Say howdy to Wickenburg, Arizona’s original western town, featuring a historic downtown and known for its clean air, dude ranches, and wide-open spaces. Located 50 minutes northwest of Phoenix, Wickenburg serves as the team-roping capital of the world. Living up to its town motto of “Horses, Hats, History and Hospitality”, it also offers a senior rodeo that includes the fourth largest parade in the state, gold panning, western dances, cowboys and garter girls, further making this destination a gold mine.
Awaken to the view of peaceful morning mists swirling over the serpentine sandbars of the Hassayampa River. Nearby, inquisitive horses are being groomed and readied for a morning outing with their riders, exploring open spaces and trails within the view of a landmark eucalyptus tree. This tree marks the location of the Kay-El-Bar Guest Ranch, an authentic western vacation location where a simpler way of life and cowboy dreams prevail.
Life at the intimate and historic Kay-El-Bar Guest Ranch centers around its horses and a daily riding program with helpful staff and wranglers to assist riders of all experience levels, from beginner to advanced. Even the littlest cowpokes can get in on the fun with an escorted trip around the corral. This old-time ranch adventure includes everything from hats to boots, with generous home-cooked meals, comfortable accommodations, and horseback rides twice a day. The historic guest ranch welcomes families, couples and singles.
“I came here with my sweetheart and enjoyed the horseback ride in the desert, the peaceful breeze, the cozy fireplace in the room and the sky lit up with stars for a night time adventure,” shared Chuck Van Donsel.
Listed on the Arizona and National Historic Registers, lodging consists of buildings made of adobe brick hand-made by the Maricopa Indians who lived on the nearby reservation. The 1920s lodge offers inviting cowboy décor, jigsaw puzzles, and the all-but-forgotten pleasures of loafing around if one pleases. Unwind in a hammock, watch the abundant birds, and enjoy the best of the unhurried old days.
Should a hankering to explore catch you, take an intriguing trip to the nearby Vulture City Mine and Ghost Town, lying 12 miles south of Wickenburg. Established around 1863 after Henry Wickenburg discovered a rich gold lode, legend has it there were several scavenger birds circling a nearby peak which inspired the name of the mine. With twelve faithfully restored buildings including Henry Wickenburg’s cabin, a self-guided tour at Vulture City Mine and Ghost Town offers a look at life in the Southwest during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with countless artifacts and original mining equipment scattered along the dirt walking paths. Historical records demonstrate that the Vulture Mine produced hundreds of thousands of gold ounces, and may be the real source of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold.
By the early 1900s, there were around 5,000 residents in Vulture City, whose agricultural needs brought about the reopening of irrigation canals left by native peoples, paving the way for the growth of the city of Phoenix. Beware of the Hanging Tree, a two hundred plus year old ironwood tree, where outlaws would meet justice.
In the midst of creating a more educational side of Vulture City, other tours are in the works including a meteor and stargazing event in December along with photography workshops. Most of the events are held outside, and currently request that even the Ghosts wear masks when necessary.
Pony up for an authentic western dude ranch experience, with hats and boots for a slice of history, and take a step back in time with western ways in the good old days.
To learn more about the Kay-El-Bar Guest Ranch visit; www.kayelbar.com or call 928-684-7593. For a Vulture City Ghost Town visit; www.vultureminetours.com