Clifton's population numbers fewer than 4000, but this mountain town has a personality as big as its great outdoors. Some mining and ranching families go back many generations, while others came for a job or a visit, fell in love and put down roots. We'd like to introduce you to a few of colorful characters who choose to make their homes in Clifton.
"Papa Gene" Roland grew up in Ajo and worked at the mine as a shovel operator for 30 years. He's retired now, and lives with his wife Vesta on a ranch on the outskirts of Clifton. In retirement Gene has honed his skills as a photographer. Many of his photos are taken at his ranch. By sharing his photos with others, Gene aims to get people to come to Clifton and show them the potential of the area.
"There's so much here," Gene exclaims. "Whatever you can imagine can probably be done here."
Gene is also a talented musician, and one day he was sitting on the hill watching the line of cars heading for the mine. "It was taking them nearly four hours to drive the 40 miles from Safford to Morenci. "I felt so sorry for those guys that morning, and I said to myself, 'you gotta write a song about this!'"
View from Buzzard Roost
Moon Over Buzzard Roost
You can see some of Gene's photos of Clifton on his Facebook page.
Kimberly was the Education Director at the Federal Prison in Safford, Arizona, when she and a friend booked a tour of historic homes in Clifton. On the tour was a former Presbyterian Church and Masonic Lodge, that presented itself as a possibility a few years later when she was looking for property in the area. "I made an offer, and the next thing you know, I got a call!," says Kimberly. "I wake up every single day just amazed that this is my home."
At the "Blue Door Sanctuary", Kimberly hosts weddings, receptions and business meetings — "anything where people might want to gather together and have something nice to eat". She also has a limited number of rooms available on Air B & B.More
Alicia is a Key Holder and Paint Department Manager at the local Ace Hardware, but she was "born with a camera in her hand." Alicia grew up in Clifton, but moved to Oklahoma when she was 18. When she returned 11 years later, she focused her attention on photographing her hometown.
"I've always looked at Clifton as beautiful, and there are certain parts of it that I love. Having friends in Oklahoma and having friends here, I always wanted to show people how pretty it is here. I'm always trying to get people to come visit. So I started taking pictures of my favorite places to show it off."
A Snowy Day in Clifton
The San Francisco River
You can see some of Alicia's photos of Clifton on her Facebook page.