Ajo, AZ a artistic oasis….

We spent a week in Ajo, I could have stayed longer.  It’s a quaint little place with artists tucked into the tapestry of the town.  It’s historically a mining town, a large abandoned copper mine takes up a large part of the land.  There is rumors that it may start up again, which I’m not sure if it will be a good thing or not for Ajo.  It definitely would bring in more money, but it also would probably take away the warm heart of the town.

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We stayed at Belly Acres, right as you come into town.  It is a smallish, inviting park with everyone being friendly.  The host of the park, Dennis Ochsner,  is quite the character.  He definitely gives the place a western feel, with his pistol at his side, cowboy hat and sometimes sporting a sheriffs badge.  Full hookups are $25 a night with the 7th night being free .   I had a nice location, tucked into the back corner…but most of the park is pretty tight.  You could hit it when there aren’t a lot of other RV’ers, but it was full when we were there.  That, I think, would be my biggest gripe that it was crowded.

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They have lots of get togethers for birthdays, watching the game or just having a pot luck in a building specifically for that at the back of the park.  There is a propane tank if you need a fill up.  A laundry and showers.  Next door is an auto/RV repair and parts place owned by the same man that owns Belly Acres, Kord Klinefelter.  Kord is another character, and I think you either like him or hate him.  He gets mixed reviews from people that deal with him.  He does cuss a lot, but that didn’t bother me.  He also was able to fix a part on my Jeep for minimal cost that another mechanic didn’t want to deal with.

Another thing about Belly Acres is they really don’t have a great place to walk your dogs. There is a wash behind the park, but it was used to dump things in the past and there is broken glass, metal, and other debris.  Little dogs are allowed to wander loose, but big dogs are not.  (Not that I would let my girls wander around loose anyway).  Night time you will hear coyotes, close. So don’t let your little dogs wander then.  We would see them at dusk strolling along town roads.  We also had Javalinas (Collared Peccaries) come around our vehicles in the early morning hours.

There is a nice dog park, the E.S. “Bud” Walker dog park, right in town.  It has a small dog area, and a large dog area.  There was rarely more than one dog, if any, at the park when I took the girls.  I did take them for walks in the washes, and by the airport.  You do have to be careful there again, as coyotes, javelina, range cattle, etc. may be encountered.

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The center plaza in town is lovely, with a nice grassy area in the middle.  Lots of dogs can be seen walking around on it.  There is a Saturday Farmers Market, and fresh produce, baked goods and artwork can be found there.  Get there early before they sell out!  There are some little shops surrounding the park, including a coffee shop and a visitor’s center.  The newspaper building, around the corner, has a great book and art store inside.  There are two photogenic churches close by.  The Curley school, also within walking distance, is historic and named for the mine superintendent, Mike Curley.

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John Campbell Greenway was the man responsible for the mine and the town.  He was a fascinating man, and if you get the chance to go to the Ajo historical museum you can learn all about him and the story of all that has happened in the surrounding area. The museum was originally the St. Catherine’s Indian Mission.  Jose Castillo is one of the docents there, he is a 2nd generation Ajo-ite.  He and his father both worked in the mine. His grandfather immigrated from Mexico.   Bob Hightower, is the other docent, and he was a history teacher in town.  They were both a wealth of information and well worth spending time with.

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More about Greenway. He was a rough rider with Teddy Roosevelt and was there at San Juan Hill, where he earned a silver star.  He also served in WWI and received a distinguished service cross.  It would take a book to cover all the interesting facts about this man!

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He developed the New Cornelia mine in Ajo, the first large open copper mine pit in Arizona. He also was involved with the Lavender Pit Mine in Bisbee and the railroads that carried the ore.   He created the town for the workers, wanting it to be a good place for the miners to raise their families.  Spanish Colonial Revival was chosen for the architecture, and it fits beautifully in the desert landscape.

Throughout the town you will see painting on buildings, statues and other forms of art.  There is an “art alley” that has many different paintings by various artists. The last set of art photos depicts the collection and processing of the Saguaro cactus fruit.

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Ajo is a great jumping off place for exploring the Organ Pipe National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife refuge.  You will need a pass to access some of the Cabeza Prieta refuge as it’s on military land.  You can get the pass after watching a video and providing vehicle information, at the Cabeza Prieta Visitors Center in Ajo.

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While I loved the people at Belly Acres, I think if I return I will look at staying at the Hickiwan Trails RV Park, that is next to the casino on the way out of town towards Why, AZ.  Both the casino and the RV park are operated by the Tohono Od’Odom.  They have full hookups,  gravel pads with cement patios.  Surrounded by beautiful desert and only $11 a night.



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