This rural old boomtown of 7,500 people sits 50 miles northwest of Phoenix and is known for its many dude ranches. Not a lot has changed in town since prospector Henry Wickenburg struck gold here in 1863. Wickenburg celebrates that heritage annually with Gold Rush Days, scheduled this winter for Feb. 14–16, 2020.
Also, each winter, Wickenburg turns into the “Team Roping Capital of the World,” thanks to its plethora of roping venues hosting competition seven days a week.
[READ MORE: Wickenburg Road Trip: ON THE OLD WEST TRAIL]
Where to camp, practice & jackpot
• Simpson Ranch Arena
Wyoming’s Kyle Chrisman and his Roper Nation just keep improving Simpson Ranch Arena (503 S Tegner St.). The RV park and horse boarding facility has two lighted outdoor arenas and hosts jackpots four days a week under the canopy of gorgeous big trees along the river.
[SHOP: RV Preparedness]
- Battery-powered Road Flares
- CO and Smoke Detectors
- Fire Extinguisher
- First Aid Kit
- Tire Ramp
- Warning Triangles
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Even if the property’s 70 RV hookups get mostly filled up, staff this summer were adding space for dry camping and more stalls for overnighters and visitors staying a week at a time. Just like the Downtown Arena and Rancho Rio, Simpson Ranch will host a week straight of warm-up ropings prior to the Las Vegas Finale.
Roper Nation offers two and even sometimes three practice sessions a week, and four days of weekly jackpots. Chrisman will reserve Mondays for the over-40 crowd and ladies, with a #9.5 pick-draw, a #10.5 and #11.5. He’ll again offer “Two Arena Tuesdays” with Arena 1 hosting an over-60 #8.5 and an over-50 #9.5; at the same time in Arena 2 will be an over-40 #11.5 and over-40 #12.5. Fridays will feature a #8.5, #9.5 and #10.5 for all ages with buckles and saddles, while Saturdays he’s going to roll two arenas at a time, as well as coveted prizes—the #7.5 and #10.5 are over-50 in one arena; in the other arena are an all-ages #12.5 and #13.5.
(307) 260-7673, ropernation.com
• Downtown Arena
Veteran team roper Mike Fuller from the Pacific Northwest operates with his wife, Karen, the Downtown Arena (520 N Tegner St.) since they purchased it four years ago. It’s become one of the most popular venues in town thanks to Mike’s friendliness and tendency to cater to ropers of all numbers.
The property offers 20 full RV hookups, 50 covered horse pens, 20 uncovered pens, and steers for sale or lease.
On Wednesdays at Downtown Arena expect an over-60 drawpot (women over 50), an over-50 #10.5 and an over-50 #8.5 with women over 40. Thursdays are subject to change but Fuller plans an over-50 #8.5 for $40 per man and an over-50 #10.5 for $75 a man, plus he’ll finally start having a #13 slide for all ages. And on Sundays, he’ll stick to his usual all-ages series of a #13 handicap for $100 a man, a #11.5 for $60 each and a #9.5 for $40 per man.
(559) 250-2210, facebook.com/downtownarena
• Rancho Rio
Nestled down in the bed of the Hassayampa River since 2012, the 55-acre Rancho Rio (1325 N Tegner St.) has two outdoor arenas and space to camp all winter. Operated by Ty Yost and Ty Grantham, the property offers a barrel racing jackpot every Thursday and hosts team roping practices—plus you can always take a shot at roping slick horns on Rio, the longhorn bounty steer.
If you want to move in, Rancho Rio boasts 50 RV spaces, 138 covered stalls, more outdoor stalls and restroom facilities.
Weekly action all winter is expected to include “Legends Mondays” for the over-50 crowd and “Big Money Fridays” semi-weekly.
In December, Rancho Rio hosts a week of solid jackpots (all numbers) on Dec. 2-10 as warm-ups for ropers en route to Las Vegas for the World Series Finale. In February, too, expect a week of solid jackpots during Gold Rush Days, and Rancho Rio usually hosts truck ropings in November and January. Throughout the season, the venue holds qualifiers for the NTR National Finals and a horse sale it’s hosting on March 5–6, 2020.
(928) 684-3150, ranchorioaz.com
[READ MORE: Arizona Legends: Top Ropers Out of Arizona]
• Everett Bowman Rodeo Arena
In the nearby foothills lies the Everett Bowman Rodeo Arena (1025 Constellation Road), the only area venue not privately owned.
This year, NFR heeler B.J. Campbell will produce a #8.5, #9.5 and #10.5 roping Tuesdays at the rodeo grounds. He keeps it simple, with fees of only $35, and it’s all over-40 and ladies of all ages. Mondays you can go practice for $20, and, if you throw in an extra $60, you’re entered in his “Practice with Pointers,” in which he’ll give you lessons on either end.
Thursdays and Fridays, look for him to produce a breakaway roping or barrel race (at least exhibitions). And Sundays, he plans to host a fun team sorting competition.
