Camping Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona

Camp Arizona had the opportunity to speak with Tom Fisher, who is the Park Manager at Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona. Listen to our full interview here:

Lost Dutchman State Park Camping

Camp Arizona: I’m talking with Tom Fisher. He’s the Park Manager at Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona. How’s it going this morning, Tom?

Tom Fisher: Very good. The weather is actually quite beautiful here.

Camp Arizona: So let’s talk a little bit about Lost Dutchman State Park, where you guys are located within the state and how the park got its start.

Tom Fisher: Okay. We’ve actually been a State Park since 1977. The property was formerly BLM, and BLM, for whatever reason, decided to basically give it to State Parks. It’s a beautiful location. It’s about 45 miles east of Phoenix. It takes roughly about an hour, depending on traffic, to get out this way. We have a gorgeous area here. Roughly about 330 acres at the base of the Superstition Mountains.

Camp Arizona: Fantastic. Tell me a little bit about that name, because it’s pretty unique.

Tom Fisher: It is. It’s named after Jacob Waltz, who was a German immigrant that came out looking for gold in the Superstitions.

Camp Arizona: And did he end up being a bazillionaire?

Tom Fisher: Well, it’s kind of really a sad story. He did find what he told everybody some gold, but never really got to actually take the gold out of the mine. Actually died before that happened. He apparently passed on secrets to his family, but to this day, the mine has never been found.

Camp Arizona: Interesting story. That fires up the superstitious side of me. Makes me want to get in my car and get out there.

Tom Fisher: There are a lot of people that do exactly that.

Camp Arizona: And have you ever had anyone report anything positive at all back to the Park Office?

Tom Fisher: Oh, absolutely. There is gold across the street. Actually right across the street from the Park there are several gold mines. And many people believe that’s actually where the mine or the gold that he had seen was actually goal across the street and not actually in the Superstition Mountains. There’s a prominent butte called Weaver’s Needle that’s basically right in the middle of the 160,000-acre forest, but he led people to believe that his mine was near that butte. So, everybody goes over to that area, searching for the mine, but some people believe that actually was right across street – some of the gold that he found.

Camp Arizona: If I were him, I would probably lead people to where the mine was not.

Tom Fisher: There you go. That’s what most people believe.

Camp Arizona: So, other than seeking an early retirement, what are some of the other popular activities in the park?

Photo courtesy of Patrick Coin

Photo courtesy of Patrick Coin

Tom Fisher: Most people, again, because it’s a quick getaway from Downtown Phoenix, come here to camp. We have a huge campground. Basically, right now, we’re up to 105 sites. We’re actually planning to add an additional 30 on top of that and get up to 134. We have both the convenience of water and electric at a campsite or a primitive campsite. So, we can meet every need when they come out here, and then the other obvious reason for people to come out here is that there’s 160,000-acre wilderness right behind the park and, again, only 45 minutes from Downtown Phoenix.

Camp Arizona: Wow. So, if I were camping in Lost Dutchman State Park and I wanted to venture outside of the park for an afternoon, what are some other popular activities in the area?

Tom Fisher: Oh, there’s a gorgeous drive. There’s a historic road right out in front of the park that we’re on – Highway 88. It actually turns into a dirt road and goes for 20-something miles all the way up to three different lakes on the way that you drive along. There is Canyon Lake, Patchy Lake, and Roosevelt Lake, so all those water activities are available right up the street from the park. And then there are a lot of other attractions in the area. There is a museum pretty much dedicated to Jacob Waltz down the road – Superstition Mountain Museum – and there’s a historic goldfield ghost town down the road about a mile and a half also that people like to visit. They have mine tours. They have a train ride. Pretty interesting destination.

Camp Arizona: It’s pretty interesting for me to think about that time back when he was alive, if you think about what it was like before the Internet and how information spread back then. It makes sense that a tale like that is going to become epic.

Tom Fisher: Absolutely. Absolutely. We have people come from all over the world because they’ve heard about this. And you know, just want to get a feel for what it was like in the Goldfield Ghost Channel that I was just talking about. It’s all state of the — you know, roughly in the area of 1883 is when the town was actually incorporated, and it pretty much built all the buildings to look like that, so it can really get you in to feel for what it was like back then.

Camp Arizona: Okay, two more questions for you. If you could spend just one hour in the park, what would you do with your time?

Tom Fisher: Most people would go and do a short hike, because most of our hikes will gain elevations – and not an extreme amount of elevation. Even 500 feet, and you can actually look and see Downtown Phoenix all the way from that little hike you did. And you can see all the population base and then you can turn around 180 degrees and look towards the Superstition Wilderness where you won’t see anything. Not a building. Not a light. Not a thing. So that’s pretty unique that you get to be able to do that on a short, you know. Basically on one and a half-mile hike, you get to see all that.

Camp Arizona: And in the developed world we live in now, that’s hard to find that anywhere.

Tom Fisher: Absolutely, especially this close to a major metropolitan area like Phoenix.

Camp Arizona: If you could spend just one night in Lost Dutchman State Park, which specific campsite would you choose and why?

Tom Fisher: Site 36 is unique because it’s one of the closest ones to the mountain and it’s incredible to see a full moon rise over Superstition Peak. It’s absolutely quite gorgeous.

Camp Arizona: Okay. Well, thanks for your time this morning, Tom. I really appreciate it.

Tom Fisher: Very good. Any time.