Some of the things I truly cherish around my parents’ new home in Mesa, Arizona, which is almost 30 minutes away from the capital of Phoenix, are the endless mountain views you can see not too far including the Superstition Mountains. Growing up from suburban neighborhoods and being raised in there by my parents, being surrounded by nature wasn’t something I was used to seeing but my parents made the ultimate best decision, in my opinion, by moving to the West Coast.
In their city, you can find the famous Superstition Mountains. It is one of the most photographed and painted set of mountains in the city and it is a landmark of the Southwest. It’s full of a rich western history and consists of the most awesome geology to discover. There’s also a nearby museum called the Superstition Mountain Museum to see!
About the Supersition Mountains
The Superstition Mountains, located in The Tonto National Forest, were formed 30 million years ago and a result of intensive volcanic activity. The name was derived from when the Pimas Indians were superstitious with these mountain ranges.
Legend has it…
They thought they would hear strange sounds, people disappearing, mysterious deaths occurring, and just bad luck coming from those mountains. One of the most famous superstitions that connect to these mountains is the story of the Lost Dutchman and his gold, where many people believe that his treasure still lies around somewhere to be found.
Exploring the Superstition Mountain Museum
In close proximity to these mountains, you can find the 12-acre Superstition Mountain Museum. It is an introductory to the stories of these mountains and the artifacts recovered from a long western history. It contains movie sets from well-known American western films, which is called the Apacheland Movie Ranch, also known as the “the Western Movie Capital of the World”, with some famous movie stars that have set foot on these grounds.
As you walk into the museum, you’ll be greeted into the gift shop and past the gift shop, you will walk right into the actual museum. My mom and I went to visit at this time.
What to see
You can learn about the exotic species in the desert and by the mountains. I was actually quite surprised there were mountain lions (some would probably expect that already) but it makes me worried to know that there is since I plan to one day hike Arizona’s mountains! Hopefully, that fear will diminish, and after all, there are more exotic species than these (venomous ones).
There were some cool Native American finds in the museum too and you will see what Western life will consist of.
Jacob Waltz was known to be “The Lost Dutchman”, where he was once prospecting in Arizona and supposedly found gold deposit by the Superstitions. Here is what the mine cart would’ve looked like.
Lots of displays in the museum
There were model displays of what used to be the machines used for a mining factory and the set-up including an ore mill. There were also a variety of rocks collected from mines, old pair of sunglasses, a model of the Dolly steamboat that still runs until this day in the Apache Junction, old souvenirs, a 1858 revolver, and other interesting artifacts all displayed behind glass.
Along the walls of the museum were handpainted paintings based around the Superstitions and their stories, including the Lost Dutchman.
There was a model display of the replica of an overall view of the Apache Junction and how the movie ranch looked like back then. How awesome was this scaled display?! It almost looked like it was shot by a drone from above in the picture.
Movie sets to see
As I mentioned before, this area was known for movie sets. There was a whole case displaying the Western movies that were filmed around the Superstitions. Some of the celebrities that have been filmed here were Steve McQueen, Linda Evans, Ronald Reagan, Clint Walker, Kenny Rogers, John Wayne, Elvis Presley and so much more. As you can see, there is a church on the right top corner and that church was part of Elvis Presley’s movie Charro! It’s actually right outside of the museum. If you scroll below, you will see me visiting it.
A whole section was dedicated to the Native Americans that lived around the area including one of the most famous Native American leaders, Geronimo, who is the prominent leader and a medicine man of the Chiricahua Apache Tribe. There were actual photographs of the Native Americans that lived around the 1800’s.
After, we were done touring the museum, we went outside to be greeted by the gift shop again. This time, my mom and I were looking at the huge array of souvenirs they were selling from stone necklaces you can create to actual real stones and silver necklaces to intellectually stimulating books to magnets and clothes and to wall decor. There were also a lot of Native American-inspired crafted ceramic vases and figurines.
One of my favorite parts of the whole museum was seeing the movie set attractions. Sometimes, they would hold events for families with arts and crafts, lectures, Stamp Mill demonstrations, etc.
Here are pictures of the church from Elvis Presley’s movie Charro! It was so beautiful and preserved.
Behind the church, there was a jail, “The Tortilla Flat”, and the Apacheland Barn, which was part of the movie Arizona Rangers for a staged lengthy gun battle.
There were so much more to discover after going through the museum and the movie set attractions. One of my favorite parts of the attractions outside were these scaled-models/dioramas of Wild West settings. They were precisely designed with its miniature-sized props and so cute! There’s also a Cossak 20-stamp ore mill displayed, which was originally located at Bland, New Mexico, but it was dismantled by 5 volunteers who spent 28 days accomplishing the task. 70 tons of stamp mill were transported here in Apache Junction.
Model displays of the Wild West
If you’re looking for a museum with plenty of things to learn about that plays a huge part in the history and culture of Arizona’s Apache Junction, then this is it.