The Gem of the Desert – The Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenburg, AZ

Posted on December 11, 2014

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"Thanks for the Rain"

“Thanks for the Rain” a cast bronze by Joe Beeler, 1988.

The wide-open, rugged beauty of the historic town of Wickenburg provides the perfect setting for the gem of the desert, the Caballeros Western Museum.

While it is primarily an art museum, there is lots to see for those who think they are not interested in art – in fact, it’s just those people who might change their mind a bit after visiting this exceptional place.

The museum is home to over four hundred works of Western art including famous cast bronze originals by Frederick Remington and Charles Russell. While these great works can be appreciated as sculpture alone, it is the capturing of life – cowboy life on the range – and the freezing of frenzied action and interaction between man and horse that really speaks to everyone.

By Charles Russell, from the museum's website.

By Charles Russell, from the museum’s website.

By George Catlin, from the museum's website.

by George Catlin, from the museum’s website.

The paintings in the permanent collection open a window to both the astounding beauty of the southwest as well as the details of everyday life in the desert.

Catlin, Beeler and a host of other well-known (though not necessarily to me) classic, representational painters are on permanent display here.

There is also a fine collection of Native American art, as well as rotating collections of paintings and sculpture by modern-day Western artists.

And if that’s not enough, there’s a turn-of-the-century Wickenburg street of shops, a gem and mineral collection, cowboy trappings and memorabilia, and lots of photographs and artifacts explaining the town’s history as the ‘Dude Ranch Capitol of the World’.

images (6)The ‘golden age’ of the silver screen cowboy extended from the 1920’s through the 1950’s . While it was fun sitting in the theater watching Tom Mix and John Wayne gallop across the desert, there were those who thought it would  be even more fun to do it themselves – at least for a couple days.

Many Wickenburg ranches grabbed the opportunity to entertain wannabe cowboys with scenic trail rides, hay rides and cook outs, overnight camps, and round-ups.

Today, there are plenty of places to ride horses, but most of the old dude ranches have morphed into full-fledged spas and golf resorts with only a little bit of ranch flavoring.

But Wickenburg is still a destination for those who love horses – there’s plenty action during the rodeo season, and even horse-friendly RV parks offering trail rides and related activities for snowbird caballeros.

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Posted in: Travel - Arizona