Arizona's mining towns are full of historic buildings built to last but showing signs of weathering a century later. Superior, an hour east of Apache Junction on U.S. 60, is an example of mining towns that prospered on and off for nearly a century starting in the late 1800s. But Superior has endured hard times since the mines closed two decades ago.
Arizona Territory military commander Gen. George Stoneman arrived in November 1870, set up a short-loved camp near Picket Post Mountain and started building a road to Camp Pinal to the east, according to David Briggs, an economic geologist with the Arizona Geological Survey.
A soldier who worked on the road found some nuggets in 1873 in the area that turned out to be native silver. That indirectly led to exploration of the Silver King Mine two years later and attracted other mining interests to what would be beomce Superior, he said.
The Magma Copper Co. mines in Superior operated from 1911 to 1996 and produced 27.6 million tons of ore, including 34 million ounces of silver, 686,000 ounces of gold and 1.29 million short tons of copper, according to Briggs.
Superior has since worked to save its historic downtown buildings and an effort to restore the Magma Hotel is underway. Superior
also has a town museum in the former home of Bob Jones,
Arizona's sixth governor.
There aren't many shops open in Superior but the streetscapes here are worth a detour off the main highway.
On my list is a hike on Picket Post Mountain and a visit to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on the western edge of Superior.