Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Cattle Capital of the West...Willcox, AZ

Willcox/Cochise KOA 
Willcox, AZ
March 11, 2023

Willcox was founded in 1880 as a whistlestop for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Some would say its very existence is due to the fact that this area is about halfway between El Paso and Phoenix and seemed like a good place to add a train depot.  The historic Southern Pacific Railroad Depot was completed in December 1880 and the rest is history.  

Joe loves trains and we had plans to tour the museum housed in the old depot, but it is temporarily closed.  The marker located by the beautiful double door with glass panes states that :  

Pretty impressive !

Today the restored historic depot serves as a museum and City Hall for Willcox.

Across the street is the Historic Railroad Park complete with a life-size bronze statue of Rex Allen.

But more striking is the remains of a Siberian Elm that had to be cut down in 2020.  It was planted in 1928 and had been ailing for some time due to rotting roots.  Rather than haul it off it, it now has another purpose.  

By the 1930s, Willcox had become the largest range cattle rail shipping point in the United States...earning the town the title "Cattle Capital of the West".  And today, it's not uncommon to see/hear cow-haulers parked along the streets.  Many of the old buildings are still intact...some in disarray, some restored,  and some listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  

The yellow brick building above is 107 years old. The second floor was and still is the home of the Masonic Lodge.  

The first floor has been home to the county agricultural agent, a drug store, a hobby shop and today is a thrift shop.  And if you are in the market for baby billy goats, this is the place to be.


While some buildings haven't faired so well...

...others seem to have a renewed purpose.

Today, Willcox's economy is based largely on agriculture.  Award winning wineries are attracting attention from across the state with the vineyards here producing around 75% of the grapes used in the flourishing Arizona wine industry.  The area is also the second largest producer of pistachios globally with other speciality crops including  apples, peaches, pecans, cotton and small grains. 

There was no hustle and bustle in this tiny western town today.

But that might change during the West Fest Rodeo and Chuck Wagon Cook-Off, Wine Tasting Festival, Rex Allen Days complete with a parade and rodeo, Mountain Bike Fun Ride, and other such events and festivals.   

Speaking of Rex Allen, we enjoyed perusing The Rex Alan Museum and the Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame. 
Rex Allen (1920-1999) is known as "the Arizona Cowboy".  He grew up on a homestead about 40 miles north of Willcox.  He was a film and television actor, singer and songwriter and was also a narrator in many Disney nature and western productions.  As a boy, Rex played the guitar and sang.   Back in the day when Roy Rodgers and Gene Autry were much in vogue, he was given a movie contract and from 1950-1954, he played in over 30 movies with 19 of these staring as himself. Joe watched some of these as a youngster.  


The Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame was instituted in 1983 to honor one of the important resources of the Willcox's cowboys.  The wall represents...not just big-time ranchers, but rather a celebration of all the ordinary people who have made this country great. 

SOME of the requirements to qualify to be listed in the book and have a picture mounted on the wall include:
   A wide-brimmed hat and a pair of tight pants.
   Two dogs to ride in the back of the pick-up.
   A forty dollar horse and a three hundred dollar saddle.
   A spool of barb wire, three fence posts, and a bale of hay to haul around.
   A pair of silver spurs to wear when you dress up. 
   A goose-neck horse trailer small enough to park in front of the cafe.
   A wife that believes your lies and has a good job.

We enjoyed lunch (thank you Janna for the recommendation) ) at Isabel's South of the Border just around the corner from the museum.  The chicken tostados were good and the serving was huge.  The staff is friendly and the restaurant is colorful, roomy and not crowded.  We enjoyed it so much we decided to visit again with Janna and Mike.  The fried mahi fish tacos were quite yummy, but the beef fajita burro was on the tough side.  

FYI... If you plan to stay awhile in Wilcox, there is a full service laundry

complete with directions for anywhere in southern Arizona.

But if you require adult beverages, you might want to bring your own.

And if you have a sweet tooth, Bakester's Pastries has some yummy choices...Voodoo Bars and Brown Sugar Pecan Pie Bars were at the top of our list !

Back at the KOA, our mornings were spent watching the sunrise and the cranes fly over.

Our afternoons were spent playing at the doggie park and enjoying the warm sunshine.  So many new smells.

And lots of ball focused !

And evenings were spent enjoying the sunset.  Tuesdays sunset was the most vivid.  From this...

to this !

But Friday nights was my favorite. 

So, that's a wrap on our winter get away.  We were sorry it didn't work out for the Bisbee part of the trip, but now we just have that trip to look forward to all over again...just not in the winter.  And, Willcox is definitely on the radar for another visit as I'm thinking Chiricahua NM needs another visit and there are places we missed this time.  

Until next time,  



  1. Seeing the statue on the corner I was thinking Winslow ... not Wilcox. and thinking of all we missed in Winslow. We've not been to Wilcox, but what a great place to visit. I do not recall Rex Allen but have seen a couple of the movies. I like the qualifications for the Cowboy Hall of Fame, don't think I'd make it. Great sunsets and always fun to see what the pups are up to.

    1. Hi Jeff! Willcox has been a nice surprise. You should definitely add it to your list…nothing fancy, no fuss, and certainly quiet. But yet there are lots of things to do here…Joe and I barely scratched the surface. Joe says the Rex Allen movies he watched some 70 years ago were all black and white. I do remember Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, but that’s about it for me. Rex Allen is said to be the last of the singing cowboys.

    2. I forgot…Joe has two of those requirements for the Hall of Fame…the first one and the last one!😄

  2. We were there just a few short weeks ago. We did walk the park and see the statue but it was Sunday morning and everything else was closed. Thanks for sharing what else the town has to offer!

    1. Hi Jim…you might have enjoyed the Rex Allen Museum, but I’m thinking he was way before your time! As for the rest of town the pastries were a nice surprise!

  3. Love those sunset pictures, Arizona has the best! We drove through a tiny bit of Willcox the other day, on our way to the Chiricahua NM. I must admit, it looked a bit rundown to us so it was good to read this post!

    1. Hi Sue…totally agree! Arizona does have the best sunsets! The town is rundown and many building are empty and in much need of help.

  4. Looks like you had a wonderful week in Willcox. We stayed for three nights but didn't see much of the town since we spent the two days in Chiricahua NM hiking. Yes, you definitely need to return in better conditions so you can do some hiking. Thanks for sharing the town. You were very kind to it. I do love what they did with the old elm. So clever. Great Tan Clan photos!

  5. Hi Pam…we saw just enough of the NM to know we want to return. I’m liking the idea it is so close to home ad a long weekend would be great. I feel so bad for these small towns. Willcox has definitely seen better days, but maybe there is hope for a revival of sorts. There really is a lot of history here. The tan clan says thank you…

  6. I've always said Willcox is a "sad little town." Loved your sunset photos and loved meeting up with guys during your trip! That photo of Jack focusing on the ball is great. I've tried several of the local wines and I've yet to taste an "award winning" one........Safe travels!

    1. Good morning Janna, it is a sad little town. I do see lots of potential if the right investors would just take notice. There is so much history here and so many cool things to see and do near by. At least for now, the necessities are covered…Mexican restaurant, pastries, beautiful skies and a Safeway. And having friends close by seals the deal! We enjoyed spending time with you and Mike as well…hoping for lots more of those opportunities in the future!