Skip to main content

Throwback Thursday; Silverbell Road and Iron Forest National Monument

Back in 2012 I headed out to rural Pima County in the Silverbell Mountains looking for any trace of the Silverbell company town. 






The trip to find Silverbell involved taking Avra Valley Road west from I-10 to the current open mining pit with has a junction with Silverbell Road. 


Silverbell Road is essentially a U-shaped roadway that traverses northwest from the Silver Bell Mine at Avra Valley before looping back eastward to Avra Valley via Ironwood National Monument where it ends at Trico Road.  Silverbell Road for the most part a somewhat decent dirt roadway with some small segments of asphalt.  I wouldn't recommend taking a car out to Silverbell Road but at the time I went it definitely could be accessed with just a normal 2WD high clearance vehicle.

At the time I didn't realize there was active drug running going on in the Silverbell Mountains.  I ran across several Border Patrol trucks who were searching the desert for anyone who may on foot heading northward from Sonora.  It was definitely odd to see Border Patrol vehicles patrolling a road that was so far north from the actual border but there was definitely an opportunity to pass through almost open desert to the south for anyone brave enough to try.

Silverbell is sometimes referred to "Silver Bell."  The Silverbell Mine despite it's name actually exploits a seam of copper.  The original Silverbell company town was located on the north end of the modern open pit mines.  Silverbell was established in 1903 when several small mining claims which dated back to the 1880s were consolidated by the Imperial Copper Company. 

By 1904 a new line of the Arizona Southern Railroad was constructed between Red Rock in Pinal County and Silverbell which roughly corresponds to modern Sasco Road.  The Arizona Southern Railroad eventually gave rise to the community Sasco which primarily existed to process ore from Silverbell.  The Arizona Southern Railroad and Silverbell can be observed on this 1908 map of Arizona. 

1908 Arizona Map

The original Silverbell apparently topped out at about 1,000 residents.  By the early 1930 Copper production in the Silverbell shuttered and the town declined until Post Office Service was removed in 1934.  The Arizona Southern Railroad apparently was dismantled by 1933.

By 1954 the Asarco Mining company built a second company town known as Silver Bell which was located at the junction of Avra Valley Road and Silver Bell Road pictured above.  The Silver Bell company town was largely demolished by Asarco when copper prices declined in 1984.  The current mine owner purchased the property in 1989 and operates the open pit mines where both Silverbell/Silver Bell were located. 

Most of the Silverbell Mountains are now within the Boundary of the Ironwood Forest National Monument.  Said National Monument was created in 2000 and largely is meant to protect the desert Ironwood Trees which apparently can live up to 800 years.  Ironwoods in general are a type of tree that has extremely hard wood.  Ironwood Forest National Monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and a map of it's boundaries can seen here.

Ironwood National Monument Map 

So was there anything left really merit of Silverbell or Silver Bell?  The simple answer is; no, there wasn't anything standing left that I could find.  The open pit mine largely wiped out any trace of either town, I suppose the story and a couple interesting roads made the trip worth it. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Bayshore Freeway (US Route 101)

The Bayshore Freeway is a 56.4-mile component of US Route 101 located in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Bayshore Freeway connects the southern extent of San Jose to the Central Freeway in the city of San Francisco.  The corridor was originally developed as the Bayshore Highway between 1923 and 1937.  The Bayshore Highway would serve briefly as mainline US Route 101 before being reassigned as US Route 101 Bypass in 1938.  Conceptually the designs for the Bayshore Freeway originated in 1940 but construction would be delayed until 1947.  The Bayshore Freeway was completed by 1962 and became mainline US Route 101 during June 1963.   Part 1; the history of the Bayshore Freeway Prior the creation of the Bayshore Highway corridor the most commonly used highway between San Jose and San Francisco was El Camino Real (alternatively known as Peninsula Highway).  The  American El Camino Real  began as an early example of a signed as an Auto Trail starting in 1906.  The era of State Highway Mainte

Former US Route 101 and California State Route 41 through Paso Robles

Paso Robles is a city located on the Salinas River of San Luis Obispo County, California.  As originally configured the surface alignments of US Route 101 and California State Route 41 converged in downtown Paso Robles.  US Route 101 originally was aligned through Paso Robles via Spring Street.  California State Route 41 entered the City of Paso Robles via Union Road and 13th Street where it intersected US Route 101 at Spring Street.  US Route 101 and California State Route 41 departed Paso Robles southbound via a multiplex which split near Templeton.   Pictured above is the cover of the September/October 1957 California Highways & Public Works which features construction of the Paso Robles Bypass.  Pictured below is the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County which depicts US Route 101 and California State Route 41 intersecting in downtown Paso Robles.   Part 1; the history of US Route 101 and California State Route 41 in Paso Robles Paso Robles ("Pass of the

Paper Highways; US Route 20 Alternate over Teton Pass

The 8,431-foot-high Teton Pass lies in the Teton Range of the Rocky Mountains within Teton County, Wyoming.  Presently Teton Pass is crossed by Wyoming Highway 22 and Idaho State Highway 33.  At one point the highway over Teton Pass was signed as US Route 20 Alternate.  US Route 20 Alternate was over Teton Pass never formally approved by the American Association of State Highway Officials nor has the corridor ever been officially part of a US Route.  The image above was taken from the 1949 Rand McNally Map of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana which shows US Route 20 Alternate branching from US Route 20/US Route 191 near Sugar City, Idaho and crossing Teton Pass towards Jackson, Wyoming.   Part 1; the history of US Route 20 Alternate over Teton Pass No major Auto Trail was ever assigned to Teton Pass as evidenced by the 1925 Rand McNally Map of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming .  On the Wyoming side Teton Pass can be seen as part of Wyoming Highway 25 ("WY 25") whereas no State Highway is