Bisbee and Tombstone
Tombstone, the sight of the most famous 30-second gunfight in history, calls itself the “town too tough to die,” but it is really Bisbee that deserves that distinction. Bisbee’s huge open-pit copper mine flourished for a few generations, and after it closed the quaint little town found new life among artists, writers, and countercultural escapists, while still maintaining its role as a county seat and government center.
Today, Bisbee is actually growing, and there always seem to be new restaurants and stores opening in the quaint structures of Old Town.
Tombstone’s mining boom—and it was mining, not cardsharps, gunfighters, and vigilantes, that put the town on the map—lasted only about seven years, from 1880 to 1887 give or take. These days Tombstone is a tourist trap, nothing more and nothing less.
Both former mining centers followed a similar economic cycle, however. Their impressive mineral wealth may have been found first by intrepid lone-wolf hard-rock miners, but the industry was very soon taken over by Eastern conglomerates owned by fat-cat “capitalists,” as that species was called back then (by a group that included the territory’s then governor), and the hills were denuded of their ore by broken-backed miners making about $4 a day.
That was until the corporations couldn’t make the mines pay anymore, owing mostly to flooding, so they packed off and went looking for another place to dig and blast, leaving the town and laid-off workers to fend for themselves. And fend for themselves they both have done, inviting tourists from all over the globe to discover their unique charms.
Getting to Bisbee and Tonbstone
The quickest way to get to Bisbee and Tombstone is to take I-10 east from Tucson for about 40 minutes to the exit for Highway 80. Take Highway 80 south through Tombstone, then keep going south until Highway 80 meets Highway 90; take Highway 90 east to Bisbee.
For a longer, even more scenic drive, take I-10 east from Tucson and turn south on Highway 83, take Highway 82 east to Tombstone, then go south on 80, pick up 90, and head on into Bisbee.
© Tim Hull from Moon Tucson, 1st Edition