Over the aqueduct and through the desert to the Swansea Townsite we go!
On a long dirt road, just 30 miles outside of Parker, Arizona (in literally the middle of nowhere) sits an old copper mining town. Archaeological and historical sites litter this once bustling boom town and the Bureau of Land Management has done an excellent job restoring and protecting this massive and extinct townsite.
Swansea Townsite was a copper mining town that was settled around 1909. It’s one of the largest ghost towns we have visited so far. At the town’s peak (of about 750 residents), it boasted everything from a car dealership, a moving picture theater, lumber yard and an electric light company (in addition to the normal saloons, barbershops, cemeteries and restaurants). What a cutting edge town, to have their very own electric light company! As you walk the dusty “streets” of Swansea, it’s difficult to imagine a car dealership out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by open mine shafts.
What a journey this copper went on after being mined from the earth. It took a train ride along the Colorado River and ended up on a boat down the Gulf Coast, around Cape Horn to Swansea, Wales (hence the namesake)! That’s over 4,900 miles…….
The townsite sits surrounded by large mountain ranges in every direction. It’s even a steep, curvy and hairy drive into the townsite (so we don’t recommend going when it’s been raining, or with a trailer or large RV). Once nestled into the town, you can’t help but feel safe and thousands of miles away from anyone and anything.
At the entrance to the town, BLM has a kiosk with flyers, maps, historical photos and information as well as pit toilets. We could have spent days wandering and exploring the historical gems hidden within Swansea, and particularly appreciated the massive mine shafts, finding portions of the old railroad and the ramshackled brick buildings from long ago. The old copper mining town still has evidence of the massive copper smelter and dust chamber, which was a rather large and impressive brick building. Due to recent toppling walls and bricks, the building has been fenced off, but you can’t miss the undeniable presence this building had in the town.The mine shafts are all covered for safety purposes. These heavy duty safety measures allow you to walk over and around the shafts safely, while eerily peering down these deep black holes.
There is an interpretive trail, hiking trails, picnic spots and ATV trails in the area. The interpretive trail takes you through the worker’s cottages, general office, company store, company residences, railroad depot, manager’s house, copper smelter and dust chamber, the hospital and school site along with rusted old cars and magnificent views.
Just like all the ghost towns we have visited, Swansea fell victim to the Great Depression and the last milling was reported in 1944. Today, Swansea gives us glimpse back to our past as well as a reminder at how wild the west really was.
Although there are a handful of small campsites in Swansea, Totally Trailer does not recommend any large RV’s or trailers due to the hairy roads getting into the townsite. The campgrounds at Swansea are perfect for small vans or tent camping only. It’s a fun day trip and beautiful drive in from Parker, AZ. We recommend parking your RV or camper in nearby Parker.