MOE Trip Report Desert Bar and Swansea Run
December 5 & 6 2009
By Dick Taylor
Saturday, December 5
The Desert Bar, Swansea trip started at Calicos restaurant with the following folks in attendance: Dick Taylor, Dan Messersmith, Haul & Mary Reddick, Sue Baughman, Mignon Slentz, Elke Meister, and Ingrid Purder.
We left Calicos parking lot at 8:00AM and madeour way to the Chevron gas station at exit 9 and interstate 40 to pick up the balance of our group. [Malcom & Jean Roode, Scott Roode & Ryan Fitzsimmons and Charles & Mary Hughes] We placed a call to our trail leaders Carl & Nancy Noah who were going to meet us at the store/gas station atthe trail headin Parker. Our final tally for the first leg of the trip would be 16 people and 11 vehicles.
Moving on we worked our way through the maze of traffic lights in Havasu. We thought there were 18 lights to get past but it turned to be 20.The Bill Williams Bridge was limited to one lane total due to repairs being made to the bridge.Thisgave us one more light to wait for and gave us the chance to bunch up. From here it was clear sailing to our trail meeting place.
We made radio contact with the Noah's and they were waiting for us at the trail head, Were we surprised when we pulled in and found Carl & Nancy along with maybe 50 other rigs staging up to run the same trail we were taking. It looked kinda like a zoo with people and rigs all over the place. Carl was out of his jeep lookingfor the leader of this big group. He returned and let us know these folks were a part of the Parker 4 Wheel Drive group doing their annual toy run over the route to the desert bar. (The entry fee for making the run was a donated toy for Christmas presents for children in families in need.) They were set to start at 10:30 AM and it was suggested we get out ahead of them. Being it was just after10 Am, and with thesmoothness of a well oiled machinewe pulled our group backtogether and were on the trail, just ahead of the crowd.We had a 10, maybe 15 minute lead on them, but we were out first.
As I was toldlater by our folks the trail in was the most challenging of the trip, as most of the vehicles in our group were stock 4x4s. In the first 100 yards we were in low range low gear climbing a steep rocky upgrade. Off to such a grand start most of us stayed in low range the rest of the way in. This trail travels some 5 miles or so through some really great country. Along the way we were treated to some spectacular views and got topass a couple mine sites. It didn't take long for the big groups eager beavers to catch up to us and we let them pass as road conditions would allow. We made a rest stop a little overhalf way in to allow more passing and to get our
group all together again. Some of our group did a little hill climbing to reach the entrance to an old mine and a higher vista. Once we were all together again we got back on the trail. By now everyone was an old hand at climbing over the rocks and things and we soon arrived atthe Desert Bar. The trip in was just over 5 miles and took about 2 hours. It could be said that it was slow going.
The Desert Bar is quite an experience. It is located on an old mining claim about 5 or 6 miles from Hwy. 95 and just north of the town of Parker. It is quite large with awell laid parking area and room to handle what looks like a couple hundred people. It is totallyself-contained with no utility hook upsfrom the outside world. They have their own well and provide their own electricity via solar panels, battery packs and inverters. They are open on weekends from noon to dusk during the cooler months of the year and have a full bar and limited lunch service. Visiting bands play from 1 to 5 PM most weekends. We spent about an hour having lunch and visiting before hitting the trail again.
We took the well graded wide road back out to HWY 95 where Carl & Nancy took their leave. We thanked them for the leadership in getting us over the trail to the bar and sharing this unique place with us. From here we went in to Parker for stops at the store and gas station. After stocking up with ice, supplies and topping off our gas tanks we were off for Swansea. Leadership (or the blame as some refer to it) was turned over to Dan Messersmith for this leg of the trip. The first thing on the agenda was to cover a little ground and secure a campsite
for the night, After some noodling around on a couple side roads the group choose a nicesite just shy of the Swansea mine. Soon camp was made, the fire started and happy hour got underway. We had a number of goodies to samplebut the highlight was the Dutch oven fresh apple cobbler cooked up by Mignon. It served us well that night and again at breakfast. We visited around the fire to about 8 PM when folks started to turn in for the night.
