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Name: Old Ripsey Mine Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on one vote)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Demanding 4WD)
Time: 6 - 8 hours Region: Central Arizona
Length: 15 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +698 / -2088 ft / -1390 ft (one way)
Type: Through trail Avg Elevation: 2800 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: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: December, 2012
Short Description: An awesome 4WD trip through saguaro covered hills and sandy wash to some wonderful mining ruins
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: Old Ripsey Mine, Ripsey Wash, Florence-Kelvin Highway, Kelvin, Gila River, Kearny
Special Considerations: Route finding can be difficult (even with GPS and maps), roads not well-traveled (don't expect to see others in the area). May require a State Trust Land permit (see update on permit page).
How to get there: Take Oracle Road north out of Tucson. Oracle Road turns into State Highway 77. Follow Highway 77 to Oracle Junction and make a left on Highway 79. Take Hwy 79 for about 36 miles until you take a right onto Cactus Forest Rd. Drive 0.8 miles, then take a left onto Diffen Road. Drive on Diffen for 3 miles, then take a right onto the Florence-Kelvin Hwy. Drive east for about 20 miles until you reach Waypoint 001 (Red Cloud Trail). Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This had to be one of my favorite trips in 2012. The area is surprisingly scenic with wonderful canyons, rolling hills and magnificent saguaro forests. 95% of the trail is easy and could be made in 4WD high, but there are a few sections that are washed out and can be difficult (especially in a longer wheel-based vehicle).

The Old Ripsey Mine ruins are amazing. Lots of old stuff and equipment about. Please respect this unique place and leave everything in its place for others to enjoy.

The trip down Ripsey Wash was an added bonus. This sandy wash winds its way through canyons of varying depth, sometimes with narrow, high walls, other times wide open and vast.

One our trip, the trail was completely open, no private property signs were encountered.

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

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

The trail begins about 9.5 miles east on the Florence-Kelvin Highway AFTER the pavement ends (Waypoint 001). This is just after the large power lines (coming from the west). Take a right onto Red Cloud Road Trail and make your way through the gate.

The trail starts off very easy as it rolls over some small hills and valleys. At Waypoint 002, keep straight at the T-intersection (this is a smaller power line road that will also take you out to the F-K highway and intersects the road you're currently on a little further down the way).

Take a left through the open wooden gate at Waypoint 003. Keep on the main road when the power line road intersects at Waypoint 004 and you will now be following the power lines for a little while.

Just before you get to Waypoint 005, go through gate to the corral on your left. We stopped to stretch our legs here, before continuing on. Right after the corral, the road you want to take deviates from the power lines again. You will head southeast instead of straight east along the power lines.

At Waypoint 006, you will have a choice to stay in the wash or use the bypass. Both routes come together shortly ahead. We took the bypass, but the wash route looked easier.

At Waypoint 007, you will once again intersect the power lines and another wash. You can either turn left down the wash or go straight through on the road across the wash. This is where I got a little confused. My Topo map and I believe Google Earth showed a road that went east almost toward Ripsey Wash.

We turned left in the wash for my first attempt to find that road. Although it started to lead away from where I wanted to go, we were having fun and kept going. I'm glad we did. At Waypoint 008, there was a cool gully next to the wash. I would have really liked to see water screaming through this.

Not much farther, the wash you're in intersects another. Directly ahead is about a 10 foot drop off into the new wash, but a trail winds its way on the right and there's a nice little sand ramp down to the wash.

If you choose the other path (the green trail), you will intersect the red path here at Waypoint 009. Either way is okay, though the green path isn't as interesting. Continue on the red path as it bends almost straight north. Although this is the exact opposite direction from the mine, don't worry, you'll get there.

At Waypoint 010, you will intersect the Ripsey Wash. Turn right to head up the wash. At Waypoint 011, you have a choice. You can either keep going down Ripsey Wash or turn left to head out of the wash.

From my research, I believed that a spot just beyond Waypoint 011 on the shelf road might have been impassible, so we choose to stay in the wash. It turned out to be easy, but I'm glad we went down the wash. This part of the wash was very cool. It was narrow in many spots.

Keep going down the wash past Waypoint 012. This is where the road I had wanted to take from Waypoint 007 should have come into the wash from the west. We could not find any sign of that road, but we did see a road heading up out of the wash to the east. It appeared to be completely washed out, so we continued on.

Go through the gate at Waypoint 013 and you will pass a windmill on your right at Waypoint 014. We found the road leading out of the wash at Waypoint 015. Take a left and head up the hill. This hill was a little washed out, but not as bad as it looked from below (though it was the most difficult part of the trip so far). You will be on a nice side hill for a while until you get near Waypoint 016.

