Castle Dome qualifies as a true ghost town adventure. It has standing buildings, authentic relics, gold mines, cemetery, and a road that is sure to rattle the whole family, break your engine mounts, and take years off the life of your shock absorbers. Getting there presents a small measure of a challenge, but upon arrival you are in for a great tour. Stop by the ATM before heading out as only cash is accepted for the self-guided tour.
If you plan correctly, it will be hot and dusty. There will be complaints from your car passengers about the heat and the road, and everyone will come over-dressed and wearing the wrong shoes. But whatever you do, don't turn around. You'll miss one of the best and newest ghost towns this side of Steins, New Mexico.
From San Diego, Castle Dome is a long but enjoyable day trip through Imperial County to Yuma, Arizona. This first leg of the trip is about 175 miles. Exit at Yuma to US-95 North. At about the 30 mile mark, take Castle Dome Mine Road to the right for another 8 miles. This road starts out paved and turns into rock gravel. Take it slow and steady from here. Look straight at the top of the mountains directly ahead and notice the dome shape outcropping along the ridgeline; this is the town's namesake.
When older, dark wooded structures can be seen on either side of the road then you've reached Castle Dome. A sign will direct you to the left. Follow the narrow dirt road a few hundred feet to the office and store. Visitors are run through a quick history of Castle Dome and given an invitation for the self-guided tour. The entrance fee for adults is $10.00 and children are $5.00 each. Children six and under enter free.
The structures on the tour were collected from the surrounding area and consolidated here specifically for the museum. They are representative of what Castle Dome City looked like in its riotous heyday. The real Castle Dome City and its original structures no longer exist. The town was flooded over when the Imperial Dam was built in 1935. Today, Castle Dome City is submerged under Lake Martinez.
The Castle Dome Mine Museum is located back where the mines were dug. Even though the town is recreated, there are innumerable authentic relics from bygone years: Chairs, stoves, pots, pans, irons, tables, pictures, clothing, glassware, furniture, bottles, cash registers, telephone, rifles, mining equipment, a complete dental office, church, gambling hall, jail, and saloon. Its vacated and rustic down to the discarded automobiles in the courtyard. But there is danger.
Rattlesnakes are constant visitors and can find their way into any of the buildings. Keep them in mind when walking about. Also, where there is water there will be bees and plenty of them, these are easily avoided. Another creature found rapping against a window at the general store was a two inch long tarantula hawk. These wasps have a large black body, red wings, and the ability to send both children and adults scurrying back to the car and lock the doors. The rule here is to ignore all flying creatures.
Only a remnant of your group will take the second half of the tour which enters the mining district. The entrance is found across the road and through a gate. The trail is easy but hilly. There are a number of mine holes to peer down into. One mine drops 150 vertical feet into the earth. Protective fencing prevents falling into these deep holes but also makes it impossible to look down into them.
The ground bears the marks of many explorations into the earth in search of valuable minerals. It was silver that first attracted a rush of prospecting in the early 1860's. But most of what was pulled up was lead. The mines were abandoned repeatedly until World War II broke out and lead was needed for the war effort.
Castle Dome Mine Museum
27550 East County 15Th Street North State Route 4,
Yuma, AZ 85365
November through April - Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
May through September – Call before heading out
October - Open Tuesday through Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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