Bloody Basin and Black Canyon Dog Racing Compound

A dog racing facility sits on a hill overlooking Black Canyon City, its racetrack obscured by cacti and trees that have grown unchecked over the thirty-something years since it was abandoned.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

An hour north of Phoenix I stopped to check out an abandoned cabin in Bloody Basin. With a name like that, how could I resist? I exited the freeway and came to a rough dirt road with a sign that read "Primitive Road. Use at your own risk." With only two hours of daylight remaining, I didn't think a 20-mile drive down a treacherous unpaved road would be the best use of my time. I reluctantly decided to skip the cabin and continue on to Black Canyon Greyhound Park.

I didn't know exactly where the abandoned park was, but I had some idea. I drove through a small neighborhood, past a yard where a few people stood talking. Feeling their eyes on me as I drove by, I started to feel self-conscious and nervous. Black Canyon City, despite the name, is a fairly small town, which means unfamiliar vehicles tend to stand out.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

When I got to the end of the road and saw no sign of the dog track, I realized I'd have to turn around and get back on the main road. As I neared the people I had passed earlier, a guy walked onto the road and held out a hand, so I stopped.

"Need help finding something?" I knew from his tone that he suspected I was up to no good. His wife walked over too, and she looked a little more friendly. I told them I'd heard there was there was a neat old dog racing track around there and I wanted to take some pictures, but wasn't sure where it was. He hesitated and then said, "We've had a lot of problems with vandalism." I gave a friendly chuckle and said "I can assure you that is not my intention." That made his wife smile, diffusing the tension a little. The man seemed to loosen up and gave me some pretty basic directions.

I arrived at the abandoned racetrack grateful for the unexpected help, but still a little nervous that I might run into another of the town's residents who wouldn't be as kind.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

The main building did not look all that large or remarkable from the outside, but when I stepped through the doors it felt like an incredible new world opened up before me.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

As I walked through the grandstand I imagined what it was like in its prime: a crowd of hundreds of people eating, drinking, placing bets, the air charged with an almost tangible energy as thousands of dollars hung in the balance with each race.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

David K Funk and his two sons, David J and Albert ran a dog and horse racing enterprise, with tracks in Arizona, Florida, Colorado, Oregon, and Mexico. They opened Black Canyon Dog Track in 1967.

It was a popular destination for residents of Phoenix, who could drive there in under an hour on the newly built I-17 freeway.

After the track closed in 1982, it occasionally served as a location for swap meets before it was entirely abandoned in the late '80s.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

The place was amazing. I’d never explored anything like it.

It was so thoroughly vandalized, I wondered why the guy had been reluctant to give me directions at first. There wasn't much damage left for me to do that hadn’t already been done.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

As I walked through the office area, I was shocked to find a few artifacts that had been sitting there for over thirty years:

A shareholder meeting announcement from 1975. I was amazed it had survived the decades of vandalism, still intact and legible.
Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

This one really disturbed me. A printout with names and addresses. I snapped a quick photo of one page, but there were reams of these records just sitting there for anyone to see. I imagine these people wouldn't be too happy to know that their personal information is lying around in an abandoned building, irresponsibly left by people who should have disposed of it properly.
Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

The racetrack was completely overgrown. I love how nature gradually takes back what humans leave unattended.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

There were a few other buildings beside the grandstand. Some were in pretty bad shape.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

It amazed me that there had once been thousands of chairs, and virtually all of them had been smashed to pieces.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

I found some of the graffiti particularly thought provoking.
Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

There was a neat little workshop and some other buildings that looked like they served maintenance-related purposes. 

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Along one side of the properly stood a row of small white structures. I'm not sure what they were used for. Maybe lodging for those who brought their dogs there to race?

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

I finally mustered the courage to climb the surprisingly sturdy metal staircase onto the roof of the grandstand. 

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

The roof looked pretty weathered.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

I stayed on the boardwalk, so as not to risk falling through a weak spot in the roof. 

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

There were several small viewing rooms probably used by VIPs and announcers.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park near Phoenix, Arizona

Black Canyon Greyhound Park was so much fun to explore, I left in an extremely good mood. I was so happy I wanted I could go back and thank the couple who gave me directions, but daylight was waning and I figured they would probably prefer to be left alone anyway.

Before the sun went down I made one last stop at a little abandoned service station called Jack Ass Acres. There wasn't much to it, but it was definitely worth stopping to see.

