Big Eye Mine

My friend Micah and his family joined us for a fun little trip to the great Sonoran Desert at the start of 2016. Winter is a great time to be in the southern deserts and this time we had our sights set on the Big Eye Mine which is down in the south end of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and the Castle Dome Mountains.

A. K. Ketcherside of Yuma discovered the Big Eye mine in 1912. The next five years were good to him. The rich Big Eye quartz vein produced $33,185 worth of gold, silver, and other metals. (That was a good sum of money in the 1910s.) The ore was hauled south to a railroad siding at Roll, Arizona, and then, by rail to the smelters at the American Smelting and Refining Co (ASARCO) in El Paso, Texas. The mine camp had a few cabins, a blacksmith shop, and a mill with a jaw crusher, five stamps, and cyanide tanks.

After the initial glory days, the mine worked intermittently on until the 1950s when it was put in caretaker status. Pauline Taylor (sister of the Yuma County Sheriff at the time) watched over the place until 1983 when she passed away. The main cabin you see today was built in the mid-1910s as a residence for the miners. In 2005, it was carefully stabilized, repaired, and painted by Kofa NWR staff.

Check out my friends, the Dzrtgrls’, great trip report to the Big Eye Mine. For directions and some more history, read Peter Massey’s book “Backcountry Adventures Arizona” on my Recommended Reading List.

Getting There

From the junction of I-40 and US 95 in Quartzsite, AZ head south on US 95 for 49.4 miles (79.5 km) and turn left onto the paved road towards the Castle Dome Mine Museum. Drive 8.4 miles (13.5 km) and turn onto a dirt road that heads south. Our track starts here.


Hike Distance1.4 miles (2.3km) Out & Back
Trail TypeDeveloped
Hike DifficultyEasy
Elevation Gain, Loss340 ft (104m) gain round trip.
Hike Time45 minutes

The mine is reached by 15.3 miles (24.6 km) of 4wd roads that skirt around the south end of the Castle Dome Mountains. At 2.9 miles (4.7 km) in it passes the remains of the Colorado Mine and a small cemetery of wooden crosses. The road enters volcanic hills, crosses sandy washes, and meanders eastward. The road turns towards the north and passes Thumb Butte around 11.9 miles (19.2 km) and then enters Big Eye Wash. Park at the locked gate and hike up the trail to the cabin and mine.

The mine is now off-limits due to White-Nosed Bat Syndrome. Please stay out.


Big Eye Mine.gpx

Last Updated on May 22, 2021 by Guy Starbuck