For those who like history, exploring and the great outdoors, have I got a day trip for you!

For the first destination, you will travel south from Prescott on Highway 89 toward Congress. As you descend the cliff hanger road out of Yarnell, you will see the desert floor below you and a large commercial operation you may have wondered about. Is it an energy producer? Once at the bottom continue a short distance before Congress looking for a sign to Stanton. Turn left and travel east on a good condition dirt road, suitable for any vehicle, for six miles.

You will pass by that mysterious commercial operation revealing that it is indeed an energy producer of sorts, flatulence that is! It’s a dairy. Cross the bridge over the ravine and you have arrived at Stanton, which is a ghost town.

Gold was discovered here in the 1860s and a small town named Antelope Station sprung up. In the 1870s, Charles Stanton arrived using vicious tactics and hired desperadoes to take over the town, which he named for himself. His bad deeds eventually caught up with him in 1886 when an outlaw plugged him full of lead in his stage stop saloon for the crime of insulting his sister. Stanton is discreetly buried up the canyon from the town.

During winter months, the best time to visit, Stanton is not a true ghost town as the mine rents out RV spaces. However, we saw only three people on our visit. They have restored the remaining buildings and you can go into Stanton’s saloon, now the RV park office. The long Stanton hotel, with back doors for each room for quick escapes, an opera/recreation house and several houses survive along with mining equipment.

And now on to the real icing on the day trip cake – the ghost town of Vulture City. Back out to Highway 89, travel through Congress south to Wickenburg. Just before Wickenburg head south on Vulture Mine Road crossing Highway 60. After 11.3 miles you will see your destination on the right. Drive in under the Vulture City sign and park in the lot.

You are in for a pleasant surprise. In 1863, Henry Wickenburg discovered what would become the richest gold strike in Arizona. The mine continues operation today. When the current owners bought the mine and operated it for a while, the ghost town was dilapidated with collapsed roofs and crumbling walls. In 2017, they sold the mine but kept the ghost town because the new owner had intentions to bulldoze the town for liability protection. That was when Robin and Rod Prat embarked on a full-scale authentic restoration.

Thanks to historic photos from assay worker Waldo Twitchel and the hiring of experts, the restorations are seamless. Specialists made matching adobe bricks from local soil. Some structures were moved into the central area, one even being reclaimed after having been moved earlier to Wickenburg. The current mine owners have been very helpful and supportive of the restoration work including access to water, aggregate for roads and parking, and removal of artifacts for display in the town.

Check in and pay the nominal admission fee, worth every cent and going toward keeping the town open and further restoration. Get a laminated self-guided tour booklet and start your counterclockwise tour. This will include the garage, gas station, pump house, blacksmith shop, post office, school, assay office and guard house, Wickenburg’s cabin, hanging tree, brothel and doctor’s office, bunkhouse, workshop, church house and cookhouse.

You can go inside nearly all of these buildings and view extensive collections of original furnishings and belongings from the town. Impressive interpretive signing as well as before and after photos add to the exploration excitement. And don’t miss the hilarious pumpkin and skeleton art displays toward the end.

Robin Prat calls this “a work in progress and a labor of love.” Plan to spend at least two hours to be able to absorb even a fair amount of the fruits of their labor.

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