View Full Version : A trip to Old Ripsey Mine, Arizona

01-12-2013, 04:49 PM
I wanted to spend a couple of days exploring between Christmas and New Years, but I didn’t know where, only that it was going to be someplace that I had never been before. So it was off to the computer to do some research. I started off in the with some random clicks on Google Earth and the Geocaching website when I found Old Ripsey Mine. After seeing the pictures of this area, I knew I had to try to see it. I also found this mine listed on a 1909 topo map, so it’s been around for a while.

Now, how to get there? Back to the computer. After four hours of additional research, I had my primary route planned on my topo map, some additional points of interested located and one big question mark. Was the route passable? I had read on one obscure hiking blog (the Arizona Trail passes through this area) that they had found one of the egress points out of the wash road I wanted to travel on completely washed out. The blog lacked specific directions though but looking on Google Earth, I found a spot that looked impassible as it came out of the wash near the Arizona Trail. Google Earth showed what looked like a huge cave in or wash out (over 10 feet in height) and no observable bypass wide enough for a vehicle. As I have been fooled by Google Earth a few times before, I thought we may as well give it a try, but it wasn’t going to be my primary route.

The day after Christmas, a few friends and I loaded up our Jeeps and headed out from Tucson at 8:30 am. We headed up highway 79 and turned east on the Florence-Kelvin highway (which is a nice dirt road, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a ‘highway’). After about 10 miles, we turned off on the 4WD road. It was a very easy trail, over rolling hills, by wooden corrals and through small, sandy washes. I was able to keep it comfortably in 4WD high for this part of the trip.

Easy trail

Wood corrals

There are a maze of trails in the area and route finding can be difficult. Even with my route planned out on my topo map, we found ourselves going in circles a few times. During one of these loops, we found an interesting washout in one of the washes that we investigated. I would have loved to see the water ripping through this.




01-12-2013, 04:52 PM
When we got near Ripsey Wash, we could not find the trail that crossed the wash and came out the other side that both the topo and GE maps had shown. We drove up the wash for a while and a second route out of the wash turned out to be totally washed out. I was beginning to wonder if we would ever reach Old Ripsey Mine. We drove up the wash even further, looking for my third option. At some points, the wash was very narrow and you almost drove under some of the water cut out cliffs. Portions of this wash reminded me a little of box canyon (though it was much sandier and the geology of the rocks very different).

After about a mile, we found my third option for exiting the wash. The trail did not have any fresh tracks on it and didn’t look like it had been used for a long time. We were dubious. The trail was rough and the most difficult part of the trip so far. After less than a mile, we came to a large wash out that had a serious side angle to it. After attempting it three times and having to get a strap put on my back end for fear of sliding into the washout, we decided a little trail work was necessary. So we put Mike on the shovel.



He’s an animal on that thing and we cut a big section out of the hill. It was not quite wide enough and our tires kept trying to slip into the crack, but we all made it through safely. The pictures and video make this look flat. It wasn’t.

Not too far from this washout, we came to the Old Ripsey Mine. Another, even larger washout, was 100 feet from the mine. We were close enough to walk to the mine and no one in the group decided it was worth it to try and cross, so we parked and walked up.

Old Ripsey Mine

This was one of the coolest places I’ve been to in a while. Lot’s of old equipment about. There’s an old boiler, narrow gauge railway tracks, barrels, winches, ventilators, pumps and a few large metal doohickeys. We spent a couple hours having lunch and exploring the site. The weather was overcast, but perfect temperature.


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01-12-2013, 04:52 PM





01-12-2013, 04:53 PM


We decided we would try my fourth and final option to get back to the wash via the “impassible” washout. The road splits near the mine and we headed off in this new direction. This trail was easy and smooth for the most part. There were two fun washouts that needed to be negotiated. My long wheel base worked against me and after three attempts leaving me nothing but my front right and my rear left wheels off the ground at the same time, I engaged my rear locker and it ended any difficulty I was having. The 2 door Jeeps did not have any problems doing it fully open (though this wouldn’t be the case on our second trip).

This was one of the easier washouts

We passed a cool solar powered windmill and tank, then headed left toward the wash. I asked one of the two door Jeeps to take the lead at this point. The impassible washout was not to far away and if we couldn’t make it through, they can turn around much easier than I could. The wash winding its way to this point was smooth, sandy and tons of fun.

Cool windmill and tank


01-12-2013, 04:54 PM
We slowed down near the questionable point. I knew it was going to be a sharp hairpin turn to the left. The road down the wash ended abruptly at a thirty foot drop. Luckily, a bypass went to the left. This may not be too apparent if you’re not paying attention and/or driving this at night and it would not be a fun drop. Some of us stayed on top, while Pat drove down the bypass and up the small side wash to meet us below. The water had made some really nice designs in the mud/sand/rock in the area and we took a few minutes to explore it. The Arizona Trail passes through right here and we saw some of the large rock cairns marking the trail.

What it looks like on Google Earth

What it looks like from below

What it looks like from above

What it looks like inside


01-12-2013, 04:54 PM
What it looks like going around it :-)

What Cat-dog looks like looking out the window near the washout

What Cat-dog looks like jumping onto a rock

What Cat-dog looks like on said rock. You didn’t think you were going to get away without a picture of her on a rock, did you?

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01-12-2013, 05:01 PM
With a sigh of relief, we were back in Ripsey Wash. This should be a piece of cake to get out now. And it was. The wash road leading back to the Florence-Kelvin Highway was smooth and easy. It passed several corrals and interested rock formations. This portion of the drive was worth the trip by itself.



It was almost 5 pm by the time we made it back to pavement. Yes! We had found Old Ripsey Mine and made it back through the Ripsey Wash. It was a wonderful trip and the mining ruins were awesome. 95% of the trail was super easy, with just enough challenge to make it interesting. Though I am still wondering, if this was the “Old Ripsey Mine”, where is the “New Ripsey Mine” ;-)?

If you’re interested in some great scenery, four-wheeling and mining ruins, this trip should be on your bucket list.

After I got back, I found some really cool history on the area. That's coming soon.

You can see more pictures, video, history and directions at: http://experience-az.com/adventures/4wd/oldripseymine/oldripseymine.html

bob3 was bob2
01-12-2013, 11:33 PM
Looks like another successful trip, nice photos as usual!

01-13-2013, 06:39 AM
Super cool, great post............Speedy

01-13-2013, 07:02 AM
Nice photos and it looks like you guys had a great time out in the hills! You are correct that in addition to the scenery that there is quite a bit of history associated with the area. This old map shows "Zellweger" a few miles southwest of the Old Ripsey Mine. This was the location of the John Zellweger Ranch. It has been said that this ranch ranged from the Gila River to the north to Oracle Junction to the south and its east/west boundaries were what essentially would become Highways 77 and 79. One of those places, I guess where you could ride all day and not leave your own property..... Zellweger's partner in this operation was George Pusch, who would come to have Pusch Peak in the Catalina Mountains named after him. Zellweger's and Pusch's original association came as partners in a butcher shop in Tucson. Together, they also owned the Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley, which is currently being restored as a historic structure by that town. These men also were involved with the construction of a railroad from Tucson to Globe, a project that was started but never finished.


01-13-2013, 07:21 AM
great pics!!!!!!!!!

01-13-2013, 01:58 PM
What a coincidence. I just went to the Oro Valley Historical Society's open house at Steam Pump Ranch. They gave a very interesting talk about the place and people. Yes, George Pusch and John Zellweger went into business in Tucson in the late 1800s. George ran Steam Pump Ranch, while John purchased a ranch north of Tucson. That map you uploaded is great. What year is that from? It doesn't look like it's shown as Zellweger Ranch today. Do you think it could be what's called "Horse Ranch" today? 7842

One of the best things about yesterday's presentation, was going for an unofficial tour into the desert nearby where someone just recently discovered additional foundations, trash piles and equipment from the Steam Pump Ranch era. It also appears that they may have found some old, really old, adobe ruins and foundations from before the white settlers came into the area. What a cool find.

