Enjoy the Arizona outback

The middle of everywhere

by Karen Kornelsen
crumbling buildings at swansea ghost town in brenda arizona
Crumbling structures are all that remain of the town's saloons, general store, post office, and other buildings. — Carolyn Freedman photo

Brenda, Arizona is the heart of the Arizona outback. The town is known for its amazing desert lifestyle and is a huge draw for many snowbirds. Located on Highway 60 between Quartzsite and Salome, Brenda is enjoyed by all who seek an outdoor adventure or those who prefer to simply enjoy the amazing climate in peace.

But for those seeking an incredible cultural tour, Brenda has an array of activities that will interest young and old. Brenda is full of history and has plenty of RV parks to call home base before venturing off to seek the many legends and historical adventures of the area.

Swansea Arizona Ghost Town

Carolyn Freedman of the Desert Gold RV Resort in Brenda said Swansea is a must-see.

"Swansea, one of Arizona's most popular ghost towns, offers the chance to explore a number of structures and remnants from a once thriving copper mining operation," she said.

Today, Swansea has only remnants of a blast furnace smelter, power plant, railroad, company store and workers' cottages. But back in 1862, prospectors had begun working the area. Results were slow until 1886, when three miners struck silver-lead ore on the Ruby Silver claim. Soon the silver ran out, leaving only a "worthless" copper deposit. But with new owners, the mining operation soon began to boom and by May of 1910 the furnaces began producing the first copper at a rate to 50 tons a day. During that year the town blossomed to include saloons, a general store, post office and even a moving picture house. The mine, however, fell victim to the Great Depression and a declining copper market and never boomed again.

To get to Swansea Arizona Ghost Town, travel north to Vicksburg then turn northwest on Arizona 72 to Bouse. From Bouse take Swansea Road north through Midway to Swansea.

Camp Bouse

Those visiting Brenda should also check out Camp Bouse, according to Freedman.

"American history buffs enjoy visiting Camp Bouse, the top-secret army base used for developing and testing tanks during the Second World War," she said.

According to the McMullen Valley Chamber of Commerce, General George S. Patton established Camp Bouse in 1943 in the Butler Valley as the site for training over 5,500 carefully screened and qualified volunteers. These soldiers were trained to use a highly secret weapon called the Canal Defense Light. Dubbed the Gizmo by the soldiers who operated it, the CDL was a 13-million candle power searchlight mounted on specialized tank for the purpose of illuminating the area at night to dazzle the enemy with its flickering light.

Troop trains brought the highly trained soldiers and their equipment from Fort Knox under heavy guard on October 14, 1943. The CDL tanks were never deployed to war. The post was occupied by the 9th Tank Group and the 526th Armored Infantry Battalion. The site was dismantled and abandoned in 1945.

Always more to explore

Besides these two great historical sites, there is much more to explore around Brenda. Freedman says those interested in Native American culture will have lots to explore, with several sites in the area that offer opportunities to view petroglyphs and intaglios. Besides that, Freedman said, there's always something to marvel at.

"Some call Brenda the middle of nowhere, but residents like to call it the middle of everywhere," she said. "We are in the heart of the Arizona outback and snowbirds enjoy the desert lifestyle, taking advantage of fun-filled days and tranquil nights. Surrounded by public lands, the area is a favorite of nature lovers and off-road enthusiasts alike."

To learn more about Brenda, its history and the surrounding area, visit the McMullen Valley Chamber of Commerce website where you'll see an outline all of the Arizona Outback points of interest.

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