Monday, August 16, 2010

Wagon Tracks in Stone

August 16, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Since I can remember there have been stories about wagon tracks in stone around or in the Superstition Wilderness Area. Some 60 years ago I heard a man telling my dad a story about some stone carreta tracks south of the wilderness boundary. A carreta was an old two-wheeled heavy-duty Spanish cart that could carry very large loads of the period. The man telling the story swore these were the tracks left behind, produced by two-wheeled carts carrying heavy loads of gold and silver bullion, back to Mexico from the rich mines around the Superstition Mountains.

These are the wagon tracks in stone. I am pointing to the tracks of the lead mules that is also in stone. As you stand silently over these old stone tracks you can almost here the teamster cracking the whip and the mules trudging along pulling their heavy loads.
My father talked to Jimmy Herron and Billy Martin Sr. about these alleged wagon tracks in stone. When dad first heard the story he didn't believe the Spanish hauled gold or silver bullion from this area back to Mexico in the 1840's. These ranchers knew exactly what the guy was talking about. They told dad exactly where the tracks were located and a little about their history.

According to Billy Martin Sr. the tracks were the results of the ore wagons hauling silver ore from the Silver King Mine to the Pinal Mill on Queen Creek just west of present day Superior. During the late 1870s and early 1880s there was a large milling op¬eration on the side of Queen Creek just west of Superior. The ore wagon road crossed a large deposit of welded volcanic tuff. This type of rock was not too resistant to the metal rims of the old wagon wheels carrying heavy loads of silver ore. The wagon wheels slowing etched two deep ruts across this large deposit of welded volcanic tuff (ash). This wagon wheel rut reveals the years of transport over this route from the Silver King Mine to the old Pinal Mill.

The old Silver King Mine was discover in 1875 and developed into one of the largest and richest of the early silver mines in Arizona Territory. At first the mine owners tried to ship ore to Yuma then down to the Gulf of California and on to San Francisco. This method of shipment was far too expensive. A mill was constructed on Pinal Creek west of Superior in the late 1870's where the ore was processed much cheaper and made the Silver King a very profitable mining operation. Today little remains of the old Silver King mine. Forty years ago I took some photos up at the Silver King that included the old mine superintendent office. Today the building is gone. All that remains of the Pinal Mill along Queen Creek is parts of its foundation. The history of the area is etched in the ash just north of the mill along the road to the old Silver King Mine where the wagons crossed a long de¬posit of volcanic tuff. Sorry treasure hunters, these are not carreta tracks made by the Mexican Or Spanish pioneers of the Southwest.

The turnoff to the Wagon Tracks is about halfway between the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and Superior along Highway 60 on the right side of the highway. A visit to the wagon tracks is a wonderful historical reminder of the past mining history of Arizona Territorial days. The State of Arizona should preserve this unique site for future generations to see.