Contention City

March 10, 2018

We loved the movie "3:10 to Yuma" (the 1957 original, not the remake). So when we were reminded that the movie was set in the ghost town of Contention City, we had to go have a look. Access is an eight-mile round trip hike from the ghost town of Fairbank, so we thought we'd reduce the difficulty by biking at least part of the way. It was my first time on a bike since the surgery. We managed to turn it into an epic adventure!

It was easy pedaling from Fairbank to Willow Wash, but after that the trail was badly overgrown and pulverized by stock.
After pushing our bikes for a mile or so through deep sand, we realized we were fairly close to the ruins of Santa Cruz de Terrenate, on the opposite side of the San Pedro.
The water is shallow here, so we bashed our way down to the river, aiming for a spot near the gauging station where a short, steep trail might provide access to the old Union Pacific rail bed.
We managed to haul both bikes and gear up the slope, but quickly discovered that the railroad bed was too deep in slag for biking.
So it was another hike-a-bike uphill to the ruins, where we enjoyed our lunch overlooking the San Pedro River.
We remembered from a previous hike that there was another abandoned railroad bed nearby, and our map showed it making a dogleg to Contention City. The slag was finer grained here, and quite suitable for biking. Where the two lines intersect, we found the remains of an old switching mechanism.
Unfortunately, all that remains of Contention City are crumbling remains the stamp mill and a few fragments of an old adobe wall. It's hard to believe that in the 1880s, Contention was a boom town that was expected to rival Tombstone, since it had two advantages Tombstone lacked — water and the railroad.
Dancing across the San Pedro. The town was established in 1879 as a milling site for silver mined in Tombstone at the Contention and Grand Central Mines. In 1882 the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad connected Contention with Benson, but the burgeoning rail hub withered when that line was extended south to Fairbank and eventually to Nogales.
The San Pedro mills were eventually relocated to Tombstone. Then in 1887 a major earthquake in Sonora flooded the Tombstone silver mines, and the mills were forced to shut down. The Contention post office shut down in 1888, and by 1890, the town was gone.
Our track: 11+ miles that I'm glad I did ONCE!