(509) 222-0490, bjcampbellteamroping.com
• Additional Venues
For places to stay without jackpots on-site, check out Rancho Casitas Guest Ranch (ranchocasitasguestranch.com).
Also, a new option this season is Wickenburg Winter Cowboy Camp. It’s offering horse boarding, daily roping practice, roping lessons from Brandon Bates and horse training, with plenty of outside trail riding available.
RV hookups are $35 per night with covered stalls and full care at $25 per night. For a winter package, you can get a hookup for $600, two covered stalls and full care for $750, and daily practice with two horses for $600.
(951) 442-2079 or (307) 461-1450
[SHOP: Living Large when Living Small]
Countdown: 5 Things Only Found in Wickenburg
1 Nichols West
This off-the-beaten-path eatery is 20 minutes up Hwy 89 from Wickenburg, toward Prescott. The operators are British and succeeded with the original Nichols in East Hampton on Long Island. Their Western version has become a cozy and intimate oasis in the desert for ropers, offering phenomenal seafood, a great wine list and full bar. Try the shrimp-and-avocado burger, to-die-for oysters or the famous chicken pot pie.
2 Rancho de los Caballeros
This world-famous guest ranch in its 71 year is situated on 20,000 acres of high Sonoran desert just 10 minutes from downtown. Still operated by the founding family, the ranch offers horseback rides, 18-hole championship golf course, tennis courts, trap and skeet shooting, heated outdoor swimming pool, excellent spa, desert Jeep tours, cookouts, mountain biking, hot air ballooning and—especially nice for ropers—fine dining.
(928) 684-5484, ranchodeloscaballeros.com
3 Dell E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts
A bonafide diamond in the rough, this venue schedules a wide variety of performances in its intimate 600-seat theater from November through April. The Bellamy Brothers will croon there on Nov. 7, while Carlene Carter comes to town Nov. 17 and an Italian circus hits the Center in mid-December. Dance groups, comics and an orchestra also dot the lineup.
(928) 684-6624, dewpac.org
Golf isn’t unique to Arizona, but Wickenburg is the only town of its size with three courses like this. Rancho de los Caballeros Golf Club is ranked in the top 75 in the country. Wickenburg Golf Club offers stunning views and the Hitching Post restaurant. Wickenburg Ranch, north of town, boasts Big Wick, voted “Top Ten Best New Courses in North America” by Golf Digest in 2015, as well as Li’l Wick—a nine-hole course open Friday through Tuesday, for which you don’t need a tee time or dress code. Music is streamed around the course; you can rent clubs and finish the final four under lights before wrapping up the day at The Watering Hole.
(855) 463-7714, wickenburgranch.com/golf
Last year, National Roper’s Supply took over the former Double D Western World. The retailer that became the catalog king for team ropers is a valuable bonus for winter campers who already loved Double D and its longtime owner of more than 30 years, roper Creed Botts. Buy new ropes, apparel and tack—plus hay and grain—seven days a week. You’ll find a large selection of trailers at NRS Trailers, too.
(928) 684-7987, nrsworld.com
Where to EAT
A few standbys remain local roper favorites year after year.
• Just off downtown is the illustrious old-school steakhouse Rancho Bar 7 (111 E Wickenburg Way; (928) 684-2492), with new owners for the first time in its long history. Check out the Bar 7 on Taco Tuesday, and watch for its Saturday-night special—prime rib and twice-baked potatoes. Top it all off with fried turnovers as you enjoy live music on the patio, drink specials and shuffleboard tournaments.
• Another locally owned eatery is Quorri’s Pizza (651 W Wickenburg Way; (928) 684-2002), serving up a full bar—completely remodeled this fall—and all the pizza and wings you can eat.
• Nearby is the equally unique El Ranchero (683 W Wickenburg Way; (928) 684-5121), featuring all your authentic Mexican favorites.
• The other hot spot for Spanish food, Anita’s Cocina (57 N Valentine St.; (928) 684-5777), offers fresh ingredients and premium tequila for a superb margarita.
• Finally, a quaint and delicious spot for breakfast and lunch is Nana’s Sandwich Shoppe (48 N Tegner St.; (928) 684-5539), serving quiche and special sandwiches plus fancy coffees, sticky buns, sweetbreads and pies.
[READ MORE: Vet Trends: Arizona Travel]
VET & FEED NEEDS
Open since 1975, Bar S Animal Clinic serves horses, cats and dogs with three vets—including one who ropes. The receptionist is a roper, too, and a vet will come to your camp up to 30 miles outside town. You can even board your dogs there if you need to fly home for a minute.
(928) 684-7846, barsanimalclinic.com
To stock up on hay or grain, you can try TX Hay & Grain at 30358 U.S. Hwy 60/89, which also will deliver hay. The store is named after the founder’s cattle brand, and manager Rohn Alder is himself a roper.
[SHOP: On-the-Road Pet Gear]