This first photo is of the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 looking east from the foothills of the Black Mountains towards the snow covered Halapai Mountains. The second photo is looking west as the highway begins the climb into the Black Mountains, this is about three miles east of Cool Springs and about an equal distance from the ruins of Fig Springs station.
Unless you drive it during an event such as the annual Route 66 Fun Run it may be difficult to imagine this highway as it was when more than a thousand vehicles a day passed over the summit of Sitgreaves Pass. If that is hard to imagine try envisioning a time when this narrow, twisted roadway was seen as a vast improvement.
An article from the Mohave County Miner dated April 1, 1911, notes the arrival in Kingman of state of the art road building equipment. These were to be utilized to build a road designed for automobile traffic that would connect Kingman with Oatman as well as Goldroad.
“Over the flat country the machine will make its own road, although some time will be consumed on the first trip to Gold Road, as it is purposed to cut away from the old wagon road and make an independent road over the valley to Little Meadows, from which point the road over the mountain will be widened and made passable for the machines.”
As footnotes to this story Little Meadows was a watering stop on the Beale Wagon Road, a military encampment during the Hualapai Wars, and is now the site of Ed’s Camp. Vestiges of the old wagon road being replaced are best seen at the summit of Seven Mile Hill. Initially my understanding was the elevated section of old road at this summit was part of the National Old Trails Highway but apparently this new roadway was in use by 1912.
Additional research indicates that on the west side of the pass at Goldroad the “modern” road built in 1911 to bypass the wagon road would be the roadway below Route 66. This would fit with some of the engineering details such as bridge construction as well as the cable and post guard rails.
This again raises the question pertaining to the alignment of Route 66 used through 1951. When was the 1911 road realigned in the Black Mountains?
From Little Meadows, Eds Camp, the road initially continued towards the summit just below the current alignment. At some point the two road ways converged to cross the summit.
In the November, 1914, issue of Touring Topics there is a story about the route of the Desert Classic “Cactus Derby” race. “As the mountains are approached the road becomes very crooked and rolling grades are encountered. These conditions are magnified in passing through the great mining camps of Oatman and Gold Road, where the grades are 28 percent in places …” This gradient is consistent with the old road below Route 66 directly east of Goldroad. The original wagon road is found further to the north.
So, is the road on the west side of the mountain below Route 66 the one built and improved in 1911? Was it then the National Old Trails Highway? If so, when was it bypassed for the alignment of Route 66 utilized through 1951?
As a sneak peak at Friday’s post we will reprint aspect s from this issue of Touring Topics including information about the National Old Trails Highway and the epic race of 1914.