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In 1863 the Bradshaw brothers, William and Isaac, came to Arizona from the declining goldfields of California. By 1864 they found gold in the forbidding mountains that would eventually bear their family name. Miners and prospectors flocked to the area despite the ruggedness of the mountains and the fierceness of the Yavapai natives, that still claimed the lands as their home. William, more an entrepreneur than a miner, laid out the Bradshaw Trail and started a ferry across the Colorado River at Ehrenburg, charging unsuccessful California miners a nice fee for access to the new goldfields of Arizona. Mines like Senator, Tip Top, Blue Bell, Tiger, and Ora Belle began highly profitable operations. Rod McKinnon located gold in July 1875 deeper into the Bradshaws than any find to date. The resulting Crowned King Mine became the largest operation in the Bradshaws and spawned the bustling town of Crown King. Crown King got its post office in 1888. Electricity and the telephone arrived in 1897, both still a rarity in Arizona. The Saloon was moved from Oro Belle board by board in 1906 and reassembled on the present site, which was at the time beside two Chinese Restaurants and the feed store. The upstairs featured seven cribs where the town's soiled doves practiced the world's oldest profession. It is now Arizona's longest-operating saloon. The historic photos lining the walls of the bar serve as a museum of sorts. The Bradshaw Mountain Railroad, a true feat of engineering, reached Crown King in 1904 via switchbacks and tall trestles. The railroad ceased operation in 1926 after the mines played out and most of the population left. The rail bed was converted into the scenic Crown King Road with its dual ghost towns of Bumble Bee and Cleator. Today there's only sporadic mining in the Bradshaws. But Crown King has become its jewel. With roughly a hundred full-time residents and perhaps a thousand that have cabins and summer homes atop the mountains, Crown King's population swells every weekend as offroaders and adventurers come to the mountaintop town for a taste of Arizona history. The Magic Bridge transports visitors from the desert below to the towering pines and cool breezes of Crown King. The saloon has live music most weekends. The general store sells a lot more t-shirts than mining pans these days. Campsites near town are filled with happy campers. Even with most of the gold gone, the mountains of the Bradshaw brothers remain full of treasures. Drive on up the iconic Crown King Road and see what you can discover.
Crown King Road climbs 3800 feet into the Bradshaw Mountains along its 26.23 miles. The dirt road is maintained year-round since it is the most reliable route to the small town of Crown King. In its lower section, the road is wide and smoothly graded, except, of course, for washboard or corrugations, as the Aussies would say. Above Cleator, the road follows the railroad bed of the defunct Bradshaw Mountain Railroad as it climbs high into the Bradshaw Mountains. There are numerous narrow cuts through hillsides and ridges, with quite a few one-lane bridges and two sets of switchbacks. Near the top, there are also blind curves. Slow down and be aware of other traffic. This is also cattle country. Watch for bovines on the road. Almost any vehicle can traverse Crown King Road.
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