Last month we covered the start of our adventure in the Whipple Mountains, riding North past the D&W Mine and on to the American Eagle Mine about eight miles from our camp. The American Eagle (also called the New American Eagle) was both a gold mine as well as a copper mine. It was discovered around 1875, and produced some high grade gold as well as copper.
And now, back to October 20, 1973: The Whipple Mountains, Part 2.
As we rode up the canyon through the difficult sandy gravel we hoped to arrive soon at our destination. Finally we saw some colorful tailings piles and stopped to check out the area and cool off the motorcycles. There was no headframe left. The main shaft was caved in at the collar (a wooden frame at ground surface, the size of the shaft opening).
Looking around from our vantage point, we saw some shallow pits and a few open cuts. Old broken boards resembled jackstraws, scattered in all directions. To one side of the tailings were remainders of concrete equipment mounts. Some, shattered by vandals, others still whole but no longer supporting machinery.
We took a few pictures and had some sips of water from our canteens, kicked our steel steeds to life and headed back to our camp some twelve miles to the South. It was a beautiful day. About three miles back down the road, we came to a road fork. We had come up the West side of the fork and so we thought we’d check out the East leg, at this time.
The route angled off, crossing several drainage canyons from much higher in the Whipple Mountains. It was still a rugged road. I’d hate to be in that area during a heavy rain! Still some six miles from our camp, the road suddenly jogged back Northeast for a half mile then headed down again to the Southeast and finally back to the Colorado River aqueduct.
Visions of a non-moving chair and ice-cold beer filled our heads as we turned West and paralleled the aqueduct to our camp, complete with some afternoon shade.
The next day, as soon as our bodies had warmed up from breakfast and the morning sun, we again filled up our canteens, prepared the dual-purpose motorcycles, donned our day packs, adjusted our gloves and guided our steely steeds to the service road of the Colorado River aqueduct and headed East.
We crossed yesterdays return road junction, standing up on our foot pegs to ease the bumps of the intersection, then back down on the seat for comfort. Almost two miles from the intersection, the road North to the Riverview Mine (also known as the Ethel Leona) joined our aqueduct road. Here we turned up the graded canyon road as it climbed half a mile to the mine.
Originally listed as a copper mine, the Riverview was worked as a gold mine. It looked like it was being worked again. We spent little time here as it was fenced and posted. After getting the kinks out of our legs it was time to “mount up” and see what the next half mile might show us.
The road became increasingly narrow and rough, so we turned around and headed back to the aqueduct road and further East to find a copper mill!
About two miles from the Riverview Mine road, we arrived at a good graded road leading North back up into the Whipples signed Alladin Mills 1 & 2. Five miles up this road, we came to a rather large open area accessed by the well graded road which continued around and beyond the mill area and up into some grey-brown hills above us. There, part of the hill had been cleared away so that the road could continue on into the mountain.
Back in the open area, a great deal of concrete had been formed into square and rectangular tanks for processing the copper ore. Until recently, I had no idea what kind of ore they were processing and how.
When we walked up above the tanks we saw one cement tank divided into four tanks and two of those chambers held rusty scraps of metal. If you look at the pictures (click on them to make them bigger), you will note that they seem connected, with the final tank by the motorcycles, with a removable wall. Chemicals have stained this final tank.
I have just recently read that the ground copper ore is shoveled into one of the cement tanks and a solution of Sulfuric Acid is allowed to seep through the ore. At the bottom of the tank the mineral-laden solution is piped to the scrap iron tanks where the copper in the solution reacts with the scrap iron. Further steps that I am not familiar with, strip the metalic copper off the scrap iron and the end result is perhaps copper “sponge”, “mat”, crystals of copper sulphate or a copper bar.
The sun had started to cast afternoon shadows and it was time to head back to camp for food and liquid refreshment. We had covered a lot of ground. Unfortunately we have never been back to the Whipple Mountains. Jerome W. Anderson