Sharing America’s story, and telling people where to go is what we do at Jim Hinckley’s America. On yesterday’s episode of Coffee With Jim, our audio podcast, we talked a bit about the historic Bradshaw Trail in the Mojave Desert.
In this blog I want to tell you about another historic 19th century road, and a very special place that is linked to centuries of Arizona history. And I will also introudce you to a delightful hiking/mountain bike trail system that is located just a few miles off Route 66.
The center piece of this delightful desert oasis is Beale Springs. This is the site of an 1870s military outpost, an historic ranch, a territorial era hotel, and a tangible link to a very dark chapter in the history of the Hualapai people.
It is bisected by a Native American trade route that was used for centuries. That trail was followed by Father Garces and his expedition in 1776. And it was followed by Lt. Beale and his famous camel caravan that surveyed a road across northern Arizona in the 1850s.
Traces of the 1850s Hardyville Road a road built in 1913, and U.S. 466 can also be found in Coyote Pass. U.S. 93 cuts thorugh the hills and provides a more direct route to the summit. Soon that highway will be joined by I11. And now this historic pass is at the center of the Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area.
Located less than two miles from historic downtown Kingman and Route 66, the short trail from the parking lot to the springs is almost wheelchair accesible. The rest of the trails in the recreation area range from easy to moderate, with a few crossing the line into difficult.
Some Territorial History
During the mid 19th century, before the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad laid tracks across Arizona, the river was the primary artery of commerce in the southwest. Towns that sprang up around steamboat landings were rough and tumble places. They were also thriving boomtowns.
A pioneer, entrepreneur and namesake for the town of Hardyville on the Colorado River near present day Bullhead City, Arizona was William Harrison Hardy. Attesting to the town’s prominence, it was the second Mohave County seat.
Sensing opportunity, in 1864 he began construction of the Hardyville toll road that would connect the Colorado River with the territorial capital of Prescott. He obtained a charter from the legislature and began charging a toll of $2 per wagon and 25 cents per animal to use his road.
Completed in 1866, the road became a primary link for bringing supplies into north central Arizona. It was also a key military road, especially after construction of Fort Mohave a few miles south of Hardyville. During the Hualapai Wars of the 1870s, the road and Beale Springs figured prominently. A military outpost was established at the desert oasis, and this was also the site of an internment camp for the Hualapai before being marched to a reservation on the Colorado River. That incident is known as the Hualapi Trail of Tears.
With the arrival of the railroad in the early 1880s, the Hardyville Road faded from prominence. It was still used in part by ranchers and miners, and as a component in anetwork of roads connecting remote mining camps in the Cerbat and Black Mountains.
As a desert oasis Beale Springs played an important role in the development of northwestern Arizona. The old fortification was used as the headquarters for a ranch. For a brief time there was a hotel at the springs. And in the formative years of Kingman, the springs served as a primary water source. Kiosks give meaning tot the stone foundations on the hillsides, and ruins of the reservoir remain as a tangible link to territorial history.
Some of the hiking trails in the Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area follow these early roads. Near the summit of the pass the Hardyville Road, U.S. 466 and the 1913 auto road converge, and then disappear under the four lanes of U.S. 93.
The Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area is anohter reason to make Kingman destination. But if your schedule isn’t conducive to spending a day or two exploring the many attractions in the Kingman area, at least pack a picnic lunch and make a detour off Route 66 to Beale Springs.
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post. Coming soon, more shared adventures! Stay tuned and thanks for reading!