Sunday, December 6
Sunday morning was overcast and cool as the group got started for the day. Dan made a big pot of coffee in his brand new red enamel 36 cup camp coffee pot and Minion made a back up pot by the camp fire. The coffee and goodies werequickly consumed and all were busy with the morning chores and breaking camp. On the road again we made the short jaunt to the Swansea town and mine site. Swansea is an old copper mine complete with processing area, smelter, and town site which has been active on and off from the early 1900 hundreds upto 1944. During its heyday it had a population of about 500 people and the town sported saloons, a general store, post office and even a movie house.
The BLM, with a lot of volunteer help, has done a good job on the kiosk lay out, handout material and restoration work around the site. We made a stop to see the old living quarters which are being reworked in a joint project between BLM and the friends of Swansea. The old adobe buildings have been re-plastered and covered with a new metal roof to keep the rains from completely washing them away. Our group spent some time working our way through the rest of the site with our last stop being the old railroad station. From here our objective was to find and cross a ford at the Bill Williams River.
We picked up the old pipe line road that follows a small above ground gas pipe line all the way to the river. With a couple stops for a map check we did in fact find the ford crossing the Bill Williams River. There had been mush discussion on our drive in about how deep the water may be at the crossing. Past rumors had it beingdeep enough to come in the doors of a lifted jeep the last time Dan had tried to lead a group across this ford. A well developed back up plan had been developed for the possibility that we may encounter deep water again this trip. We lucked out on this trip as the river had split into 4 separate small channels which were shallow
and easy to cross. The only challenge we faced was the deep soft sand between the channels. Our group of well experienced drivers had no problem getting through it.
On the far side of the river wereached a major pipe line road that would take us back to Interstate 40 just below Yucca. A short distance after turning onto this road we made a stop to visit a grave site on top of the bluff that overlooks the river basin. This small cemetery contained 5 graves belonging to the Lopez family who were ranchers at this site along the river. This site has a commanding view of the surrounding country side and is a very peaceful final resting place.
Moving on we trekked our way over many, many hills and valleys, whoop-de-dos, and water cuts as we made our way towards the Interstate. We made a lunch stop in a nice sandy wash. During lunch we got to rehash our trip and visit with each other. We were soon on our way again. With the road flattening out and picking up some washboard, we knew we were reaching the end of our adventure. In a short time we had reached the Interstatewhere the trip ended. A good time was had by all. Hope to see you all again on some future trip.
Thanks for joining us.
Post Script Note:
Thanks to Mary Hughes who provided us with information on the tiny cemetery to pass along to our readers.
Abraham Lopez immigrated to the US from Mexico in the late 1890s. He married Marie Rojas from Santa Maria which was located just upstream from the ranch site but is now under the waters of Alamo Lake. They would eventually be blessed by 13 children. They bought the ranch site in the 1920s. It turned out they had been swindled into buying Federal land but not until a land survey had been done in 1949. They filed for ownership under homestead law and in 1952 were given title to the land. On the ranch, the Lopezs farmed about 100 acres and ran cattle on several sections.
The first person to be buried in the small cemetery was their daughter Mary. She married a Mormon man by the last name of Alma. Soon after returning from a camping trip to Zion National Park in Utah, Mary became ill and died in 1931. She was buried in the westernmost grave. Abraham died in 1932 from miners consumption and was buried next to his daughter. Abraham Jr. died in 1934 after and accidental gasoline explosion while working on a Model T Ford at night. He was buried next to his father. The fourth interment was Gumercindo who
died in a Jeep accident in 1944 while stationed at Camp Bouse in the waning years of WWII. He was buried next to his brother Abraham Jr. In October of that same year, Augustine was drowned in an accident while he was working with a tug boat crew dredging near Parker Dam. He was buried in the easternmost grave next to his brother Gumercindo, the last to be buried there,
Son Leo Lopez was the last to reside at the ranch and left shortly after the homestead patent was given in 1952.