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Swansea, the one in Arizona, not Wales, is more than a great day trip for folks making Crazy Horse Campgrounds their home away from home while vacation. It is a desert adventure and a rare opportunity to experience an authentic frontier era ghost town. And the months of spring when the desert is often awash in colorful wildflowers is the ideal time make this journey into the past.

Swansea nestled in the rugged and picturesque desert landscapes of La Paz County is a tangible link to Arizona territorial history. This once vibrant and progessive community, as with many mining boom times, experienced several cycles of prosperity and decline.

Prospecting and hit and miss attempts at mining copper occured sporadically throughout the second half of the 19th century. But the remote location, and processing that required shipping ore down the Colorado River, prohibited full scale development of mines until the early 20th century. In 1904, the railroad reached Parker, and suddenly mining in the harsh desert of western Arizona became feasible and profitable.

Established around 1909, three years before statehood, Swansea soon became a hub for copper mining. It was a company town with growth fueled by establishment of Arizona & Swansea Railroad funded in a large part by the Clara Consolidated Mining Company. It connected with the main railroad line at Bouse.

Track construction commenced in November 1909. The 21 mile railroad began daily service nearly two months later. It would remain in opration until 1937.

Visionary investors Newton Evans and Thomas Jefferson Carrigan capitalized on Swansea’s growth. They constructed a smelter, and laid water pipelines from nearby springs.

Swansea’s peak years saw a population of around 500 residents. The town’s prosperity, however, was short-lived. Financial troubles emerged by 1911, leading to the mines’ closure.

A few years later the mining company was reorganized. And once again Swansea boomed. It was a modern community in the wilderness. Residents had electricity in their homes. Aside from a power company, the town supported several saloons, a theatre, general store, barbershops, hotel, hardware store and other businesses. For a brief time there was even a Ford dealership in Swansea.

The cycle of ebb of boom and decline continued for several decades. But by the mid 1930s, the town was largely abandoned. The only inhabitants were a few hardy prospectors that eked out a living from the surrounding desert mountains.

Today, Swansea stands as a silent testament to a chapter in Arizona history that brackets statehood. It is preserved in an arrested state of decay by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Efforts to maintain the site include stabilizing structures, providing interpretive trails, and ensuring the town remains accessible yet protected from vandalism. Swansea’s preservation allows visitors to step back in time and explore the remnants of a once-vibrant mining town.

For those seeking to visit Swansea from Lake Havasu City, the journey is an adventure in itself. The trip covers approximately 82 miles and takes you through the scenic Arizona landscapes. Starting from Crazy Horse Campground in Lake Havasu City, travelers should head south on Highway 95, connect to Highway 72, and follow the signs leading to Swansea. The road to Swansea is unpaved and rugged, recommending a high-clearance, off-road capable vehicle. It’s a drive that not only leads to a historical site but also offers an immersive experience of the Arizona wilderness.

Swansea’s ghost town status may signify an end to its mining days, but its preservation ensures that its story continues to be told. It serves as a cultural and historical resource, reminding us of the transient nature of boomtowns and the enduring legacy they can leave behind. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an adventurer, or simply curious, Swansea invites you to discover its secrets and experience the echoes of the past.

Written by Jim Hinckley’s America