SASCO is a ghost town north of Tucson and just south of Picacho Peak. It was the smelter for the first Silverbell mine, which was 12 miles to the southwest and connected by rail. We had visited SASCO ten years ago; before we were Southern Arizona Guide and we had all but forgotten about it. We had focused instead, on ghost towns south and east of Tucson. Last Sunday we attempted to return to SASCO to see what remains.
SASCO is closest to Interstate 10 from the Red Rock exit. There is a new development at Red Rock, so we had to negotiate around it and then continue west on the old SASCO road. It is only paved for approximately 4 miles. Just before the pavement ends is a huge cow farm.
Crossing the Mighty Santa Cruz River
Soon we approached the Santa Cruz River. We knew from our last trip here that there is no bridge. But the Tucson area had not experienced rain in over a month, so we expected the Santa Cruz to be dry and easy to cross. WRONG!
Last Sunday the river was alive and well. It was at least two feet deep with a swift current. This amount of water could only have been delivered from the Colorado via CAP.
So, heading back to I-10, we decided to try to make it to SASCO via the unpaved road south of the newer Silverbell Mine. Back on the freeway heading south, we got off at Avra Valley Road just outside of Marana and drove west. After 20 miles the road splits. To the right is the new, and still active, Silverbell Mine.
High-Clearance, 4WD Recommended
The left fork would take us to the site of the old Silverbell Mine and town. After about 7 miles, if you make it that far, you will see a cemetery on the right, which is all that remains of this once active site. A high-clearance 4WD vehicle is recommended for the portion of road between the two mines.
We had recently acquired a new car with a lower center of gravity. Not wanting to mess up said “New Car”, we headed back for home via Twin Peaks Road.
These are pictures from our previous adventure. We promise to update them when we go forth with a more substantial vehicle.
The Short History of SASCO
That said, here is a bit of local history of the area. SASCO stands for Southern Arizona Smelter Company. It was a town of approximately 600 and boasted a post office, hotel, and a jail. The Southern Arizona Railroad ran from Red Rock to Silverbell, which also had a town of nearly 3000 from the 1860’s to the 1920’s. Only the cemetery is left.
SASCO smelter was short-lived: 1907 to 1910. The post office closed in 1919.
We’ll try to make it to SASCO again soon. It will be interesting to see what is left. We understand monthly paintball games have been held there. Hopefully, they clean up after themselves. Let us know that the river is down, if you get there first.
For more Ghost Towns in the area see our page “Ghost Towns and Tours of Southern Arizona” listing stories and sites around Southern Arizona.