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Cave Creek Museum

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by Marni Patterson (subscribe)
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Published November 15th 2021
A walk through recent & not so recent Arizona history
Cave Creek, Arizona is located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix. It has an interesting history that goes back thousands of years when various Native American tribes inhabited the area. It was settled by soldiers from a nearby outpost in the 1870s and began to grow rapidly in 1873 when prospectors discovered gold and ranchers discovered that its wide-open spaces were perfect for grazing cattle and sheep.

cave creek museum
Entrance to the Cave Creek Museum

The Cave Creek Museum is the perfect place to learn about the mining and agricultural industries that spurred growth in the area during the 1800s as well as the archeology and history that goes back thousands of years.

cave creek museum, archaeology, hohokam, salt river pima maricopa indian community
Archaeology Wing

The Archaeology Wing displays prehistoric pottery and stone artifacts that were excavated from four local sites. Several exhibits recount the history and culture of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and a life-size replica of a Hohokam House built from desert materials provides a glimpse into the lives of ancient peoples who inhabited the area thousands of years ago.

cave creek museum, archaeology, hohokam, salt river pima maricopa indian community
Hohokam House

The History Wing takes you back to the 1800s during Cave Creek's mining and ranching heyday. In 1873, prospectors from the Bradshaw Mountains in Central Arizona found gold in several areas around Cave Creek. This started Cave Creek's 20-year "gold rush." An entire section of the exhibit is dedicated to the many "interesting" characters who came to the area to strike it rich.

cave creek museum, history, mining, cattle grazing, sheep grazing
History Wing

Thriving cattle and sheep ranches made Arizona a leading provider of wool and cotton to the U.S. garment and manufacturing industries. It was also a major supplier of beef when demand increased due to the establishment of military posts, mining camps and Indian reservations throughout the Southwest. This coincided with the development of two transcontinental railroads that crossed northern and southern Arizona and made it possible to ship west to California and east to Chicago.

The Outdoor Exhibit features buildings that have been around since Cave Creek was founded. One is the first church in Cave Creek. It was built in 1948 as a mission church and became the first home of the museum. Volunteers restored it to its original condition, and it's used for weddings, baptisms and memorial services.

cave creek museum, church
First Church in Cave Creek

Another is a historic Tubercular Cabin that was built in the early 1920s. Tuberculosis was a debilitating lung disease at that time and the dry Arizona climate and rest were thought to be the only cures. The cabin was on Cave Creek Road with several others and inhabited by recuperating patients. Restored by local residents, it contains the original furnishings and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for Arizona.

cave creek museum, stamping mill, gold mining, golden reef mine
Ore Crushing Mill

The Outdoor Exhibit also showcases the area's mining and agricultural industries. You can see several pieces of mining and farming equipment that date back to the town's early days, The centerpiece is Arizona's only fully operational ore crushing mill. It was discovered at the Gold Reef Mine on Continental Mountain five miles from town. Local historians dug it out of the mud and transported it to the museum piece-by-piece.

The mill has ten 1,000 lb stamps that crushed and pounded ore from the mine into a fine gravel. From there, gold could be panned by washing the debris. Each month, visitors can see a demonstration of the mill and try their hand at panning for gold in the prospecting sluice.

cave creek museum, gold mining, prospecting sluice
Gold Prospecting Sluice

The Cave Creek Museum also hosts a monthly kids program in conjunction with the local Kiwanis Club. During a recent event called "Superhero Science," representatives from the Arizona Science Center showed how superheroes use their powers to freeze rays, shrink materials and discharge lighting. At other events, kids learned how to identify minerals and pan for gold.

The Cave Creek Museum is located at 6140 E Skyline Drive a block north of Cave Creek Blvd. It's open October through May on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 pm through 4:30 pm and Fridays from 10:00 am through 4:30 pm and is closed on holidays. Tickets can be purchased online-- $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors and students 12 and older. Children under 12 are free. For more information, call 480-488-2764.
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Phone: 480-488-2764
Cost: $7.00 for adults; $5.00 for seniors and students 12 and older; Children under 12 are free
Your Comment
How very interesting. It's nice to see a museum covering all of the history of the area, including the indigenous history.
by Gayle Beveridge-Marien (score: 4|10456) 496 days ago
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