The Copper Corridor
The Route 77 byway southeast of Phoenix and northwest of Tucson winds through the Sonoran Desert, edges riparian areas of the San Pedro and Gila rivers and crosses some of Arizona’s richest mineral finds. Known as the Copper Corridor, this enclave of eleven mining and former mining communities boasts the Tiger Mine, known for its rare minerals, Arizona’s only operational smelter, and the Ray Open Pit Complex, still active. In 2007, one of the largest copper deposits in North America was discovered one mile beneath the surface near Apache Leap. Silver discoveries and gold prospecting settled the area in the 1800s, but copper mining has kept settlers in the area.
The Corridor encompasses 2,000 square miles and more than 1,000 businesses. Now the Corridor is trading on its history to develop a sustainable tourism economy. Mila Lira, of the Copper Corridor Economic Development Coalition, reveals how the region’s businesses are working together to create branding and promote recognition.
In addition to its mining lore, the Corridor offers vast scenic views, hiking areas including a portion of the Arizona Trail, camping, hunting, and many Bed and Breakfasts. Communities are working together with a goal to offer visitors a rich "Arizona Experience" that combines outdoor recreation and a tradition of mining culture.