This was where we encountered a nice side hill and washout. I attempted it three times, each time my tires started to slip into the washout. We decided to do some roadwork and cut some of the side hill away. After about 30 minutes, I gave it another shot. My back tire still wanted to slide into the washout, but with the road now more level, it wasn't too bad. As usual, the pictures or video don't do it justice.

Once you make it past that, it's a quick trip up the hill to Waypoint 017 where you will keep straight. As soon as you make the corner, you will see the mine ahead of you. Just before you get to the mine, you will come to another washout, this one larger than the one you just went through. Since we were only about 100 yards from the mine, we decided to walk from there.

The mine (Waypoint 018) has multiple levels with much of the equipment and concrete walls down low, the boiler and hoists above. You will also see the yellow pump and three tanks beyond. Again, please treat this site with care. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Once you're done exploring, turn around and head back the way you came. At Waypoint 017, you can go back the way you came, or keep right to head out another way like we did.

Keeping right, keep on the main trail (there will be a few others that cross your way in the next couple of miles). At Waypoint 019, we encountered the most difficult part of the trip. The washout was fairly big and with my long wheelbase, I put two tires up in the air at the same time. After three attempts doing it open (and failing), I engaged my rear locker and it wasn't an issue anymore. The two other 2DR Jeeps had no issue doing it completely open (though Jeeps with smaller than 32" or 33" tires my have some difficulty here).

There are a few more washed out spots and one very steep hill that may give long wheelbased trucks issues, but overall a pretty easy ride. At Waypoint 020, track left and down the hill. You will pass a corral and solar powered tank at Waypoint 021. Then, very shortly after, you will come to an intersection at Waypoint 022. Take a left to head back into Ripsey Wash. A right here takes you to Hackberry Wash. This point is considered the trail head for the Hackberry Wash adventure coming soon.

Taking a left at Waypoint 022, you will enter another wash. It will wind its way toward Ripsey Wash. Go through the gate at Waypoint 023. Then make sure you take a hard left at Waypoint 024. If you go straight down the wash, it's a 30 foot drop to get to the bottom. This is where I thought the trail was impassible. The "bypass" on the left (which I don't think is really a bypass) made it an easy trip down to the wash. Though be careful for rockslides. When we went to Hackberry, we took this in the morning and it was fine, when we returned later in the day, some good sized rocks had fallen into the road.

This is also the place where the Arizona Trail intersects the wash. You will see some large rock cairns down in the wash. Take a right at Waypoint 011 and you will find yourself on familiar ground for a while. Head down the wash and you will pass Waypoint 010 where you entered from. Keep going straight. The wash is easy and smooth with interesting rock formations on either side.

There are a few side trails leading out of the wash, but just keep on the main road, it's well traveled. Pass through the gate at Waypoint 025. There's a neat corral that uses some of the natural rock features on your right and an interesting side canyon on your left. Follow the wash out until you reach the Florence-Kelvin Highway at Waypoint 026.

We took a right and went out through Kelvin, but you can also take a left and go out the way you came in.

Wasn't that an awesome trip?

Have fun and be safe.

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Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here. You can also rate this adventure by clicking here.

Member Comments

September 30, 2014:

I just completed this trip last Saturday with two other Jeeps. We followed a very similar path to the one you describe. We went in via the west side trail then exited to the north after visiting the mine. The only change we made was we retraced our steps from the mine back to Ripsey Wash rather than taking the alternate road you mentioned. We saw that road but in the interest of time (and the looming monsoon) decided to go with what we knew.

The road is still in good shape, particularly the portions in the washes. It's flat, smooth and fun. Visibility isn't good, so I wouldn't drive it too fast, but it's a very nice ride. The portions of the trail that pass over and around the low hills aren't too bad either. Some washouts that don't seem any worse than what you mentioned from your 2012 trip. One thing that did seem different is that we didn't have any real problem with the sidehill washout where you mention having to do trail repair. It's still a sidehill, and there's still a shallow wash on one side, but it seemed wide enough and we didn't really experience slippage. Perhaps it was graded sometime in the last two years or maybe your trail fix hasn't deteriorated? We also found the other washouts you mentioned, the ones closer to the mine. But again they weren't really blocking the road, so perhaps they have been graded sometime since your visit.

On the site we explored around extensively and found 8 shafts on the hill and in the canyon. I think everything you saw is still there, but we did see something new and curious. There is a hose (about the size of a fire hose) in the low water tank that runs from the tank into the shaft nearby, as though someone were working in the shaft and needed water. Not sure what that's all about. I didn't see the hose in your pictures. All in all this was a fun, easily accessible trip. We saw some tracks, but no other Jeeps or ATVs. Thanks for letting us know about it.

Here's a link to my detailed trip report with pictures: http://offroadpassport.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3860

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