Bonita Well, Arizona


One fact that the ghost town hunter must accept is that change is inevitable. This abandoned corral is located in a remote section of Organ Pipe National Monument, along the 53-mile dirt loop road known as Puerto Blanco Drive. I took this photo the first time I took the drive, in 1991. When I returned about ten years later, I was saddened to find the corral much more dilapidated; the vanes of the windmill had fallen to the ground. Now, the site cannot be visited at all; due to the danger of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers, Puerto Blanco Drive is indefinitely closed to the public.

The history of Bonita Well, and the design of the cattle gate you see in this photo, was described by Caroline C. Wilson in the Puerto Blanco Drive booklet that was formerly sold at the visitor center:

Bonita Well was one of several line camp wells developed in the 1930s by rancher Robert L. Gray and his sons in order to provide water for their stock.

Gray used a unique and clever device to round up his cattle. He would close the two gates into the corral and tie them shut with a piece of stretchy rubber, like an inner tube. A thirsty cow, wanting a drink from the trough inside, would push on the gates until they were spread apart wide enough to get through. Then they would snap shut, trapping the cow inside the corral.

In a region so large that it might take many days and many miles to do a traditional round-up, the trap-gate was indispensable.

Organ Pipe National Monument is located on Highway 85 in southeastern Arizona, just north of the Mexican border. A small fee is collected at the visitor center to enter the National Monument. Except for the first few miles, Puerto Blanco Drive is now closed to the public; Bonita Well is no longer accessible.

Revised: July 20, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Joe Orman (except material quoted from brochure.
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