During a recent road trip to visit relatives in Las Vegas, we wanted to find a spot between Phoenix and Vegas that would give us a chance to see something new and give the kids a break from the drive.
After examining our route on a map, I discovered Chloride, Arizona, off US-93, north of Kingman.
The town isn’t quite in the middle of the drive – it took about 3 1/2 hours to get there from Phoenix – but it broke up the day nicely, as there was only about an hour drive left afterward.
Chloride is a former silver mining town. On the first and third Saturdays of each month, at noon, there are gunfight re-enactments in “Cyanide Springs,” an old western town built years ago by volunteers using only hand tools, according to the Chloride Historical Museum. We got there around 1 p.m. and it wasn’t either of those days so we ended up being the only ones there and had the western town, aka “ghost town,” to ourselves.
We parked and walked around the town to see the “Dead Ass Saloon,” jail, bank and other buildings.
It didn’t have the feeling of a glossy, Disney ghost town, but had a more authentic, abandoned feeling. The boys had a blast exploring it. (The piano actually played, but was out of tune, our 9-year-old noted.).
We spent some time exploring the old buildings and having nobody around – except those outside Yesterdays Restaurant across the street from the old playground next to the town – added to the “ghost town” feeling. We got chased out of the saloon by a pesky wasp, but enjoyed checking out this western town.
According to visitchlorideaz.com, Chloride was founded in 1862 with the discovery of silver ore. The name came from the silver chloride found in the hills. Today, the town’s population is around 350, and it is the oldest continuously inhabited mining town in the state of Arizona.
In 1966, an artist named Roy Purcell lived in the hills above Chloride and he painted colorful murals on the rocks, which can still be visited today. He had taken a break from working on his master’s degree in creative writing and fine arts at Utah State University to work as a miner when he painted these murals.
“The Journey” is a 2,000-square-foot set of murals painted on boulders about a mile and a half outside of town.
You travel on a hilly dirt road to get there and just when you think you might have missed it, colorful arrows painted on boulders point you in the right direction. When you get there, you’ll know!
We didn’t end up staying at the murals very long, as some more pesky wasps were flying around and scared everyone back into the car before doing much exploring. Plus, we were eager to continue our journey and see our relatives. But we did marvel about the paintings and tried to imagine what it must have been like to have painted on this outdoor canvas. We saw some ancient petroglyphs from our car, too.
Definitely a good side trip on the way from Phoenix to Vegas!