List of Historic Roads

List of Historic Roads


Apache Trail Historic Road

Apache Trail Historic Road

Roadway: State Route 88
Length: 49 miles
Begins: Apache Junction via Roosevelt (MP 193.9)
Ends: Junction US 60 near Globe (MP 242.66)

State Route 88 (SR 88), also known as the Apache Trail, is one of the original 10 state highways designated by the Arizona State Highway Department (Arizona Department of Transportation) on September 9, 1927. The original route was blazed in 1904 as a wagon road to aid in the construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam, started in 1903 and completed in 1911. As with most highways, it was built and maintained in sections. State transportation workers graded the single-lane, 12-foot-wide road for drainage and safety for the first time in 1915. In 1936, gravel was applied to the road newly widened to 16 feet. In 1949 and 1950, an application of Bituminous Surface Treatment (BST, also known as chipseal) was applied to the southernmost sections, which were widened to 22 feet between Apache Junction and the Fish Creek Bridge to finally accommodate motor vehicles moving in opposite directions. Most of the final hair-raising section between Fish Creek Bridge and Roosevelt Lake has never been paved but provides for a breathtaking, memorable ride along one of Arizona’s most exciting historic state highways!


North Central: 

Bitter Springs to Fredonia Highway

Bitter Springs to Fredonia Highway

Roadway: U.S. Route 89A
Length: 87 miles
Begins: Bitter Springs (MP 524.07)
Ends: Fredonia (MP 613.03)

The state of Arizona had four early US highways that facilitated movement from east to west (Route 60, 66, 70, and 80), but only one numbered highway that completely traversed the state from south to north - US 89. Today only portions of this early national road, which spanned 1,600 miles between the Mexican and Canadian borders, exist. Of all the remaining segments in Arizona, the stretch between Cameron and Fredonia most retains its 1930s feel. The automobiles, road widths, and road surfaces, of course, have changed, but the route, scenery, and sense of untouched wilderness. This portion of the Old US Highway 89 is often referred to as the “Honeymoon Trail,” because it was the travel route used by early Mormon settlers to reach the nearest Mormon Temple in St. George, Utah, where marriage vows could be “sealed.” When the Mormon Temple in Mesa, Arizona was completed in 1927, the necessity to travel the long and arduous route to Utah for religious ceremonies ended. Nevertheless, movement along this historic route, which began with early Mormon colonization in the 1870s, continues to the present day along Alternate US 89 (US 89A) between Fredonia and Bitter Springs and US 89 between Bitter Springs to Cameron.

Flagstaff to Cameron to Bitter Springs Highway

Flagstaff to Cameron to Bitter Springs Highway

Roadway: U.S. Route 89
Length: 106 miles
Begins: Junction US 66 (MP 418.37)
Ends: Bitter Springs (MP 524.07)

The state of Arizona had four early US highways that facilitated movement from east to west (Route 60, 66, 70, and 80), but only one numbered highway that completely traversed the state from south to north - US 89. Today only portions of this early national road, which spanned 1600 miles between the Mexican and Canadian borders, exist. Of all the remaining segments in Arizona, the stretch between Cameron and Fredonia most retains its 1930s feel. The automobiles, road widths, and road surfaces, of course, have changed, but the route, scenery, and sense of untouched wilderness. This portion of the Highway 89 is often referred to as the “Honeymoon Trail,” because it was the travel route used by early Mormon settlers to reach the nearest Mormon Temple in St. George, Utah, where marriage vows could be “sealed.” When the Mormon Temple in Mesa, Arizona was completed in 1927, the necessity to travel the long and arduous route to Utah for religious ceremonies ended. Nevertheless, movement along this historic route, which began with early Mormon colonization in the 1870s, continues to the present day along Alternative US 89 (US 89A) between Fredonia and Bitter Springs and US 89 between Bitter Springs to Cameron.

Jacob Lake to Grand Canyon Highway

Jacob Lake to Grand Canyon Highway

Roadway: State Route 67
Length: 31 miles
Begins: Jacob Lake (MP 579.36)
Ends: Grand Canyon NP North Rim (MP 610.26)

State Route 67 (SR 67) is the state highway that links U.S. 89A near Jacobs Lake to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. This beautiful, forested route was added to the Arizona state highway system in 1941, but it existed earlier as a U.S. Forest Service road and a Territorial-period trail. It has been a paved road since 1940. Because of its beauty, SR 67 was designated an official Arizona State Scenic Road in 1985 and is called the Kaibab Plateau North Rim Parkway. In 1985, SR 67 was designated as a National Forest Scenic Byway within the Kaibab National Forest. In 1998, it was recognized by the Federal Highway Administration as a National Scenic Byway.