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Jack Ass Acres ruins near Phoenix, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned Jack Ass Acres ruins near Phoenix, Arizona

I continued south to Phoenix, where I had dinner and a drink and then parked for the night in a residential neighborhood.

The next morning I was sitting in the drivers seat, looking on Yelp for a good place to get breakfast, when I noticed a cop car. At first he drove by at normal speed and went on his way. A minute or two later, he passed by a little slower, and then parked fifty or so feet behind me, and I assume he ran my plates. Then he pulled up next to me and asked what I was doing there and if I knew anyone in the area. I answered honestly that I did not know anyone. "So you just decided to park here?” he said in an accusatory tone.

"Yes," I said.

He seemed dubious, and said there had been a lot of burglaries in the area.

"I can assure you that is not my intention,"  I said, just as I had told the couple in Black Canyon City.

The cop was not as understanding. "That’s what everyone says."

I wasn't sure why he was being so confrontational, but I remained polite and respectful. He finally drove away, only to park about 300 feet or so ahead of me, where he remained, obviously doing his best to unnerve me.

I felt sufficiently uncomfortable and left pretty quickly. I figure my California plates are partly to blame. Arizona isn't exactly known for being hospitable to outsiders, as I was quickly learning. Good thing I don’t look Mexican, or else I’d have had a real problem, since I didn't have my citizenship papers on me.

I had several days worth of facial hair, which might have made me look a bit rough, so I shaved it off before breakfast. Then I made a mental note to park in a shittier neighborhood next time, where cops would be less likely to patrol. So far on my road trip, I'd gotten harassed by a cop and a park ranger on separate occasions just for sitting in my car, but the crackheads I'd run into didn't give me any trouble at all. An unfortunate irony.

Despite the morning's rough start, it ended up being an incredible day. I got to explore the phenomenal ruins of an abandoned horse racing compound, which I'll tell you about next week!

Thanks for checking out this article. If you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook. While you're at it, please subscribe to Places That Were and follow me on my social media sites:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/placesthatwere

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JimSullivanPlacesThatWere/posts

EyeEm: https://www.eyeem.com/u/placesthatwere

Instagram: http://instagram.com/theplacesthatwere

Twitter: https://twitter.com/placesthatwere/

Tumblr: http://placesthatwere.tumblr.com/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/jimplicit

500px: https://500px.com/placesthatwere

Thank you!

20 comments :

  1. Now you have to take an old lady's viewpoint on the situation.....imagine having an out of state car parked in front of YOUR house--with a guy sitting in it. I'd feel extremely uncomfortable myself. Not giving you hell--just letting you know it might have been a neighbor that was scared and called the police. And don't you dare sleep in your car in a crappy neighborhood---I'm enjoying these posts far too much to lose you now to some gang killing or something. My god, how does your mother SLEEP at night with you doing this??????????
    :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally understand what you're saying, Sue. It bothered me because I was minding my own business and the cop was pretty rude about it, but at least the people of that neighborhood can rest easy knowing that cops will drive intruders out. And I'll definitely be careful where I sleep. Usually I manage to find a freeway rest area or truck stop, which are fairly safe. I don't think my mom reads my blog, so she has any reason to worry. Besides, one of my brothers takes crazy backpacking trips abroad and runs into way more trouble than I do! :)

      Delete
  2. Hey Jim,

    I do the same thing you do. I look for abandoned towns and such also. My ventures have taken me to CA, NM, AZ, NV, UT, CO and being from MI originally, I also looked through all of MI, OH, and WV. If you are ever in AZ again, there is another abandoned place you might want to check out, if you already haven't. The place is known as Two Guns. There is an actual exit for it off of I-40. The exit is in between Flagstaff & Holbrook. It has a really strange history and I have been there. I took tons of pics if you want to see them.

    Keep up the good stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.s. I live about 45 minutes from bloody basin.

      Delete
    2. Right on! It sounds like you've explored a lot of beautiful places. I checked out Two Guns on the same road trip, a few days earlier. If you'd like to see it, this link should take you there: http://www.placesthatwere.com/2015/07/apache-death-cave-and-curse-of-two-guns.html
      I'd love to see your pics too. Do you have a link?

      Delete
    3. PS I'm so sorry for the late reply! I just realized you'd written a week ago, and I'm just now replying. Truth is I'm on a road trip through the Rust Belt and haven't been keeping up with my correspondence as well as I usually do.

