weather icon Clear

Old copper rail route now rich journey through Verde Canyon

Verde Canyon Railroad operates in north central Arizona, headquartered in Clarkdale. The town itself is a National Historic Landmark. Founded in 1912, it’s named after William Andrews Clark, the same man who founded Las Vegas in 1905.

This planned community was built to provide housing and support services to the booming copper mining town of Jerome, located just a few miles away. Jerome was once the fourth largest city in the Arizona Territory, boasting a peak population of 15,000 people in the 1920s.

In those days the railroad was a necessity to take copper ore to Perkinsville, where the smelter was located. Today, visitors ride the same 40-mile route to the Perkinsville ghost ranch. It’s a four-hour round-trip journey through the rich riparian environment of the Verde River.

In autumn this is the ideal place to enjoy some spectacular fall foliage. Each winter, from December to May, migrating golden and bald eagles make their home in Verde Canyon, which is a protected breeding area. Besides eagles and great blue herons, wildlife in the canyon include javelinas, antelope, mule deer, beavers, coyotes and mountain lions. Many threatened and endangered species also depend on this river corridor, including river otters, southwestern willow flycatchers and lowland leopard frogs.

Other highlights along your ride include seeing a couple of ancient Sinagua Indian dwellings, traveling through a 680-foot man-made tunnel, and seeing the stunning rock formations that flank the canyon. The canyon reveals three major types of rock including the light-colored limestone, which came from an ancient lake, and dark basalt, resulting from a cooled lava volcanic flow that filled the area. The horizontal orange-red layers you see are sandstones, once buried deep beneath the earth.

Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from Dec. 1-22, the railroad offers the Santa Claus Express. Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and a few elves entertain the passengers during the excursion.

While in this area, a few side trips are in order. Jerome is mostly shops, galleries and picturesque bars and restaurants, well worth a few hours of your time.

Just minutes away from Jerome and Clarkdale you will find Tuzigoot National Monument, where you can view prehistoric ruins. Nearby is Dead Horse Ranch State Park, where more than 100 species of birds have been identified. A little farther out you can get to Montezuma Castle National Monument, an ancient cliff dwelling that is one of the best preserved sites of its sort in the Southwest.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns were recently compiled with new information and photos in “Base Camp Las Vegas” and published by Stephens Press. She is the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Fishers angle for best spot

Anglers covered the shorelines at Veterans’ Memorial Park on Saturday, June 11, as Boulder City hosted the Southern Nevada free fishing day event.

94-year-old still out on the green

Feeling younger than ever, 94-year old Virginia “Birdie” Hurst is an avid golfer who has no plans to slow down.

Catalina evokes visions of romance, nature

For many who grew up in the 1950s or ’60s, the name of Santa Catalina will always evoke the vision of California at its most romantic, thanks to the Four Preps’ influential pop song of the same name. But the actual island has helped city folk enjoy romance, nature and elegant surroundings in their preferred proportions for nearly a century.

Waterfall standout of Grand Staircase-Escalante

While it would take a lifetime to see all the extraordinary wonders of the 1.87-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, even on a short visit you can hike to some of the highlights. One of the standouts, that most people are eager to visit, is Lower Calf Creek Falls.

Orchards highlight visit to Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah boasts some of the finest rock formations and geologic wonders in the West, including the Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle in the Earth that extends 100 miles. It is also one of the top choices for visitors to hike; its 150 miles of trails take in slot canyons, natural arches and bridges, waterfalls and petroglyphs.

Desert living heralded in Palm Springs

For outdoor lovers who are looking for a family or multigenerational weekend, Palm Springs, California, will certainly fit the bill. While there are hundreds of wonderful things to do here, three places should top any list for those traveling with people of different ages.

Park features more than namesake Joshua trees

Joshua Tree National Park, California, lies about 185 miles from Boulder City, but the scenic route seems just a hop, skip and jump, for it consists partly of a drive in the remote and visually stunning Mojave National Preserve, along a short section of Route 66 and through the ghost town of Amboy.

Bridge extends welcome to Havasu visitors

Moving one of England’s tourist attractions to the American Southwest sounded far-fetched until somebody did it. Now it has become the second most popular tourist destination in Arizona, only being outdone by the Grand Canyon.

Remains of old outpost ‘preserved’

Fort Piute makes a wonderful day outing to a remote area in the extreme eastern region of the Mojave National Preserve in California. You’ll need to be prepared for this trip, though, as the road is rough; you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle with good off-road tires, a spare and tools to change one.