For the Cerbat clan of the Hualapai people the desert oasis was the source of life giving waters. For travelers following the trade route to the Colorado River, and on to the coast of California the springs provided a welcome respite from the harsh desert. Purportedly Father Garces camped at the site during his exploratory expedition across northern Arizona in 1776.
Numerous American explorers camped at the springs including Lieutenant Beale during the survey for the Beale Wagon Road in the late 1850s. One of his adventures included a camel caravan. As an historic footnote the camel corps was authorized by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederate States of America during the America Civil War.
The springs were an important way-station on the territorial era Mohave-Prescott toll road that connected Fort Mohave and Hardyville on the Colorado River with Fort Whipple at Prescott, the territorial capital of Arizona. During this period in the mid to late 1860s steamboats brought all manner of goods to ports on the Colorado River and the trail systems into the interior were vital arteries of commerce. And so during the Hualapai War of 1866 to 1870, the United States Army established a camp at the springs.
Captain Samuel B. M. Young, 8th U.S. Cavalry, the commander of Fort Mojave was tasked with establishing an outpost at the spring on March 27, 1867. By 1871 the camp had become an integral part of the military’s network of outposts and forts in the northern part of the Arizona territory. Aside from subjugation of the Hualapai tribe the troopers were tasked with protecting trade routes and locations key to settlement of the area. At its peak Camp Beale consisted of twelve adobe buildings including a 60′ by 20′ barracks with adjoining camp kitchen. The garrison was a detachment of Company F, 12th U.S. Infantry from Fort Whipple.
In January of 1873, the Beale Springs Indian Agency was established at the site as a reservation for the Hualapai Indians. After the tribe was force marched to the Colorado River Tribes Indian Reservation the camp was officially decommissioned on April 6, 1874. A monument erected by the Hualapai Tribe at the parking lot near the springs commemorates this dark chapter.
After 1874, the former military encampment served as station on the toll road, and a hub fro area development. With establishment of the railroad in western Arizona in 1882, the toll road faded faded from prominence even though it was a key link between Kingman and Colorado River communities. The springs also remained an important oasis for travelers following trails from Cerbat Mountains mining communities and the rail head in Kingman. A hotel was established at the springs, and then in the 1890s, the site became the headquarters for a vast ranching enterprise. The springs were one source for water for Kingman during its infancy. Initially water was hauled by wagon into town but a concrete reservoir was constructed at the site and pipeline constructed around 1910.
Today the site of the springs is maintained by the BLM and is one of the highlights of the extensive Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area trail system. It is easily accessed from U.S. 93, and is less than two miles from historic downtown Kingman and Route 66. As it is located about 100 yards from the parking lot, the springs are ideally suited for picnics or a simple urban getaway.
Much of the trail system in the area of Beale Springs provides a tangible link to Arizona history. Aside from the sites at the springs, there are traces of the historic wagon road that are still evident in places. There are also remnants of the automobile road that was built over Coyote Pass in 1914. Near the summit are concrete crossings of washes, a rock cut and the remains of bridges.
The entire trail system is one of the gems that make Kingman special. The springs are the crown jewel. As a bonus in the era of quarantine the trails are an ideal place for social distancing, and for finding a bit of solace in a time of turmoil. So, it seemed a fitting place to kick off something I have been playing with for quite sometime, a new live stream series (added to the YouTube channel afterwards) of programs under the heading of On The Road With Jim.