      If you're interested in seeing a few shots from the road trip I'm on right now, a search of #RustBeltRoadtTrip2015 on the popular social media platforms should turn up some pictures I posted since I left LA for the Rust Belt. I've heard and read a lot about plans to demolish many of the historic buildings abandoned and left to the mercy of vandals, scrappers, and the elements.

      Delete
  3. I tried to find an old pic of this compound. Why did it close?
    I chuckled at the man worried about vandalism. 30 years later?
    -Darol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure why it closed, but it might have been due to competition from other racing venues closer to Phoenix. This place isn't very convenient to get to if you live in the city.

      Delete
    2. I read a story on Reddit about the last day of the bcc dog track, July 10th 1982. A mass poisoning of arsenic killed 999 people there. It was covered up by the then governor. Look it up, great story. I don't truly know if it's true, but very interesting.

      Delete
    3. I read that story too. It's completely made up. Nothing like that actually happened there.

      Delete
  4. Yeah cops in Arizona are assholes. It wouldn't matter where you parked or if you even had Arizona plates. You would have been questioned for sitting in a car doing nothing. You are right about the Mexican thing unfortunately.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Have you heard of the abandoned theme park that never actually came to fruition between Phoenix and Tucson? I've searched for info but never found much. There used to be strange statues and life sized models of cars and other things on the property. Things that look like birdcages on poles still line the property but I can never get a good enough look while driving past!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't heard of the abandoned theme park, but it sounds super interesting! I wish I would have known about it when I was there. Sounds like a place worth checking out.

      Delete
  6. my duuuuuude these cops stay fishing for situations all the time in phoenix!!!!! Speaking of that abandonded theme park, it was mentioned to me last night by some stranger gentlemen! So it must be out there some where! ;p

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a shame that mean cops like that give others a bad name. Let me know if you ever find the theme park.

      Delete
  7. I lived in Phoenix for 15 years and never met a nice person in Black Canyon. Small town next to big city blues, is my guess. I understand people not liking the constant trespassing on the track, but the residents are downright hostile to visitors in general. I had someone who was picking weeds cuss me out and tell me I couldn't take a photo of the restaurant sign across the freeway...that was in the restaurant parking lot. I went into the track once, which appears to be under constant watch from the surround homes, to take a few Polaroids and wasn't stealthy about it. Parked my nice SUV and walked right up from the front. About 15 minutes in I turned a corner to find an old woman in a night gown pointing a gun at me, like an honest to good six shooter. I just took off running, not wanting to be accidentally shot. I'm sure there are nice folks in Black Canyon, but I have had multiple encounters and pretty much everyone I have come across has been a dick to me, and I'm about as non-aggressive and pleasant as a photographer could be. I've spent time in just about every part of Arizona and Black Canyon City is my least favorite town in the entire state...even Colorado City residents were nicer.
    I have a cool hardback collection of Communicator from 1966-74 (it was actually a gift to Albert Funk from Robert Brown), which was AZ's internal newsletter for the tracks. Has a couple cool photos from Black Canyon's track. Opening night was July 7, 1967 (Go Millie won the inaugural race) and was the summer track, while Phoenix was open in the winter. There are a few photos of the place, looked pretty snazzy back in the day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing the info about the opening of the track. I'd love to see the photos, if you have them uploaded somewhere online.
      It's amazing how hostile people can be, even when you're not doing anything wrong. The encounter with the gun-toting nightgown-clad woman sounds pretty scary. I would've taken off running too!

      Delete
  8. Hey Jim! Justin here! I'm a a student here in AZ studying film production and I have also gotten into the habit of doing some urban exploring as well in the area. Great way to find new sets for future projects and after reading some of your journey's in my state, I had to take a trip to the dog track. Awesome place! Only problem is, is that cops now are patrolling the area. They held us up after our first day of shooting in front of the compound and told us they would like it if we didn't shoot there again. We asked questions about on who owns the area and where we can go to talk to the owners but they had no idea it seemed like? Any idea on how I can go about this? We really love the area and it's very appropriate for the short we are trying to film. Any help or advice would very be appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet it made a great location for your shoot. It's a shame that you weren't able to finish before the cops made you leave. I'm not sure who owns the property now or how to contact them. Sorry I couldn't be more help. I'll be sure to let you know if I find out.

      Delete
  9. Hi, Jim.. I have been to this dog park and have my own shots. I love that you had the guts to walk out on the roof. Can you provide additional information on the bloody basin cabin (exit, direction, gps, etc). I live in the area and like hunting for this kind of stuff. Thanks for your post on this bit of Arizona history.

    -russ

    ReplyDelete