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Located in the Mule Mountains of Arizona at an elevation of approximately 5,490 ft. is Bisbee. Once one of Arizona busiest copper towns, Bisbee today is home to many artists and writers. The town was named after one of the investors Judge DeWitt Bisbee.

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For Families:

The Queen Mine tour is very fun for children (and adults). They get to dress up in miner's helmets and coats, and ride some cool trains down into the mine. The tours are led by retired miners, so they're pretty neat.

Combine your trip to Bisbee with a visit to Tombstone, and you'll have a great Old West experience.


Bisbee got its start in the late 1800s when an Irishman named Jack Dunn, stumbled across some outcroppings of lead and iron while chasing Apaches in the area. Dunn had stopped to get water but found the water had a particularly bad taste. While searching for a better source of water, he spotted the minerals and correctly identified them as having value.

Dunn collected some specimens and showed them to Lt. Rucker and Byrne. They agreed to become partners and file a claim. However, the Apache campaigns kept them busy for the next several months. In the meantime, Dunn made friends with George Warren, another prospector with a questionable reputation. Dunn and his partners "grubstaked" Warren (i.e. they gave food, money, and equipment to him, with the condition that he share what he found). Warren took his grubstake and headed for Tombstone's saloons where he spent several weeks, and lost his money and supplies. When the drunken prospector finally told others what he was supposed to be doing, he was quickly re-equipped by new partners. Suffice it to say, when claims where filed in the Mule Mountains, Dunn, Rucker, and Byrne were not included. The story does not end here. Two years later, in 1877, George Warren, while drunk, bet his share that he could outrun a horse in a 100 yd. foot race. Of course he lost — and what a loss it was. He later died of pneumonia, completely broke. He had lost his remaining claims to his so-called "friends" who had him declared insane. Once his claims were transferred, he was declared sane again.

The mining camp quickly began to grow, and became a town in 1880. In 1889, the railroad arrived, replacing mule-driven hauls. The town quickly grew, built within two canyons: Main Street (or Tombstone Canyon) and an adjoining canyon that became known as Brewery Gulch. A resident by the name of Seiber had a saloon next to his brewery, so residents named the gulch after the brewery. Over time Brewery Gulch became infamous for its saloons, breweries, and dance hall girls.

Prominent citizens also lived in the area, building fancy homes in the area. Many of the homes in the area still cling to the mountain side.

Bisbee has a long and colorful histry, with lynchings, fires, floods, numerous holdups of Bisbee's stagecoaches, a gunfight in 1883, and the rounding up and shipping out of 2,000 I.W.W. (Union members) by 2,000 armed men in 1917.

Bisbee's famous Lavender Pit is a strip mine visible from the roadway and is hundreds of feet deep. The Pit was initially only expected to last until the 1960s, but it lasted until the early 1970s. At the end of its life, it was profitably making copper from ore that was grading only approximately 1/2 percent copper. It is estimated that by 1975 Bisbee had produced an estimated eight (8) billion pounds of copper, 370+ million pounds of copper, 95+ million ounces of silver, and close to 3 million ounces of gold.

The Queen Mine tour takes visitors into an old copper mine. It is a historical tour that provides good insight into how mining was once done. Visitors are taken into various parts of the mine by former miners and shown around. Please note: The mine is well ventilated and is safe, and there is still copper in the mine. This is an enjoyable tour. You can find information on the Queen Mine Tour on their website.

Visitors today can also enjoy a visit to the Lavender Pit, Bisbee's Queen Mine, downtown, Brewery Gulch, and tours of the city. Bisbee's semi-famous art cars and remnants of its Trolley Car system also spice up the downtown. The city also has a famous race where visitors run up steps by the hundreds. In the past, the town has also had mining competitions.

Location: Southern Arizona. From Tucson, follow the interstate south to Benson. From Benson, south to Bisbee. This is a border town.

Notes: this is an isolated section of Arizona, so although the town is well-visited, the surrounding areas are remote. If you're not familiar with the area or prepared for contingencies, don't go traipsing off into the backcountry, even if you have GPS.


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