Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and Castle Dome Silver Mines Museum
East of US-95 between Yuma and Quartzsite Arizona is the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. I took the southernmost road to the refuge that goes northeast from US-95 and passes through the Yuma Proving Grounds. The road is paved for the first few miles, and turns to washboard dirt road for most of the way to the refuge. Free distributed camping is allowed for up to 14 days. The plant life is more varied and denser than most of the places in the desert I have camped. One evening I heard the braying of a donkey, but I did not see it. (Donkeys are a non-native species.) The refuge was established to protect the big-horn sheep and other native wildlife in the area. While there are several roads to the refuge, all the roads connecting them in the refuge are non-maintained four-wheel drive recommended. While no cross-country vehicular traffic is allowed, the area seems quite popular with the ATV crowd. Verizon and television signals were quite good. (Portions of the museum are visible in this picture.)
There was a large finned balloon near the border between the proving ground and the refuge. It was lowered at night, and tethered during the day. This may be a marker to show where not to aim artillery past.
The Castle Dome Silver Mines Museum is a collection of several dozen restored buildings with artifacts recovered from the nearby mines, surrounded by the wildlife refuge. Most of the buildings were rescued from destruction and moved. High grade silver-galena (as much as 45 ounces of silver per ton of ore) was mined here for over a hundred years, ending in 1979 when the price of silver dropped rather than the ore running out. In the early years the raw ore was shipped to San Francisco for processing. Occasional pockets of gold were found, but not enough to make mining worthwhile. During World War One and Two the ore was mined primarily for its lead content. It took me about four hours to go through the museum, and I did not read all the historical tidbits posted. Being seven miles from the nearest paved road, I was surprised at the number of people in the museum. (about two dozen at one time on a weekday) The $10 admission seems reasonable to me. There is a self-serve snack bar where you can get sodas from an old refrigerator, with payment on the honor system. The picnic tables by the main museum were quite popular, while the nicer ones in the park area on the mine section were unused. The artifacts are a mishmash from the hundred years the mines were active, and many are in need of restoration to make the exhibit make sense to the visitor.