I was never much of a photographer but have become increasingly interested in it as we continue our adventures in retirement.  As such, I’ve always got a camera with me primed and ready. You never know when you’ll run into the mythical “Place That Few Have Seen.”  This one definitely qualifies.

This is the Montana Mine in Ruby, Arizona, a ghost town about 50 miles southeast of Tucson.  Originally a gold mine, it ended up as a successful lead mine during the Great Depression.   The town was built to support the mine and when it played out in 1940, the town died.

The mine was dug into a ridgeline overlooking Ruby called Eggshell Hill. There was a single shaft that went down almost 1,000 feet and nine levels of subterranean tunnels, along with secondary shafts in many directions.  There were so many that the entire hill became unstable to the point where several decades ago, a portion of the southeast end of it collapsed, exposing a cross-section of the mine – just like someone sliced off the end of the hill so you could see inside.

I call it The Bat Cave. From May to September, it’s the home of over 150,000 Mexican freetail bats.  They swarm at dusk and dawn, blackening the sky over Ruby while doing so.  Biologists estimate they eat a ton of bugs every night.

Collapsed Mine

You can clearly see the honeycomb of shafts and levels of the Montana Mine. They keep going down into the darkness but the edge was too unstable to risk a closer look. I was already past the warning sign. With binoculars and proper light, you can see timbers, hopper cars, wooden ladders and railroad track. This is where the Mexican freetail bats swarm from May to September.

The quality of the photos is not the greatest. I took both pictures with a Sony DSC-170 (since upgraded to a Nikon D3100). It was about 4:00 PM on January 26, 2012 and the light/shadows were not helpful. In the original photos, the mine area is pitch black and the sunny slopes are almost whiteouts. I edited them in Picasa to bring out as much detail as I could. 

Almost all of my pictures are done on the move and on the fly, with little planning and setup time.  You come upon some great shots but grabbing them can be challenging.  Neither of these pictures really do the area justice.  It’s a massive cave in and it goes down into the blackness almost 1,000 feet.  There’s a single strand of rusty barbed wire fence around the top and a warning sign – both of which I ignored.  Anything for the shot.

Collapsed Mine

Here’s a closeup of the top of the cave in. You get a much better view of the remnants in the shafts. With binoculars and some favorable light, you can see even more.  Picasa was a big help with this picture too.  I lightened it up and saturated the colors.

Image quality issues aside, this is one of those places that elicits a “You gotta be kiddin’ me” which is why I posted them.

Ruby is a fascinating place.  If you like ghost towns, you’ll love Ruby. You can read all about it on our website.

Cheers … The Cachemanian Devils