01-15-2013, 11:54 AM
Matt, I think that I would agree with you that the location that you have marked on the map is the old Zellweger place. Barbara Marriott,in her book “Canyon of Gold”, writes the history of the Canyon Del Oro. In it there is a chapter dedicated to George Pusch/John Zellweger. She writes that the two men’s business relationship, in Tucson, began around 1874, but dissolved in 1883. From her book, “For $32,000 George acquired the ranch and all business property in Tucson including the butcher shop and the ice house.For an additional twenty thousand, George acquired the PZ brand…….John and Sophia headed north. The Zellwegers purchased the Tea Cup Ranch near Florence………”
The modern Tea Cup Ranch is located just a few miles southwest of the Zellweger place shown on the old map. Since it is so close to the modern Tea Cup Ranch I think that place on the old map is the place that Zellweger moved to after his partnership with George Pusch came to an end. The reason for the break-up was not discussed in the book. I wonder if it was amicable or not?
From the Marriott book, it appears that it was Pusch alone who make the large land acquisitions north of Tucson. She says that began in 1893. The ranch headquarters was known as the PZ Ranch located a few miles south of Winkelman where I grew up. Unfortunately, I was not aware of its historical significance when I lived there and so I never took the opportunity to walk around it. There are several buildings from the old ranch that remain. It is currently posted against entry.
This link has recent photos of the PZ Ranch and an interview with one of the Pusch descendants:

http://www.ovhistory.org/Stories/Henry%20Zipf%20visit%20to%20the%20PZ%20Feldman%20R anch%202-15-10%20Transcribed%20notes-ver8-final.pdf

That is an interesting find in the desert close to the Steam Pump. My dad thinks that one of my great-grandfathers may have been employed at the original ranch as a mechanic to keep the pump running. One of these days I will have to make contact with the folks in charge to see if there are any employment records available.

01-15-2013, 07:22 PM

Great story. After hearing some of this information, I want to go read some more about this place. Not sure that the PZ Ranch is the one you're refering to just south of Winkleman. They referenced that in that article that it was just north of Mammoth. I found it on the Topo map and google earth'd it. Looks like the same one to me??

Topo Map of PZ Ranch??



Photos from Steam Pump Ranch and trash pile found.

03-08-2013, 07:48 AM
Great photos!

Have you ever had any major jeep issues on your adventures? I love exploring remote places but I always have the fear of our jeep breaking down while we're in BFE with no cell signal for miles.

04-06-2013, 12:58 PM
Great photos!

Have you ever had any major jeep issues on your adventures? I love exploring remote places but I always have the fear of our jeep breaking down while we're in BFE with no cell signal for miles.

No problems yet (crossing fingers). But a good suggestion is to always travel with others, that way they can help you out if you get stuck or break down. If you have to go alone, then I would suggest getting a GPS locator messenger like Spot http://www.findmespot.com/en/. I bought one last year and really like it.

El Burro Camaro
04-06-2013, 02:17 PM
Dude you got some talent and some guts to go out to some of these places. I've really enjoyed reading some of threads about these old mines and towns you go out looking for. I just moved from Arizona myself and I spent so much time on my travels looking for some of these places, problem is I don't have anything with 4WD so its usually hoofing it for me.

04-06-2013, 05:07 PM
Really a cool site you have thar pardner. No really, a lot of great pics and info Matt. Thanks for posting.

09-04-2013, 04:23 AM
Just kind of an update on the Ripsey Mine area. I have a friend who lives in nearby Kearny and he says there's serious talk of a landfill/garbage dump going in in the Ripsey Wash area. It sounds like access to Ripsey Wash from Flo-Kel Highway will be seriously hindered if this happens. I guess we'll see what happens. This is also the area of Apache Kid fame.............