Friday, January 31, 2014

the lavender pit mine and lowell, arizona

the morning after our bisbee exploration, we drove a little further down az-80, past old bisbee, to get breakfast at the bisbee breakfast club. as we rounded the bend we were surprised to find a giant open pit mine. apparently we didn't listen that closely during the queen mine tours the day before. 

the lavender pit mine, opened in 1917, was named for harrison lavender, a former phelps dodge general manager who came up with the plan for making the unprofitable low grade copper bearing rock into a commercially viable copper producing ore. it's ironic then, that there are in fact lavender or purple minerals that can be found in the mine and the surrounding hills. it is a huge mine, spanning 4000 ft wide (north to south), 5000 ft long, and measuring 850 ft deep. and during the 57 years the lavender pit mine was open, it produced over 600,000 tons of copper ore, with gold, silver, and turquoise byproducts. 


after we investigated the mine, we continued on to breakfast and discovered that someone had restored the street to look like lowell, arizona during the mine's heyday. (when the mine was founded, there were two towns, lowell to the south and bisbee to the north, but as both mines closed the towns became one: bisbee). the street is filled with beautifully restored cars and fantastic signs and advertisements from the 1940s, but besides the bisbee breakfast club and a small convenience store, it looks like a ghost town and a little peek into arizona's past. 






Thursday, January 30, 2014

downtown bisbee arizona

we went to bisbee last year, and it was a cute little town, but we didn't really get the full bisbee experience. we'd heard that although bisbee started as a mining town, it was more of an artsy town now, but we didn't do our research and we got a late start to the day, and so we missed out on doing the queen mine tour as well as really being able to explore and enjoy bisbee to its full potential. not this time. this time my mom researched it, found out what we should do, and made reservations at restaurants and a hotel; we were going to do bisbee right. and so we did. 

as you enter bisbee, you'll pass through a small tunnel, after which you'll see the queen mine on the right and the town of bisbee on your left. after you pull off az-80, find a place to park, everything is accesible by walking. right away you'll see the bisbee mining and historical museum in the copper queen plaza, but if you follow along main street you'll see art galleries and cute shops galore. you'll also see beautiful buildings built in the early 1900s and signs promoting the great bisbee stair climb, an annual event on the 3rd weekend of october, where people run a course around bisbee that includes over 1000 steps, on nine stairways, that are in and around bisbee. if you're daring or just dying for some good exercise, you can walk the course; it's a great way to see bisbee.  





hotel suggestion: the jailhouse inn (520.432.8065) it's a super cute little hotel, right as you enter bisbee, built into the old jailhouse. the rooms are neat, clean, and have really cool artwork. rooms are about $80 a night.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

copper queen mine, bisbee, arizona

bisbee, a large mining town, was established in 1880 after the nearby copper queen mine opened in 1877. between the copper queen mine's opening in 1877 and its closing in 1975 it was the most productive copper mine in arizona producing over 8 billion pounds of copper. over the years other metals were mined as well, including 2.8 million ounces of gold, 77.1 million ounces of silver, 304.6 million pounds of lead, and 371.9 million pounds of zinc. however, by the mid-1960s, the copper queen mine was no longer a particularly lucrative mine and was finally shut down in 1977, at which point they began giving tours of the mine. 

my parents came to visit southern arizona over the holidays and we decided to take a little trip to bisbee (a 2 hour drive south of tucson) to check out the town and the mine, and the mine was definitely the highlight of the trip. for $13 they take you on an hour long tour through the mine where you get to wear a hard hat, a large yellow jacket (something akin to what firefighters wear i'd imagine), a gigantic belt, and a flashlight, all while riding a tiny train trolley thing. it's spectacular. but the most amazing part has to be that your tour guide is a former miner! (ours worked in the copper queen mine for 20 years before it closed!) it's amazing to hear all about the different processes and equipment that they used from someone who actually used the tools he's talking about. plus, he was such a cute old man -- he insisted he couldn't hear anyone's question, so he kept asking "what? speak up!" it was the cutest. 



some things you should know before you go: it's a cool 47ºF in the mine and tours last approximately 1 hour. reservations are a must; call 866.432.2071 or 520.432.2071. tours run at 9am, 1030am, 12pm, 2pm, 330pm. adults are $13 while kids (4-12) are $5.50. for more information, check out the copper queen's website here.