash, which is the route we took (red track). The blue track, which stays in the wash, will take you to the top of the dam. I have not taken the route, but know people who have done it. Caution: there is no warning that you are coming to the top of the dam. If you're not paying attention, you could drive off it. Be careful! I do not know the difficulty of this section.

Keep on the main trail for another 3/4 of a mile. You will come to a gate just before the descent down into Hackberry Wash. Go through the gate and start down toward the wash. The descent is fairly steep and although the shelf road was in good shape when we went, I could see if getting washed out very quickly. For someone not fond of heights, this portion of the trail was a bit heart-pounding. But don't close your eyes. You can see the stone cabin below you and it's an awesome view.

As soon as you get to the wash, take a hard left and head down the wash. After a few hundred yards, you'll drive up to the stone building on your left (Waypoint 011). The Hackberry Mine is to the left of the building. It was partially filled with water from the spring when we visited. There's also a metal shed to the right of the building that's mostly hidden by trees.

If you want to also visit the dam, jump back into your Jeeps and head north down the wash. A short distance later the trail takes a hard right, crosses to the other side of the wash, then takes a hard left to continue down the wash. Go through the gate at Waypoint 012, and drive in the wash for another 1/3 of a mile and take a left at the track at Waypoint 013.

Go through the gate and drive up the small wash to the west. After another 1/3 of a mile, you'll come to a dead end at the dam (Waypoint 014). There's some nice trees and if you're luck some water at the base of the dam making it a nice place for lunch. A few of us climbed up the rocks on the right side of the dam to get on top of it. This wasn't easy! I made it to the rocks above the dam, but the footing was too loose and the slope too steep for me to continue back down to the top of the dam. One of our group did it though.

When you're done at the dam, you have a couple of choices.

1) Retrace your tracks the way you came in. This may be the easiest way out.

2) Head back the way you came in and visit Ripsey Mine and take an alternate route out to the Florence-Kelvin Highway (the green track). I've been on this route and it's a little more difficult than the way you came in.

3) Head north down Hackberry Wash and cross near Kearny (the blue track). I have never taken this route, though I have known people that have. The Gila River can be shallow and passable at times or deep and impassible. I have provided the blue track for reference, but don't have much information on trail conditions.

Whatever you decided, have fun and be safe!

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