Respite in Gila Bend, Arizona

Peace and quiet and wide-open spaces are what we needed after the big city sights and sounds of San Diego. Although temperatures approached 100 degrees, Gila Bend KOA seemed like the perfect spot to get away from the ants that invaded our coach and the roar of the freeway outside our bedroom window.

The Ranch House at Gila Bend KOA

We checked in at Gila Bend KOA on October 3, 2019, for a three-night stay. This RV park has been our go-to campground whenever we pass through the Sonoran Desert. Each year we arrive anxious to see what improvements the owner Scott Swanson has made since the previous year. A major street resurfacing project was underway when we arrived, closing off the main road. Our escort led the way along an alternate route to our site. This was the best site we have ever had at this campground.

Our campsite at Gila Bend KOA

A new gate at the entrance prevents people from entering that do not belong. Unless I missed it during our last visit, the Solitary Confinement shelter was a great addition for folks who want to enjoy a little solitude.

Step right in for your solitary confinement

Chairs have been placed inside the two cubicle-like spaces with a view of the usually dry creek lined with palo verde trees. Don’t even think about talking while cocooned in solitary,  it’s not allowed. And pets and loved ones must stay at home.

View from the Solitary Confinement

Patio and fireplace behind the Ranch House

Although Gila Bend boasts a Dollar General, Family Dollar, and a Carniceria, for shopping we prefer to drive to Buckeye for our groceries. The Butcher & The Farmer Marketplace had everything we needed under one roof.

The Butcher & The Farmer Marketplace in Buckeye has everything you need

We took Old US 80 to Buckeye, a scenic route that winds through farmland, around lava flows, and past The Co-op Grill.

They went thataway

Operating farms and dairies and smaller ranchettes also lined the road. Dotted here and there were a few properties that appeared abandoned.

Acres of cotton fields
A cotton blossom

The highlight of the drive is the Historic Gillespie Dam Bridge and Interpretive Plaza. Unfortunately, someone had removed the interpretive part of the plaza leaving only the sign supports. Never fear, Wikipedia to the rescue to fill in the details of the artifact’s history.

The interpretive Plaza lacked information signs

The concrete gravity dam on the Gila River was constructed during the 1920s for irrigation purposes. In 1927, the steel truss bridge opened to traffic and incorporated into the highway system as Route 80.

View of Gillespie Bridge

It carried US 80 traffic until 1956 when the bridge was decommissioned. On May 5, 1981, the bridge earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridge across waters

It carried US 80 traffic until 1956 when the bridge was decommissioned. On May 5, 1981, the bridge earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The ramp to the overlook

Following extreme rainfall in 1993, a portion of the dam failed, remnants of which can be seen from the road.

Gillespie Dam

Driving through Buckeye we noticed the school looked like it had been recently renovated. Across the street stood a two- and three-story brick building that housed the city offices and chamber of commerce. It all seemed too fancy for such a small town until I learned the population approached 69,000 people, about 10 times what I thought, and was the fastest-growing town in the US during 2017.

Buckeye city offices
An homage to the cotton industry
Garden behind the city offices

Before we left Gila Bend for cooler climes in Payson, Arizona, we drove east on Interstate 8 to see if any progress had been made at Big Horn Station since our visit in February 2018. Our post, dated March 3, 2018, titled Gila Bend and Ajo, Arizona,  here provides more detail of the historic property.

Not much improvement happening at Big Horn Station

Refreshed from our respite in Gila Bend, it was time to move on. Payson, here we come. But before we go, here is a sunset photo.

Can there ever be too many sunsets?

Safe Travels