Ajo, AZ

Ajo….Pronounced “ah-ho” means “garlic” in Spanish, but historians believe the town got its name from a Tohono O’odham word meaning “place of colored clay.” Ajo is 10 miles North of Why AZ and today is mostly a retirement community and popular tourist attraction for attractions in the area.

We spent a couple days on and off in Ajo during our stay at the Coyote Howls campground in Why, AZ.  I want to share a little history of the place and a few attractions that we visited. If you want to know more about Ajo, AZ or John Campbell Greenway you can visit these two internet sites:

http://www.miningartifacts.org/Arizona-mines.html and http://www.mininghalloffame.org/page/john-campbell-greenway.

Ajo got its start as a mining town. With new recovery methods for low-grade ore, Ajo boomed. In 1911 John Campbell Greenway, a rough rider, and star Yale athlete bought the New Cornelia mine from John Boddie. In 1921 Phelps Dodge, the nation’s largest copper company bought the mine. For decades, more than 1,000 men worked for Phelps Dodge in the open-pit mine. The mine closed in 1985 due to falling copper prices.

Ajo open-pit mine was once the United States’ 3rd largest producer of Copper. This mine survived a merger, the great depression and the fluctuation of copper prices and is actually a monument to American History and persistence. Today you can view the New Cornelia open-pit mine from a lookout. The mine is fenced but it has openings in the fence that you can view the mine and take pictures. The mine is 1 1/2 miles wide and 1,100 feet deep. Next to the lookout is a small museum where you can see artifacts and mementos from Ajo and the mine’s past. The couple who operate the museum was so friendly and nice and were eager to share the history.  The man who is elderly now worked in the mine for 32 years.



This was the last piece of iron that was poured from the mine.



Isabella Greenway, wife of John Campbell Greenway founded the Arizona Inn in Tucson and she became the first US Congresswoman. When her husband passed away she took a floral cross that the employees of the mine had made for her husband’s funeral and had it encased in concrete and carried to the top of the highest mountain in Ajo so she and the employees could view it from their homes.

The Plaza

The Plaza is a central location for the town of Ajo, it was created by John Campbell Greenway for a good place for his mine workers to raise their families. The plaza is a Spanish Colonial Style with high arches, white stucco surface, tile roofs, and decoration. Today it houses several shops, restaurants, post office, and visitor information center. On Saturday mornings, they have a farmers market with food, crafts, and entertainment.



Ajo Historical Society Museum

The museum is located in the old St Catherine’s Indian Mission. You will find here many artifacts, displays, photos and memorabilia from Ajo, the mine, and the people.





January 18-25th Yuma to Why, AZ

I left Yuma, AZ January 18th and drove three hours east, then south to a place called Why, AZ with my friend Chris.

So are any of you wondering where in the heck is Why, AZ?

Welcome to why sign

Well so was I …..It’s a tiny, rural community in Southern Arizona that is 30 miles from Mexico and 121 miles from Tucson, AZ. Why was named for the Y-shaped junction of highway 85 and highway 86 south of Ajo. At the time of the naming, Arizona law required all city names to have at least 3 letters so the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y”. Arizona Department of transportation later removed the old Y-intersection for traffic safety reasons and built the two highways into a conventional T-intersection south of the original intersection.

Why is located in the Sonoran Desert and the landscape is beautiful. This is where the beautiful and grand “Saguaro” cactus grows in abundance. The giant Saguaro Cactus can reach heights of 50 ft and take 200 years to grow. You will also find here the Prickly Pear, Cholla, Barrell Cactus, Ocotillo along with Creosote bushes. Mixed in with these are the unique Organ Pipe Cactus, mesquite & Palo Verde trees.

I am still traveling with my friend, Chris and the reason we came here is to see some friends of hers that she met while RVing in South Dakota. Marsha and Mel are the sweetest people and have had quite an interesting life. They spend their winters here in Why, AZ at the Coyote Howls Campground and their summers in Rapid City, South Dakota. So Coyote Howls Campground is where we are spending our week and this place is awesome. It is very remote and out in the middle of nowhere, but it has a special kind of feel to it.

Here is Marsha and my friend Chris


This is the view from Marsha and Mel’s campsite and the little yard they fixed up



I have to share some history with you about Coyote Howl Campground: Coyote Howl campground and RV park are in the heart of the Arizona Sonoran Desert surrounded by low mountains, desert vegetation, and wildlife such as quail, rabbits, coyotes, and burrows. Coyote Howl is a combination of two campgrounds: Coyote Howl East and Coyote Howl West – The East campground consists of nearly 208 acres with 600 “primitive camps” with no hookups. RV’s need to be self-contained. There are showers, restrooms, dump stations and some water faucets scattered throughout the campground. All you need is a generator or solar panels and your good to go. The west campground has 38 full hookup sites.

A couple named James and Peggy Kater moved to Why in 1949 and built a pub, a restaurant, a store and post office. Water was brought in from Ajo-ten miles away. As more people came to “Why” a well was developed and electricity brought in. During this time, many older people were coming and parking their trailers at what is now a highway rest stop. Many of these people hoped to stay in Why permanently, but the county health department was concerned about the sanitary conditions so they decided the campers had to go. So, some permanent residents of Why decided to apply to the BLM for 122 acres for a trailer court and campground. They were able to get a special permit from the health department if a park could be installed in 30 days.  Almost everyone pitched in and in 30 days, the park was ready. The park included roads, restrooms and hot water for showers.  A man named Virgil Denning provided the heavy machinery, others did the labor. The water lines were dug by the women and children. Those that were too old to do heavy labor cooked stew and chili beans for the workers.

Eventually, the people who came to cherish Why joined together to build a community center. The community center is busy during the winter season with many activities that appeal to everyone. During the summer season, many of the residents move out due to the high summer temperatures.

Here are some pictures of the campground and views:

This hillside picture here is the view from my RV


On our first day out we took the 10.4 mile Ajo scenic loop – Here are some pictures:

This one looked like a cow pile LOL


And yes this area is known for this type of activity!


And to finish off the day a beautiful, fiery sunset