Desert Trails


Morenci, Arizona
Phelps Dodge Mine

US 191's fun begins as you climb up out of Clifton, through the mostly residential town of Morenci, then past the Phelps Dodge copper mine.

A viewpoint above the mine gives you the chance to try and comprehend the immense size of the operation.  Look at the strip mine above, and try to imagine an entire mountain standing in its place.  Then imagine this: the sprawling pit stretches across your entire field of vision, from left to right.  No one picture could capture it.

The Phelps-Dodge Mining Company offers a 2 1/2 hour guided tour of the operation, for around $8.  The mine's webpage once creatively described the gaping open-pit mine as "where humanity and nature stand side by side".  Unfortunately, the website that had information on the tour is now gone, so you'll have to enquire locally about the tour.

This is a curve.  If you're traveling the Coronado Trail, get used to 'em.

 I've read a wide range of estimates on just how many times you'll turn the wheel as you navigate between Morenci and Alpine.  It could be anywhere from 400 to 600.  Bob Schaller with counted 435 (not including lesser curves, or "adjustments").  I didn't count.  Concentrating on the road and the scenery was more than enough to keep me occupied!


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Adrian Ruiz writes: I would like to know about the activities of the mine workers around 1940 and previous. Also if there is any history of individual families (Velasquez, Ruiz, Diaz, Romo, Zermeno etc.).

If you have any info for Adrian, drop me a line and I'll connect you with him!

Lawrence Bayer writes: My mother Eppimenia Ortiz, grew up in this area and as a young boy, my parents would take us from El Paso to CLifton to visit my mother's parents, Sisto and Rosenda Ortiz.  My fond recolection was of my Grandpa, carrying his black lunch pail and on his way to work.  I am not exactly sure when but Sisto Ortiz did work a great deal of his life in the Phelps Dodge copper mines.  I would love to exchange some information between anyone and myself / mother.  Thank you.

If you have any info for Lawrence, drop me a line and I'll connect you with him!

Clara Velasquez Monette from California writes: My father was Nicholas Velasquez. He would have been 97. My grandparents were Alvino & Antonia Velasquez. They also had a daughter: Maura. I recently found my grandfather's death certificate. He died from black lung disease. I know I have many cousins in Arizona. I just don't know where. I'm sure there are pictures of my family somewhere. My grandparents migrated from Chihuahua, Mexico. I was told my grandfather & his brother married sisters. My grandmother's maiden name was Mesa.


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