Visit the ghosts of the old Wild West on the Clanton brothers’ ranch

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By Bob Difley

Photo courtesy of SouthernArizonaGuide.com

Flying bullets ricocheted off the stone blocks of the local bank; Virgil dove for cover behind a wagon. Doc, carefully hiding his body, fired around the corner of a red brick building, and Wyatt took careful aim from beside the horse trough.


When the famous gunfight at the OK Corral was over, several of the Clanton gang lay dead. The Earp brothers and Doc Holliday had dispatched the suspected cattle rustlers.

This scene has played to popular audiences in movies, television shows, books, and in the regular Tombstone, Arizona, live re-creation that attracts visitors from around the world seeking immersion in the old Wild West.

But did you know that you could visit the infamous Clanton brothers’ ranch? The ranch where possibly some of the suspected rustled cattle grazed in 1881 when Virgil Earp was U.S. Deputy Marshal and City Marshal of Tombstone? When his famous brother Wyatt was deputy U.S. marshal for the entire Arizona Territory?

You won’t find swaggering gunfighters walking the grounds, or groups of iPhone-wielding tourists taking aim at sporadic gunfights – or even any tourists at all. The ranch is an isolated, off-the-beaten-path reminder of the true, unembellished Wild West. It is mostly arid sandy soil, desert scrub, crumbling ruins of adobe buildings, and long-forgotten strands of rusty barbed wire.

To find the ranch drive East from Sierra Vista toward Tombstone to Escapule Road, a dirt road heading south (to the right) a mile before the Charleston Bridge crossing the San Pedro River. In about three miles there will be a BLM road marker and small parking area. Walk about a mile to the south along a fence until you come to a gate marked “Clanton Ranch” with some of the letters missing.

Go through the gate, but from this point on let the ghosts of the Clantons guide you to the decayed remnants of the former buildings and the old corral. Only a few crumbling walls and scattered pieces of rusty metal remain, but as you wander through the grass and under a towering cottonwood tree, try to visualize one of the Clantons, branding iron in hand, meticulously changing the brands of the newly acquired cattle to match their own.

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