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Name: Warsaw Canyon (FR217) / El Oro Mine / Grubstake Mine Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Easy 2WD/4WD trail) to (Moderate 4WD trail) - see description below
Time: 4 - 6 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 13.5 miles (out and back w/o any spur roads); ~ 17 miles with spur roads shown Elevation gain/loss/change: ~ +653 / -1338 ft / - 685ft (one way on only Warsaw Canyon)
Type: Out and back (though completing a loop through California Gulch is easy) Avg Elevation: 4000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter, Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: December, 2013
Short Description: An easy 2WD/4WD down near the border that combines beauty and history. Combined with California Gulch, this trail shouldn't be missed.
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: El Oro Cemetery; Rattlesnake Canyon; Montana Peak
References / Contact Information: Along the Ruby Road; Ghosttowns; Tucson Citizen; In Search of Old Glory Dam; Arizona Buffalo Soldier Association
Points of interest: Tons of trails to explore, access to old mining sites, mills, cemeteries, ruins, the border and Ruby
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).
How to get there: From Tucson, head south on I-19 until you get to the Arivaca exit (exit 48). Take Arivaca Road west to Arivaca (paved road about 24 miles). Take a left in "downtown" Arivaca toward Ruby. Stay on Ruby road for about five miles (it becomes dirt after a few miles) until you get to the Warsaw Canyon turnoff (Waypoint WC01). Click here for directions.

Trail Description

See update on El Oro Mine in trail directions below!

Warsaw Canyon (FR217)
This is a well-traveled (probably a great deal by the Border Patrol) trail leading from Ruby Road down near the Mexico border. Most of the trail is smooth 2WD with short some high-clearance 2WD/4WD sections.

The beauty of this area is awesome. I enjoy the rolling hills, canyons and streams (both times we've went we were surprised by the small amounts of water running - which for Arizona, is a big deal). There are side trails galore along this trail. You could spend days/weeks exploring this area.

In addition to the natural beauty, this area also has rich mining and ranching history. There a tons of old mines, stone ruins, mills, mining sites, ranches, etc. here.

This trip includes two such side trips: one to El Oro Mill, the other to Grubstake Mine. It should be noted that these are rated more difficult than the Warsaw Canyon trail and may prove difficult for inexperienced drivers.

This is one of the most beautiful desert areas I've ever explored in southeast Arizona and shouldn't be missed.

Saint Christopher Mine (FR 4158, 4125)
This is a short, easy 4WD road that leads to the Saint Christopher Mine. We originally took this road in hopes we could make it to the Oro Blanco Cemetery. The road just to the north was marked private property, so we thought we could use this road. No luck, we found more private property signs and did not find a way to the cemetery without crossing private property, so we went to see the mine. Note: we didn't spend much time trying to find the cemetery, so I don't know if there's access along other routes.

This road will take you up to the mine (and beyond). The mine has some old foundations and a big vertical shaft. The road continues for a while beyond the mine, but I don't think it leads anywhere interesting. We turned around at the mine.

El Oro Mine and Mill (FR 4165)

See update on El Oro Mine in trail directions below!

This short side trip leads to one of the best mill sites I've visited in the area. The El Oro Mill is a three story affair set on the side of a steep hill. Although there's not much left but the stone walls, it's a fantastic site. There's an old steel boiler that's been left behind, the remnants of a cable bridge across the canyon and a brick chimney that's interesting. The drive along the wash is fun and somewhat challenging.

Grubstake Mine (FR 4170)
Another short 4WD spur road off Warsaw Canyon. This trail takes you to a saddle that someone seems to have used for a dump and the old Grubstake Mine. The mine entrance is cool and there's some old foundations and an interesting small structure that I have no idea what it was used for.

The Brick Mine
This mine is right off Ruby Road in between Warsaw Canyon and California Gulch. It's a very pretty area and contains a large steel head frame and some mines. The road appears to take you between Ruby Road and Warsaw Canyon, but we haven't been on it yet.

General Information and History

El Oro (meaning The Gold in Spanish) Mine began its life as a gold producer in the early 1890s under the watchful eye of George B. Williams. He was a "long distance" owner, but cared deeply about the mine and surrounding area and would gone on to own/operate the mine for 60 years. You can read a wonderful short history of El Oro and Williams penned by Bob Ring, Al Ring and Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon, authors of the Along the Ruby Road series of columns appearing in the Green Valley News and the Ring Brother's History website. They also have a few nice old pictures including one of the mill in 1916.

Click here to read this article

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The Trail

Warsaw Canyon (FR 217)

Turn south at Warsaw Canyon (there is a sign here) at waypoint WC1. Note: you will see many, many side trails leading off in both directions. I have not created waypoints for all of these. Usually, just keep going straight and stay on the main road and you'll be on Warsaw Canyon. You'll start a slow, but fairly steady climb up from Ruby Road toward a saddle at Dart Tank (WC2) in a little over 1/2 a mile.

If you like, you can pull off the road in a small parking area next to the tank and take a look at the dam. It's not a super impressive dam, but I enjoyed seeing the multiple thickness and layers they constructed. I don't think I've ever seen one quite like it out here before.

Keep going straight on Warsaw Canyon after Dart Tank. There will be roads leading off in both directions, stay on the main road past Waypoints WC3 and WC4, at 1.0 and 1.2 miles respectively. At about 1.5 miles, you'll be in Japanese Valley and drive past Japanese Tank on your left.

At 2.0 miles, you'll be in Old Glory Canyon and will keep heading straight past Waypoint WC5. After 3.3 miles, you'll come to the entrance to Warsaw Canyon (Waypoint WC6). You can continue straight here to continue down Warsaw Canyon, or take a right onto FR4165, which leads to El Oro Mine and Mill (see trail description below). Too keep on Warsaw Canyon, head straight down the main trail here.

After a little more than 4.5 miles, you will come around a bend to the left and there will be a private property road on your right (to Warsaw Mine) and a few hundred yards further, a large tailing pile on the right (WP6).

You will also notice a large stone corral (at least that's what I think it was) across the canyon that you just drove along. There's a narrow canyon just beyond you on your left. There's also a private property trailer with a metal roof on your left just beyond the canyon (please don't go to the trailer and respect their signed property). You can pull over on a large pull out on the left to take a better look at the canyon. There's a large patch of bamboo and some wonderful pools and little waterfall in the canyon.

About 100-200 yards prior to the pullout, there's the remnants of a road into the canyon that are barely visible. This is the easiest way up and down to the canyon and pools, though still bushwhacking and very prickly. It was a desert oasis the time we went. Very beautiful. Be careful, the canyon walls are extremely steep and dangerous, approach from the west.

Keep straight after the pullout to stay on Warsaw Canyon until you come to Waypoint WC8 (about 5 miles from the start). The trail on your right leads to Grubstake Mine. If you want to take another side trip, see description below, if not, continue on the main road.

You now begin a slow, but steady downhill drive toward the border. There are a few places along the way with old buildings, cars and equipment on the side of the road that are private property, some of which have strange fence markers. After about 6.3 miles, you will come to a road on your right (Waypoint WC9). Although this looks well-traveled, it degrades rapidly. You can take this side trip to the border and the Casa Pierda Ruins if you like. This is a more difficult trail, very brushy and not well-traveled at all. It will be described in the California Gulch adventure. For now, keep going straight.

At 6.75 miles, you'll come to the end of what I'm calling the Warsaw Canyon trail (Waypoint WC10). This road now turns toward the north and becomes California Gulch. It is very similar in difficulty and attractions to Warsaw Canyon and will bring you out to Ruby Road about a mile east of Warsaw Canyon. You can take this road out if you'd like to, otherwise, you can return the way you came.

