An 1862 gold rush near Yuma, Arizona, spurred the interest of gold prospectors including an Austrian named Henry Wickenburg. His discovery of the Vulture Mine in Wickenburg resulted in $30 million of gold. Along with the miners came ranchers who settled along the Hassayampa River.
When the Phoenix to California highway (Highway 60) was constructed, Wickenburg became the destination spot for many tourists, helping the city live up to its title as the Dude Ranch Capital of the World. The town’s first dude ranch was Bar FX Ranch; today, area guest ranches remain popular spots for those seeking adventure in the West.
What attraction in Wickenburg should not be missed?: I am honestly not partial because this is true—50,000 people a year can’t be wrong—the Desert Caballeros Western Museum (21 N. Frontier St.).
Who knows Wickenburg’s history best?: Royce Kardinal, executive director of the Museum, whose father helped found it and whose grandmother started a restaurant, trailer park and hotel back in the 1920s; also Bill Green, who owns an amazing historic postcard collection of Wickenburg.
Wickenburg’s Old West Attractions: Ben’s Saddlery (174 N. Tegner St.), Robson’s Mining World (Hwy. 71 MP 90) and Renderings (30220 W. Grand Ave.).
Best Route to Historic Downtown: Highway 74 to Highway 60 or straight up Highway 60 from Phoenix.
Best Cowboy Bar: The Rancher (910 W. Wickenburg Way), without a doubt. Too bad Phyllis the waitress has retired, but she stops in to make sure everything is still good.
Best Western Bookstore: Desert Caballeros Western Museum Store.
Best Western Art Gallery: Gold Nugget Art Gallery (274 E. Wickenburg Way).
Most Popular Local Event: For those who can stand the heat, the Chamber of Commerce’s Fourth of July celebration.
Best Spot to View Wildlife: Hassayampa River Preserve on Highway 60. Saw a grey fox there last Saturday.
What radio personality do the locals listen to?: Pete Peterson, a KBSZ-AM radio owner and personality who grew up in Wickenburg, went off to Texas, races horses and is good enough to go major market but fortunately doesn’t want to.
Best Place to Buy Land: Surprise! The city that is—Surprise is coming all the way to Highway 74 and 60. Buy anywhere around that corner or out of Wickenburg along Highway 89 and 93 toward Congress.
Average House Cost in Wickenburg: $400,000 and climbing.
Restoration Plans: An ADOT bypass is due in town by 2008 and everyone is in high gear to take the semi trucks off the downtown streets, plant trees, put down pavers and say welcome to the new restaurants, shops and galleries that move out here.