It's the largest mankind hole in the earth I've ever seen. The abandoned pit is 950 feet (290 m) deep, that's like almost 100-floor skyscraper. I also paid attention to interesting colours and shape of some rocks down. If your sight is good, you should see very little entrance to an undergraound tunnel far down on the left, above the dark brown, acid water of the bottom pond.
Well, I am not a fun of geology and I stopped at this place by coincidence looking for a parking lot to get some food from a trunk. Driving Highway 80 east from Old Bisbee towards Douglas I had to notice information signs on Lavender pit observation photo point. But I had no idea what Lavander pit meant in English. I thought about flowers (lavenders) while in reality Lavander is a surname. And I sadly thought about PIT that's in Polish a name of the tax form we have to fill in annually by 31 April.
I stopped at a large but completely empty parking lot with the Blue Shop which was closed and commemorative plaque explaining who was Lavender and why the pit was named after him (picture 2). I also saw metal fence taller than I was, luckily with holes for a camera. It was after six and shortly before sunset. It was wrong time for taking pictures of dark pit's bottom. And the place looked rather scarry that time.
The Lavender Pit belonged to the Copper Queen Mine, run by the Phelps Dodge Corporation from 1879 to 1975. Mining took place in underground tunnels and shafts until 1951 when it was determined, that an open pit mine would be an economical way to increase ore yield. Over a billion tons of copper was mined from this pit, with good amounts of gold, silver and lead also being extracted. Turquoise was also a by-product of local mining activity. Bisbee turquoise, also known as Bisbee Blue, is said to be amongst the finest turquoise found anywhere in the world. Mining in the pit stopped in 1974 and all mining operation ceased in the Copper Queen Mine in 1975 when the price of copper plummeted.
After leaving hills of smooth slopes, Arizona State Highway 80 (Tombstone -Bisbee) close to Bisbee has entered a very rough terrain, with very steep slopes descending into deep Tombstone Canyon. These quite different Madrean sky islands full of sharp rocky formations with the highest peak, Mount Ballard (7,500 feet; 2,300 m) are called the Mule Mountains. The rocks are partly nude, partly covered by various grasses, evergreen bushes and little trees - oaks and pines mainly. This remained me sceneries from a series of Winnetou Western movies I used to watch on TV as a kid. Well, actually they were filmed in former Yugoslavia (Slovenia and Croatia now).
But my foundest memory from Mule Mountais is the single mule deer walking a few meters down the highway 80. Unfortunatelly when I carefully stopped a car on a shoulder to picture him, he suddenly run away :-(. It was the first deer in natural habitat I have seen on American soil. I think the deer I saw was a mule deer as it had, as I noticed, white but black tipped tail and large, mule-like ears.
To differentiate various species of deer (it's sometimes very difficult) always first pay attention to its tail (color of its bottom), ears (size and shape) and surely antlers. But in April deer had no antlers in southwestern USA. Keep in mind that antlers are shed after mating season ( from mid-January to mid-April for mule deer) and regrown each year. Later on I spotted and pictured deer many times, including black-tailed deer with a black underside to tail and similar ears (say, in Olympic NP, Washington State) and a year later Virginia deer (= white-tailed deer, with white underside to tail and smaller ears) in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
I didn't visit city of Douglas like an average visitor. I drove Arizona State Highway 80 from Bisbee about 25 miles east to reach Douglas (map here) where I had to stop from natural reasons. By coiincidence I stopped very close to stately, 5-storey building that was perfectlyl signed by la arge roof neon: Hotel Gadsden (map here).
The hotel opened its doors for visitors in 1907. Its building looks for me too heavy. But as soon as I entered the lobby I was very, very surprised! First of all by size of the lobby and futher by rich decorations including white Italian marble and a few ancient columnns. But the highlight of its decor is an authentic and huge Tiffany stained glass mural put across one wall of the massive mezzanine. Vaulted stained glass skylights run the full length of the lobby.
Well, Douglas looks larger and for sure more American than Bisbee - with typical perpendicular streets numbered by numbers (east-west) and letters (south-north)
The Gadsden Hotel is located on the right side when you arrive from Bisbee, at 1046 G Avenue. Map here.
Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880. As mining in the Mule Mountains proved very successful, in the early 20th century the population of Bisbee grew fastly and it sported a constellation of suburbs, including Warren, Lowell, and San Jose, some of which had been founded on their own (ultimately less successful) mines. In 1917, open pit mining was successfully introduced to meet the heavy copper demand due to World War I. In 1929, the county seat was moved from Tombstone, Arizona to Bisbee, where it remains. For a short time Bisbee was the largest city berween Saint Louis and San Francisco. By 1950, boom times were over. But the introduction of surface mining at Lavender Pit allowed the town to escape the fate of many of its early contemporaries. However, in 1975, the Phelps Dodge Corporation finally halted mining operations in its massive Bisbee mine, the Lavender Pit.
The resulting exodus of mine employees might have been the end of Bisbee. But surprisingly Old Bisbee didn't become the next ghost town. However. some of its satellite towns, like Lowell, Bakerville and the largest one - Warren, are economically depressed and although are still partly inhabited may be called ghost towns. If you like discovering beauty of neglected, empty and sad towns take Bisbee Road on Lowell roundabound (map here) and do enjoy. I have only seen Lowell by the Lavender Pit, an empty town with abandoned industrial and mining equaipment.
The golf course in Naco.
If you don't play golf, you can still hang out at their fine restaurant. Often very busy, but that's because they deliver good food quickly at low prices, served by friendly staff in a nice atmosphere: maybe the best restaurant view in the county.
Their Mexican food is also routinely counted among the best -if not Thee Best- in the area.
Like many Bisbee and Naco area bars, their saloon offers (local) Electric Dave's beer on tap. Their bar was recently voted one of the top ten 19th holes out of all of Arizona's golf courses.
The course itself is the oldest continuously-run track in AZ. It has a par 6 on their back nine that stands as the longest golf hole in the west. Top rated rural course in Southern AZ, it's also the only Cochise County course featured in Arizona's Greatest Golf Courses, by Bill Huffman. You can pick up a copy of it in their Pro Shop and they'll knock off $5 if you want it autographed.
They're quick with a laugh and in keeping with the restaurant prices, the green fees are always low, year round.
I lived near Bisbee up until 1979,, I still go back to visit her. She's an old copper mining town, the mine has been closed since 1975, but the town still thrives with artists and life. It has narrow streets and alley ways, some streets still made out of brick. And stay at the Copper Queen where even outlaws had found a haven. Back in the late 70's I saw Jerry Garcia playing in a bar there. When I was there in the early 90's, there was still an old poster stuck to a dirty window of an empty shop, I wondered if it was the bar that he played in the time I saw him. My last visit there was November 2004.
I've found the Lavender Jeep tours (start at the base of Main Street next to the trolley stop, across the street from Copper Queen Hotel) are always willing to augment a trip to satisfy my curiosity. I enjoy bringing friends and family on these tours because you get very on-on-one attention from the drivers and get high into the hills where many would not be able to walk.
There's a great vingtage store called VaVoom. It's located south of Main St. right where
you come off the highway. They have really neat items at affordable prices. They also
carry new clothes & some handmade leather goods. Old records & some punk stuff too. The propieters, Kelly & Brad, are very nice folks. Kelly made me a leather corset that is so cool!