Saint Christopher Mine (FR4158/4125)

Head south from Ruby Road on FR4158 at Waypoint SCM1. After about 1/2 a mile you will pass Cemetery Tank on your right and shortly after the road splits. Take the left trail (FR4125) to go to the mine at Waypoint SCM2.

After almost 1 mile, keep left at Waypoint SCM3. Shortly after, you'll come to the flat spot and Saint Christopher's Mine at Waypoint SCM4. You can also walk/drive to the top of the mine directly above this area (you will have to turn around) to see more foundations.

When you're done, turn around and retrace your path to Ruby Road. The road continues after the mine, but we didn't take it. Looking at Google Earth afterwards, it appears this road end after about a mile and does not take you back to Ruby Road.

El Oro Mine and Mill (FR4165)

September, 2014 Update: In July, a member stated that someone has put a locked gate at the beginning of this road an blocked off access to this area. I called the Forest Service, the road is supposed to be opened. We drove by there in early September and verified it was indeed open again!

Turn south onto FR4165 at Waypoint WC6. The first thing you will notice is a fairly large flat area on your left. This is what is left of the El Oro Cemetery. There's not much remaining of the cemetery there. Some random rock piles and a partially collapsed fence.

Head through the gate and begin to descend from the Cobre Ridge down into Holden Canyon. The trail is tight and brushy in spots. There are a few rocky sections that may give stock vehicles or inexperienced drivers some anxiety. Larger vehicles may have difficulty in some of the tighter areas.

After about half a mile (Waypoint EOM1), you'll enter Holden Canyon. This was my favorite part of the drive. The canyon was narrow in spots, with water sometimes coming to the surface, and mine shafts littering both sides along the drive.

You will see the Mill on the hillside as you come upon it after almost a mile (Waypoint EOM2) and it's quite a site. Park under the large trees and look up to see the remnants of the cable bridge leading to a mine across the canyon. If you look to your right on the other side of the smaller canyon, you'll see the brick chimney standing alone on the hillside.

Walk up on the left side of the mill (under the cable bridge) and you will see the "Cable Tree". This tree grew around one of the cables running across the canyon. Very interesting.

You will also see an old boiler and metal tank inside one of the walls. I really enjoyed the rock architecture of this place.

When you're done exploring, head back the way you came in. We tried to go further down the road, but it rapidly deteriorates and becomes a footpath. There are some stone ruins in the wash not far from the mill where the road ends.

Grubstake Mine (FR4170)

Head south from Warsaw Canyon at Waypoint WC8 onto FR4170. Within the first tenth of a mile you will curve to the right and notice a shed and some trash on your left. Not sure what that is as we didn't have time to explore it.

Continue down the main road. After about two tenths of a mile, you will keep straight and pass a trail leading off to the right (Waypoint GM1). This trail may lead to a few possibly active mining sites / buildings. We did not go on it.

Keep on the main road for about 0.9 miles until you see a faint trail leading down into the small canyon on your left at Waypoint GM2. The left takes you to Grubstake Mine. Take the left and travel the short distance to the mine at Waypoint GM3. You'll see the interesting mine entrance on your left. There are also some foundations left of the mine entrance and the strange small structure to the right. Next to the canyon are some additional concrete tanks/structures and a cattle tank. When we were there, solar powered pumps were pumping water from the mine and into the cattle tank.

When you're done exploring, head back out to Waypoint GM2, if you like you can take a left and drive the short distance to the strange dump/tank site at Waypoint GM4. There was a new black, plastic tank here and some strange trash laying around: stationary exercise bike, baby food jars, etc.

The road ends here, so retrace your path back to the main road at WC8.

Have fun and be safe!

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California Gulch

To make this a nice loop, you can combine this with the California Gulch Adventure. This is a continuation of FR217 and is about the same difficulty as Warsaw Canyon.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun and be safe!

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