|Name: Kentucky Camp||Author's Rating:|
|Author: Matt Marine||Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet|
|Type: 4WD||Difficulty: (semi-maintained dirt road)|
|Time: 2 - 4 hours||Region: SE Arizona|
|Length: 5.4 miles (one way)||Elevation gain/loss/change: +529 / -102 ft / +427 ft (one way)|
|Type: Out and back||Avg Elevation: 5000 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: See trail description||Last updated: November, 2008|
|Short Description: An easy dirt road to an old mining town the Forest Service is restoring|
|Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. KY in AZ; Old Lady Cache; Bear’s Garden of Fun|
|References / Contact Information: Kentucky Camp History; Kentucky Camp. Arizona Trail|
|Points of interest: Kentucky Camp; Arizona Trail access; camping.|
|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). If you have some extra time, there are lots of other places and trails to explore in this area. Dispersed camping spots along Gardner Canyon are wonderful and can be accessed by most RV’s and campers.|
|How to get there: The trail begins 21.5 miles south of I-10 from exit 281 heading toward Sonoita on Arizona State Road 83. Follow SR 83 as it travels through the beautiful rolling hills and historical ranch grasslands of southeastern Arizona. As you get closer to the start of the trail, the scenery will change from rocky, cactus-laden hillsides to large working ranches. The trail starts upon a right turn onto Gardner Canyon road (FR 92) at waypoint 001. Click here for directions.|
Take a trip back in time! Kentucky Camp is a small gem in the rolling foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson. An easy dirt road takes you back in time to a late 1800s mining camp. A short, easy trip of approximately 5 miles (one-way) on a well-graded forest road leads to Kentucky Camp. Numerous signs along the trail point you from FR 92 to FR 163 and the Kentucky Camp parking area. Along the trail, many two tracks and forest roads sprout in all directions allowing a secluded picnic with panoramic views. This is a favorite place for mountain biking or ATV riding. On Saturdays the vehicle gate at the Kentucky Camp parking area may be open. This allows driving the remaining ¼ mile down to the camp. Otherwise, this portion of the trail must be hiked or biked.
This trail can be made by most passenger vehicles (if no recent rains have made it too muddy). It can be a little bumpy and cars with really low clearance can hit on the ruts if they are going too fast.
Kentucky Camp signifies a small, late 1800s mining camp that went bust after a very short life. Although the mining camp only lasted two years (from 1904 to 1906), mining in the area started in the late 1800s. Placer gold was discovered in the Santa Rita Mountains in 1874 around the Greaterville area. At first, the placer gold was easy to recover; as the Arizona Citizen reported in 1875, “Horace Arden, not noted for working imprudently hard” was producing an ounce of gold a day. This was even more significant in that he had to transport, most probably by burro, the dirt to a water source for washing. A gold rush was now on to the Greaterville area and up to 500 miners worked in the surrounding gulches in the 1870s. The main camp in the area was named Greaterville, which is a few miles north of Kentucky Camp. Greaterville had numerous stores, a post office and a school. Greaterville boomed until the late 1800s when all of the easily retrievable placer gold had been recovered. Unfortunately, Greaterville is on private property and cannot be accessed by the public.
The major problem with placer mining in southeast Arizona is the lack of water. Large amounts of water are required to separate the small gold flecks hidden in the layers of clay. The lack of water gave the miners two choices: transport water to their prospects or haul unrefined dirt to one of the permanent streams. Neither of these two options was very profitable.
At the turn of the century, two men thought they could solve the water problem and make it rich where others had failed. Forming the majority of the Santa Rita Water and Mining Company was an engineer named James B. Stetson and a wealthy entrepreneur named George McAneny (although by some accounts his name last name was Avery, Mackinney or McAvery). They started construction on a series of ditches, damns, tunnels and pipelines to solve the water problem. Their plan was to catch the rain and snow run-off and channel water from the permanent streams to where the placer gold was. They thought they could catch enough rainwater from the summer monsoons and snow melt to run the mining operation for up to 10 dry months. This water would be piped down the hillside to high-pressure hoses which could “wash away” hillsides. Between 1902 and 1905, approximately 8-1/2 miles of this work had been accomplished at a cost of approximately $200,000. In 1904, the construction of Kentucky Camp began in earnest. This site, which was the company headquarters, consisted of 5 one-story buildings: a large 10-room hotel and office, 2 three-room cabins, a barn and an assay office.
The weather did not cooperate for the first portion of 1904 and the rains did not come until late that year. The venture was making progress until May 1905 when James Stetson died when he fell from a third story hotel window in Tucson. Rumors abounded that he was sick, fainted or even pushed, but nothing was ever proven. The company’s largest investor tried to keep things going, but a series of legal battles tied up the money needed for the remaining development. The last dying gasp of Kentucky Camp came when George McAneny died shortly thereafter. A resulting battle for the estate tied up all of the assets and the remaining investors were unable to keep the company running.
The land and buildings at Kentucky Camp was sold to the family attorney prior to 1911 and was used as a ranch until the 1960s. Weather, lack of upkeep and vandals took their toll on the camp until Coronado National Forest acquired it in 1989. It is currently being refurbished by the National Forest Service to bring it back to its original state. The intent is to use the camp as an interpretive site of what a typical late 1800s mining camp was like.
The camp is slowly being returned to its original condition with the help of volunteers, donations and limited government funds. Many of the building have rebuilt roofs to keep the weather out. The hotel / office and one of the cabins have a rebuilt wrap around porch. One of the cabins has been completely redone and can be rented out as a bed but NO breakfast. At this time I believe the fee for staying in the cabin is about $75 per night.
The remaining cabin and assayers office have been stabilized and are awaiting further work. The barn roof and some of its walls caved in a few years ago and a new outhouse has been built for public use. Some artifacts, pictures and history are available for viewing in the hotel office building. There is also a friendly caretaker on-site who can answer many questions about the work being done. This is a not-to-miss historical site in southeastern Arizona.
Take a right on the dirt road until you reach waypoint 002 and a sign that directs you to Kentucky camp (about ½ a mile). Take the right. Stay on the main road. Keep going straight at an intersection of another trail at waypoint 003 (another sign here). Continue of the main road, ignoring the many 4wd trails leading off left and right until you reach waypoint 004 which is the parking area for Kentucky camp (there is a sign here too).
Sometimes on Saturdays, the gate leading down to the camp is open. I always park at waypoint 004 and hike the ¼ mile down to the camp. It’s downhill the entire way and can make you breath a little coming back up. Walk down to the camp (waypoint 005) and you’re there.
Directly on your left is the old barn. In front of you is the Bed and NO Breakfast. If people are staying here, please respect their privacy by not looking in all the windows. There is also a nice outdoor toilet to the right of the Bed and NO Breakfast cabin. To your right is another cabin going through restoration.
The big building to the left is the old office and hotel. Almost fully restored, this is worth some exploring. Go inside and check it out. The tables under the wraparound porch make a great place to have a break or lunch. Out behind the hotel is the assayers office. You can go in and explore this building too.
The Arizona Trail leads through Kentucky Camp and you can hike in any direction. The trail to the southeast is the most popular direction and leads back to Gardner Canyon and can be hiked or biked (see Kentucky Camp Bike trail).
If you’re into beautiful scenery and rich Arizona history, Kentucky Camp is a great place to explore.
Have fun and be safe.
No comments yet.