Mercury Mining in Dreamy Draw

Dreamy Draw, mercury, mercury mining, cinnabar, SR51 Squaw Peak Parkway, State Route 51, Piestewa Parkway, Arizona history, Arizona historian, AZHistorian, John Larsen Southard, John Southard, Southard, Phoenix, Phoenix Mountain Preserve

A Depression-era photo taken from Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources Bulletin 103, “A Review of Mercury Mining in the Phoenix Mountains, Maricopa County.” The caption shown accompanies the image in the bulletin.
Image credit: Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources

Television weather forecasters often use the word mercury as a synonym for temperature, particularly when reporting on the summer heat. As such, it is appropriate that mercury, an element sometimes known as quicksilver, was once mined in the Valley of the Sun. Though the mercury-laden cinnabar found in the Phoenix Mountains yielded a relatively insignificant amount of the deleterious material used in the manufacture of explosives, thermometers, and a number of scientific instruments, its presence in the hills surrounding State Route 51 near Northern Avenue is reflected in nearby place names to this very day. Dreamy Draw, the area now enjoyed by many hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, gained its moniker from the dazed, or ‘dreamy,’ effect witnessed in miners who worked with the neurotoxin, while Paradise Valley Unified School District’s Mercury Mine Elementary School takes its name from the filled-in mineshaft atop which the school’s ball field now sits.

I recently had the pleasure of discussing the history of Phoenix-area mercury mining with Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez, a reporter for KJZZ’s The Show, a weekly program that airs from 2 to 3 on Friday afternoons. To listen to Nadine’s segment and learn more about this interesting, albeit relatively unknown aspect of Valley history, please visit the following link: