Tag Archives: Jeep

Fort Tule, China Dam

Name: Fort Tule and the China Dam

  • Fort Tule –  34° 0’20.24″N, 112°16’19.42″W
  • China Dam –  33°58’19.00″N, 112°17’37.19″W

Date visited: Nov 21st, 2015
Info Link: Bureau of Land Management


If you’re looking for a fun, but not too difficult trail, the road to Fort Tule is ideal. Allyson and I had the fortune of having my parents join us on this trail. Allyson had her 25th birthday and instead of having a birthday dinner at a restaurant, she decided she’d rather have a picnic during a Jeep ride. We met my parents, who drove their Prius, at the staging area. Had some birthday cheesecake, and were headed off for the trail.

The very first part of the trail is a super steep hill. We put the Jeep in 4WD Low and had no trouble getting over the top of it. At the top, we spotted a really easy bypass, which we’d take on the return trip only because the sun was setting. The trail brings you up over a hill and soon you find yourself at a split in the road. Go left, and you head toward the China Dam, or go right and you head toward Fort Tule. Even though we intended to go to the China Dam first, we read the map wrong and headed toward Fort Tule.

The road descends down toward Humbug Creek. When we passed, the creek was dry, and we were able to drive right over it. On the other side of the creek, we encountered a steep hill. My dad insisted on getting a photo of the Jeep climbing the hill, but it turned out to look a lot less steep in the photo than it was in real life.

Photo Credit - Jeff Lee

On the way down to the river. Photo credit – Jeff Lee

The "steep" hill. Photo Credit - Jeff Lee

The “steep” hill. Photo Credit – Jeff Lee

Not to worry though, he got a good photo a short ways down the trail.

Finally, a hill that actually looks steep. Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Finally, a hill that actually looks steep. Photo credit – Jeff Lee

We rode the trail a ways, surrounded by Jumping Cholla on either side. Finally we arrived at a sign that indicated we had arrived at the Tule Creek Riparian Area. Since vehicles are not allowed in the preserve, we walked the last 300 or so feet to the house at Fort Tule.

Jumping Chollas. Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Jumping Chollas. Photo credit – Jeff Lee

Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Photo credit – Jeff Lee

The house is an old miner’s house. According to my research, in 2007, a bad storm took off it’s roof. Despite the roof, the house is in very good condition, considering it’s age and lack of maintenance. If you walk around the house, you may spot what appears to be a shed or a barn, and a grave for the miner’s dog.

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We headed back the way we came. As we were leaving the riparian area, we spotted a group of five burros.

Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Photo credit – Jeff Lee

When we got back to the split in the road, we headed off toward the China Dam, like we first intended to do. The road there was similar to the road up to the fort. On the way we spotted a rare “crested” saguaro cactus. Scientists aren’t sure what causes the cresting, but some think it’s either a genetic mutation, or a lightning strike that causes it.

Photo credit - Jeff Lee

Photo credit – Jeff Lee

The dam is only a short ways down the road. It only took us a few minutes to reach it from the split in the road. We parked on top of the dam and walked down to explore.

The dam was built by Chinese immigrants who were looking to mine gold. There are actually two dams. One concrete one, and a stone one as well. The stone one has a hole in it.
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The sun was setting, so we headed back to the Bradshaw Foothills Staging Area, where we cooked our dinner on our portable stove, and packed up to leave.

This was a great trail. It will push a stock Jeep, but should be entirely passable in a stock vehicle. It allows for a lot of sight-seeing, and places to break. We didn’t see a single other vehicle on the trail. There were plenty at the staging area, but none on the trails.

By the way, my parents sold everything they own, and now travel across the country house-sitting. We had the fortune to have them on our own adventure. Check out their adventures at The Tails of Jeff and Charli.

Tip Top Mine

Name: Tip Top Mine
Location:  34° 3’10.79″N, 112°14’44.11″W
Date visited: Nov 8th, 2015
Info Link: Bureau of Land Management

Mine Trail

The trail to Tip Top Mine is a beautiful Arizona trail. It’s long and bumpy, but offers some pretty amazing views of the Arizona desert and mountains. It is probably passable with most stock 4WD vehicles, but the last small stretch up to the mine might require something with a little bit of ground clearance.

This trail was Allyson and my first time out in the Jeep. We picked this trail out of the “Arizona Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails” book written by Charles A. Wells and Matt Peterson. We picked this trail because of a nearby geocache we wanted to try. It was also a difficult enough trail that I could test the Jeep’s abilities (and my own as well), but not too difficult that I wouldn’t be able to complete most of it.

The trail starts at Table Mesa Road. This is a very popular road, and many areas around this road will be filled with Jeeps, ATVs, UTVs, and dirt bikes. It’s also a very popular area for shooters. There are a few designated areas for shooters to shoot their guns down a range. The parking/staging areas at the beginning of the trail require a State Trust permit, but the trail does not. After a short drive, you will meet the Agua Fria river. This is usually pretty shallow, and can be passed in most SUVs. I have heard that after heavy rainfall, a high clearance vehicle may be needed to pass.


After the river, you will see fewer people. It is still a busy area, but some of them seem to be turned off by the river. From the river it is another little bit and you will end up at the turn off for the Indian fort. Turn left to head to the Indian fort. About halfway down the hill, you will see a large mesa to your right. On top is the Indian fort. There should be a small pull off to park. Get out and walk the trail up to the Indian fort. You will have to climb the rocks a little, but you will get an amazing view of the area from on top.

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After visiting the fort, head back to the road where you turned off to go to the fort. This time, stay right, and continue down the trail. The trail will become less and less maintained as you continue on. This makes for a bumpy ride, but it’s still a lot of fun. At one point you will hit a high spot on the road that flattens out. This is a great place to take pictures. You can see for miles.


From the high spot, most of the rest of the trail is downhill. It’s still pretty bumpy, but a good ride. You will hit an old wooden corral. Keep left on this trail. Watch for cows. They are everywhere around here. At the bottom of the hill, you will cross a wash. This wash is usually dry, but may have some water after a rain. After the wash is the hardest part, and the only part where a high clearance vehicle may be needed. There are a few steep rocky spots. After you get past them, its a pretty short distance to the mine. You will see a couple of crumbling stone buildings on your left. To your right, up the hill is the mine. There is a road that goes to the mine, but it can be pretty difficult to drive at times. Do not enter the mine. There is bad air in there.

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Have fun exploring the area. We stopped and had lunch here. Go back the way you came in. The trail continues further down the road. Some people passing by in UTVs said there was a ranch house down the road a bit further, but we didn’t explore that.

This was a great adventure for our first off-roading trip. A great place for beginners to try out their skills.

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