Cave Creek – The historic Golden Reef Stamp Mill tramway features cabled ore carts that carry rock for crushing to the only operational stamp mill in Arizona. However, for more than a century, the tramway laid dormant on the side of a mountain where it was to come to life in Cave Creek’s Mining District. A team of caring professionals – known as the dream team – spent the last five years bringing it back.
According to Golden Reef 10-stamp mill expert and dream team member Charlie Connell, the stamp mill system, which operated during the early 1870s, was discovered on the far side of Continental Mountain – five miles from Cave Creek Museum. The stamp mill and tramway were in disarray, so a decision was made in 2009 to remove the parts and rebuild the ore crushing equipment.
“I noticed one of the towers off in the distance and asked Chatman about them,” said Connell. “She told me the towers on her property had pretty much fallen down and rotted badly and the only items left were the towers’ steel parts and cables.”
If used, the tramway would have made the process faster.
Mill experts said it would have been easier to build the original stamp mill closer to the mine. However, the closest water to run the mill was 2,000 feet so it was easier to put the mill there and build a tramway to access the ore. The tramway also made it faster to get the ore over the rough terrain, narrow paths and closer to the main access road. The six towers’ function was to string the tramway together. However, when team members arrived to remove them, one had collapsed and it was determined that the others would have to be reconstructed in Cave Creek.
“A group of dedicated community members came together to rebuild the stamp mill so the public could enjoy this rich piece of mining history,” says Pete Peterson, open of the tramway operators at the museum. “It took half a decade to reconstruct the tramway and stamp mill which today provide the public with a look back in time at our early mining history. The tramway system at Cave Creek Museum’s Arizona Gold Mining Experience represents tenacity, a love of history and a physical record of how mining was performed more than 150 years ago.”
While at the museum, visitors also will experience the amazing Golden Reef Stamp Mill, Arizona’s only fully operational ten-stamp ore crushing mill. The 10, 1,000-lb. stamps slam down in synchronized motion to pound ore removed from the mine into fine gravel. Guests will also experience gold panning, blacksmithing and more during their adventure.
The outdoor demonstrations are open to the public on Saturday, May 13 and Saturday, May 27, 2023 from 10-11:30 AM. Admission is $15 for adults and children under 12 are free. Reservations are required. These are the final two demonstrations for the season.
Reserve tickets online at cavecreekmuseum.org