The Good Enough Mine Tour: The Source of Tombstone’s WealthAugust 8, 2011 No Comments
Like most Old West boom towns, Tombstone Arizona popped up seemingly overnight. Prospector Ed Schieffelin struck silver in the Apache-controlled mountains of southeast Arizona in 1877. As soldiers at nearby Camp Huachuca had assured him that all he would find was his own tombstone, he named his initial claim “Tombstone.”
That strike turned out to be anything but a fluke, and as news of the silver vein spread, the town of Tombstone was rushed to completion. By the early 1880s, the town boasted nearly 20,000 residents and was ringed by mine claims. The “Good Enough” was Ed Schieffelin’s second claim, so named because it was good enough for him.
Visiting the Good Enough Mine
The silver ore actually ran directly underneath the town of Tombstone, and most of the mine entrances were along the town’s back streets. In fact, an original shaft from the Good Enough is still visible in the rear of Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. The main entrance to the Good Enough is at the corner of 5th and Toughnut, between the Dragoon Saloon and the Old Firehouse. As of 2011, admission is $15 for adults and $12 for students and active duty military. Kids aged 10 and under are free.
All visitors are required to don a bright blue plastic miner’s helmet and sign a liability waiver. Parents must sign for children under age 18. There is a lot to look at near the entrance, so plan to arrive 15 or 20 minutes early. Tours depart multiple times throughout the day.
The tour begins on the surface, where your guide will point out various mining equipment and perform a short demonstration. Then you will follow a gravel path to the mine entrance, a steep concrete staircase that descends 100 feet. Low ceilings are heavily marked in red paint, and your guide will point them out as well.
Inside the mine, your guide will lead you on an easy, though uneven, 600-foot stroll through various mine chambers. Every few feet, the guide stops the group to point out various artifacts, demonstrate how a task was performed, or teach you to identify the different minerals visible in the rocks. The mine exists on multiple levels, and twisting passages branch out in seemingly random directions, providing a cool but bewildering visual experience. The mine is roughly 900 feet deep, but is flooded to the 500-foot level.
Our guide was particularly adept at bringing the miners to life, providing such seemingly trivial details as what they ate and when they took their daily breaks. These factoids, presented as part of an engaging storytelling style, helped people of all ages to imagine what life as a miner would have been like.
We also received enough information to develop a working knowledge of mining operations, but it was presented in small chunks that kept it from feeling like an information overload. Throughout the tour, we were encouraged to ask questions. Our group included a wide range of ages, from tiny children to grandparents, and I feel that our guide tailored the tour to our individual interests.
While descending into the mine was easy, climbing back out was quite a workout! Apparently our guide was used to tourists, though, since he immediately led our group to a flat shaded area near the top of the stairs. We stood and chatted for a few minutes until everyone had gotten their breath back.
Tips for Parents
The mine is a comfortable 65 degrees F year-round, making it an excellent choice for a hot summer afternoon. The tour operators have done an admirable job of smoothing out the once-rocky passages and providing handrails as needed. According to our guide, there has never been a mine collapse in the area, making me suspect that the hard hats are largely for show. Nonetheless, they do add an extra layer of safety in the extremely unlikely event of shifting rock.
Keep a close eye on your kids. The gravel hill to the mine entrance can be slippery, and the stairs are rather steep. Keep everyone well back from railings and rock piles, and do not let your kids slip away from the group. Although our guide claims that it is impossible to get lost in the mine, I wouldn’t want to test that theory!
Ask plenty of questions and encourage your children to do the same. As is true with any guided tour, the more interactive the group is, the more fun everyone has, including the guide.