The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes is the second largest in the state of California, encompassing an 18-mile stretch of spectacular coastline on the California Central Coast from Pismo Beach in southern San Luis Obispo County, to Guadalupe in northern Santa Barbara County. The Dunes Complex consists of several distinct regions, each managed by different organizations that are used for various purposes. Pismo State Beach-North Beach Campgrounds is located at the northernmost part of the Dunes and is run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Pismo State Beach-Oceano Campgrounds is located further south near the town of Oceano. The Oceano Campgrounds, like the North Beach Campgrounds, is run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and has a nature museum on site.
Home to many endangered plants and animals, much of the Dunes has been set aside for conservation. However, much to the consternation of many locals and environmentalists, a sizable portion of the Dunes is utilized for Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) use, a highly controversial matter. This once pristine, 5.5 mile strip of sandy coastline is the only State Park in California where vehicles can be driven on the beach. These vehicles, which kick up a multitude of pollutants and particulate matter into the air, include quads, dirt bikes, and four-wheel drive vehicles.
The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, located south of Oceano, also offers its 2 million annual visitors the opportunity to camp and horseback ride on the beach. The Oso Flaco Lake Natural Area is a California State Park located north of the city of Guadalupe. Visitors to the Natural Area can walk along the mile-long boardwalk that follows the creek, passing across Oso Flaco Lake to the ocean. The Dunes Center, located in the city of Guadalupe in a restored 1910 craftsman bungalow, is an agency developed to promote the conservation of the Dunes ecosystem through education, research and cooperative stewardship.
The first inhabitants of the Dunes were of the Native American Chumash tribe. Although early Spanish maritime explorers noticed the Chumash settlements, Europeans did not travel through the Dunes until 1769 when Don Gaspar de Portola’s expedition traversed the area. In 1923, the epic Cecil B. DeMille movie The Ten Commandments was filmed at the Dunes. Remnants of the film set are still buried deep within the sand, victims of the force of decades of wind. The Dunes are famous for a group of mystics, artists, nudists, writers, and hermits known collectively as the “Dunites” who inhabited the area from the 1920s until the 1940s. Not unlike that of the Sedona, Arizona, New Age thinkers, the Dunites believed that the Dunes possessed creative vortexes of energy.
During the same time, oil companies were snapping up Dune land and, in 1948, oil was discovered. Unocal began operations in the Guadalupe Oil Field in the 1950s and over the course of the next 40 years, some 18 million gallons of petroleum leaked under the Dunes. It took until 1994 for the company to publicly admit the spill and begin the cleanup process. Today the Dunes remains a wonderful place to visit and photograph, and still maintains a very unique mystical, magical quality.
Often referred to as “America’s Most Vertical City” or the “Largest Ghost Town in America,” the mile-high city of Jerome, Arizona, lies high atop a hill at an elevation of 5,200 feet midway between Prescott and Flagstaff. Established in 1876, the historic copper mining town is perched precariously at a 30 degree slant on Cleopatra Hill alongside Mingus Mountain. Jerome sits above what was once the largest copper mine in Arizona, producing over 3 million pounds of copper per month. It was named for Eugene Murray Jerome, a New York investor who owned the mineral rights and financed mining operations in the town. Oddly enough, Eugene Jerome never visited his namesake town. Jerome was incorporated as a town on March 8, 1889. Local merchant and rancher William Munds was the first mayor. The town housed the workers in the nearby United Verde Mine, which produced over 1 billion dollars in copper, gold and silver over the next 70 years.
Coined the “wickedest town in the West,” Jerome became a notorious wild west town, growing rapidly from a scant settlement of tents into a roaring, boisterous mining town replete with ongoing violence, drinking, gambling, brothels, vice, murder and mayhem. Four disastrous fires eventually destroyed major sections of the town. Jerome had three major fires between 1897 and 1899, burning out much of the town. The 1899 fire prompted Jerome to reincorporate as a city, and to adopt a building code specifying brick or masonry construction, as well as improving the fire companies.
Despite these changes, the large and luxurious Montana Hotel, built of brick, burned in 1915. In 1918 fires spread out of control over 22 miles of underground mines, burning the inflammable massive pyrite. One of the mine fires continued to burn for twenty years. This prompted the phasing out of underground mining in favor of open pit mining at the United Verde Mine. Blasting in the mines frequently shook the town, sometimes damaging or moving buildings; after one blast in the 1930s, the city jail slid one block downhill yet remained completely intact. Lawsuits were frequent, but the mining companies usually won.
In 1915 the population of Jerome was estimated at 2,500. By 1929 Jerome’s population was over 15,000 and Arizona had become the nation’s leading copper producer. The Great Depression eventually slowed the mining operation and by 1932, the price of copper had sunk to 5 cents per pound. The United Verde Mine closed until 1935 when Phelps Dodge bought the mine for $21 million; the company still owns the claim to this day. In 1938 the UVX, Jerome’s second major mine, was mined out and closed. After World War II, demand for copper slowed. The United Verde Mine and Jerome prospered in the war years, but the end was now in sight. Phelps Dodge closed the nearby Clarkdale smelter in 1950. In 1953 the last of Jerome’s mines closed, and much of the population left town. Jerome’s population reached a low point of about 50 people in the late 1950s; these remaining hardy souls began to promote Jerome as a historic ghost town.
In 1967 Jerome was designated a National Historic District by the federal government, and a National Historic Landmark in 1976, known as Jerome Historic District. Today Jerome is a major tourist and arts destination, due to the very large population of resident artists. Many formerly abandoned and refurbished buildings from Jerome’s heyday have been converted into working artist studios.
Jerome has a large mining museum, presenting the town history, labor-management disputes, geological structure models, mineral samples, and equipment used in both underground and open-pit mining. The National Historic Landmark designation has assured architectural preservation in this town. Jerome is a photographer’s paradise and a spectacular place to visit with its rich history and architecture.
The first image above was taken on the winding and narrow approach to Jerome; the old quarry and copper mine can be seen in the distance. The second image was taken of Jerome during a thunderstorm from atop Tuzigoot National Monument. The third image is of the old abandoned Mohawk Mini-Mart located on the way up the hill into town from Clarkdale, right off Highway 89-A. The gas pumps are no longer there. The next two images were taken atop Cleopatra Hill just below the Jerome Grand Hotel, overlooking the town, old mines, and Verde Valley below. The image above shows the view from Jerome when descending Highway 89-A down the hill towards Clarkdale. Views of the spectacular Verde Valley can be seen, along with the town of Sedona in the distance.
The image below was shot in the historic and seemingly haunted old miners’ cemetery. I was nearly bitten by a scorpion when backing away from the grave. The old tombstone seemed to be bending out of the way, showing everyone who dared stop by a view of gorgeous Verde Canyon. I named this photograph A Tomb With a View. What a final resting place! All images are HDR bracketed shots.