Relive Arizona history Saturday at ghost town’s festival

Fairbank's schoolhouse, restored in 2007, will be open Saturday for Fairbank Day

Fairbank’s schoolhouse, restored in 2007, will be open Saturday for Fairbank Day

It’s festival time in Arizona! Late winter and early spring bring some kind of event to every town all around the state. There’s a festival, show or fair for just about anything and everything — gem shows, coin shows, gun shows, car shows, horse shows and RV shows. There’s a fest for science and technology, beer, wine, pecans and gourds. Chandler — my own hometown — alone claims several this time of year: a science spectacular, a classic car show and fests for barbecue and beer, jazz, ostriches, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day. It would be possible to travel from town to town around Arizona for weeks on end celebrating one festival after another.

You have another option for this Saturday. For a change of pace, consider a road trip to ghost town to celebrate and learn more about Arizona history in one day. Pack up the family and head to southeastern Arizona for Fairbank Day.

Fairbank is a ghost town north of Sierra Vista along Highway 82, 10 miles east of Highway 90. It was primarily known as a railroad stop for trains transporting silver ore from Tombstone to the mill works in Charleston, Contention City and Millville. At its peak, Fairbank recorded 100 residents, several stores, houses, saloon, stagecoach station, and of course, the depot.  River flooding and a rare Arizona earthquake caused the decline of the mines and mills, which trickled down to a decreased necessity for the railroad stop at Fairbank.

f3By the 1940s only a few buildings remained but it wasn’t until about 1974 that Fairbank bid farewell to the last businesses and residents. A few structures from Fairbank’s 1880’s heyday still can be viewed at the site, including the Adobe Mercantile Building, a couple of houses, stable and schoolhouse. Most of these aren’t accessible to the public however. The school building which was constructed in the 1920s to replace one destroyed by fire, has been restored and operates now as a visitor’s center, gift shop and museum.

Fairbank Day observes the long history of the town plus the local area around the San Pedro River. Activities include: townsite tours, guided hikes to the nearby ruins of Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate, train robbery reenactments, Spanish settlement recreations, prehistoric settlement archeology presentations, U.S. Calvary demonstrations, book signings and discussions by local authors, plus music and food. Donations from the event will benefit the Friends of the San Pedro River organization, which provides support for conservation efforts, advocacy and education in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management.

One of the standing house structures at Fairbank ghost town

One of the standing house structures at Fairbank ghost town

There's obviously a history of snakes at Fairbank

There’s obviously a history of snakes at Fairbank

Vistors can take a short "hike to history" on one of the nearby trails

Visitors can take a short “hike to history” on one of the nearby trails


How Fairbank looked about 1890 (From Wikimedia Commons. Image in public domain - copyright expired.)

How Fairbank looked about 1890


Fairbank ghost town has its 'day' this Saturday

Fairbank ghost town has its ‘day’ this Saturday

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Ray Mine overlook affords awesome views

As one of Arizona’s biggest industries, copper mining is still “king” in our state. In fact, Arizona is the largest copper-producing state in the nation. Copper also is one of Arizona’s five “C’s,” along with cattle, cotton, citrus and climate. Recently we made a short road trip to the Ray Mine overlook, one of ASARCO’s copper mines, located just south of Superior.

Teapot Mountain towers over the colorful layers at the Ray Mine

According to its website, ASARCO lists 678 employees at the Ray location. While many probably live in Kearny, others live in the surrounding towns of Hayden and Winkelman. All three communities compose what’s known as the Copper Basin. There’s no doubt some employees coming from the southeast Valley make the commute via the Florence-Kelvin Highway. That drive is a scenic trip in itself, for those who have some extra time.

Copper ore is extracted from the Ray Mine and sent to the smelter at Hayden by way of the Copper Basin Railway.

Visitors can stop at the Ray Mine overlook, located on State Route 177, between Kearny and Superior. Watch for the large sign on the east side of the road. First arriving at the open pit mine, one is both impressed from an engineering point of view and a bit overwhelmed from an environmental point of view. It seems as though the pit is bottomless.

Spend a few minutes at the Ray Mine Overlook to take in its enormity
Large haulers remove dirt from the bottom of the pit

Huge hauler trucks travel back and forth, up and down these roads at steep grades.

Six-foot fence shows how large those haulers must be

No matter what is thought about the mining operations, a visit to the Ray Mine Overlook gives one an appreciation and respect for the mine workers and their challenging working conditions and schedules.

Storyboards at the overlook illustrate operations at the Ray Mine

For more information about Arizona’s copper industry, make a trip to ASARCO’s Mineral Discover Center south of Tucson. To learn more about copper, visit the site.