Bandit’s Pass. The name evokes visions of the Wild West and of outlaws lurking in the mountains, waiting to rob unsuspecting pioneers.
In fact, it’s the name of a small section of the Whipple Mountains in the Mohave Desert, between Metropolitan’s Gene Camp facility and Copper Basin reservoir, just west of the Colorado River near Parker, Arizona.
Years ago, when the Colorado River Aqueduct was being built, some workers brought their families and set up camp in the area. Entertainment options were few. But it was a tight-knit group and they made their own fun.
Each Halloween, the tradition was to load all the camp’s kids in a large wagon that was pulled by horses or mules. On the journey up the mountain pass at night, with only the light of the moon, adults would tell Western ghost stories about robbers who came to steal gold or other valuables.
As the tension mounted, the large wagon came to a turn in the road. There, in plain sight, was a large Sonoran cactus, dressed
to look like a giant bandit
in custom-made clothes, carrying a rifle and wearing a belt of ammunition. That would elicits screams and shrieks and eventually laughter by (most of) the children.
The tradition continued for many years and that's how this part of the mountains became known as Bandit’s Pass.