Wickenburg Jail Tree – Wickenburg, Arizona - Atlas Obscura
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Wickenburg, Arizona

Wickenburg Jail Tree

Opinions differ as to whether this Arizona tree was actually used as a Wild West jail, but that hasn't stopped the town from capitalizing on it. 

The gnarled old mesquite tree behind the Circle K in Wickenburg, Arizona has been sitting on the spot for over 200 years and if many in the city are to be believed, it served as the town’s makeshift jail in the days of the Old West.

As the story goes, drunks and criminals who were apprehended in Wickenburg between 1863 to 1890 were shackled to the tree as the town had no jail of its own. The prisoners would then be left out under the elements until a proper lawman could come down from Phoenix to collect them. According to the sign that now stands on the site, there were no escapes. 

Visiting the tree today, visitors will find a convincing little tableau honoring the history of the jail tree. There is a fiberglass outlaw who is slumped under the shade of the tree which he is tethered to by a long chain. There is also a a pair of informational signs as well as an antique chest buried at the foot of the tree, seemingly for aesthetic purposes.

Despite the earnest little roadside attraction that it has become, Wickenburg Jail Tree may be more legend than lawful prison. According to one woman who posted on a Wickenburg website, the saw grew up in the town in the 1930’s and saw no remnants of a jail near the tree. She says that the legend grew from parents threatening to chain unruly children to the old arbor.

Know Before You Go

The jail tree is located at the corner of Tegner (US-93) and Wickenburg Way (US-60)