Payson to Show Low Highway and Show Low to McNary to Eagar

Payson to Show Low Highway and Show Low to McNary to Eager

Roadway: State Route 260
Length: 93 miles
Begins: Heber (MP 305.67)
Ends: Eagar (Old SR 73) (MP 398.67)

Contemporary State Route 260 (SR 260) is a 193-mile long highway that stretches from Cottonwood on the west to Eagar on east, linking the middle Verde River valley to the White Mountains via the Mogollon Rim. Portions of this now-continuous state highway are relatively new additions to Arizona’s state highway system, whereas other portions are old roads dating at least as early as the Arizona Territorial Period (1863–1912). The oldest segments are along the margin of the Mogollon Rim near Heber and east.

In the summer of 1871, Arizona military commander General George Crook recognized that a road between isolated Camp Apache (south of modern Show Low and McNary) and well-established Fort Verde (modern Camp Verde) was necessary to deal with Apache raiding. He knew that a road along the rim of the Mogollon Plateau escarpment would shorten the distance between the two garrisons and seal off the northern escape routes of the Tonto Apache. In the fall of same year, Crook hired two ;construction crews to build a road suitable for mule-drawn wagons, one working from the east and the other from the west. Not surprisingly, Corydon Cooley, winner of the “Show Low” card draw and former Army scout, was one of the construction supervisors starting from the east. This section of the “General Crook Trail” built by Cooley and his crews between Show Low and Heber was added to the State Highway System in 1955 as SR 260.

After the White Mountain Apaches agreed to live peacefully on a newly created Reservation in 1871, pioneer settlers moved into east-central Arizona looking for arable land and other economic opportunities. In the 1870s, a wagon road connected Fort Apache with suppliers of hay, food, goods, and equipment in non Mormon communities to the north and east, such as Cluff Cienega (McNary) and Springerville. In 1928, when these roads became part of the State Highway System, the road between McNary and Springerville/Eagar became part of SR 73. The Arizona Highway Department (Arizona Department of Transportation) renumbered this route SR 260 sometime after 1975.

In 1993, the state of Arizona designated a portion of SR 260 and its neighbors SR 261 and SR 273 as the White Mountain Scenic Road. This 67-mile loop and the 4.6-mile Greer Highway (SR 373) are gorgeous roads through the pine forests and open glades of the White Mountains.

Williams to Grand Canyon to Cameron Highway

Williams to Grand Canyon to Cameron Highway

Roadway: State Route 64
Length: 110 miles
Begins: East of Williams (MP 185.51)
Ends: South of Cameron (MP 295.83)

SR 64 was the first state highway to reach the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. Today, the middle section of this highway is the famous Grand Canyon South Rim Drive. The remaining segments of SR 64 - Interstate 40 east of Williams to the southern park boundary and US 89 south of Cameron to the eastern park boundary - link the developed world with the wilderness spectacle that is the Grand Canyon.



North East

Carrizo to Whiteriver to Indian Pines

Carrizo to Whiteriver to Indian Pines

Roadway: State Route 73
Length: 47 miles
Begins: Gila-Navajo county line (MP 310.38)
Ends: McNary (MP 357.72)

Modern SR 73 begins on US 60 north of Carrizo, loops through a portion of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and ends at the intersection with SR 260 near Hon-Dah. The segment from Carrizo to Fort Apache is a former tribal road added to SR 73 in 1959. SR 73 from Fort Apache to Hon-Dah, however, is the remaining segment of a longer territorial road system that linked Globe to Springerville through the traditional homeland of the White Mountain Apache. With the establishment of a military camp in 1870 that would be renamed Fort Apache in 1879, the development of rough trails into passable packed-earth roads became necessary. In 1929, the old trail that would become SR 73 allowed horse-riding soldiers and muledrawn freight wagons to reach the remote garrison from the both the north and south. Today, the road south of Fort Apache is no longer part of Arizona State Highway System, but SR 73 north of Fort Apache through the reservation capital at Whiteriver to modern SR 260 still exists. In 1993, the state of Arizona designated an 11-mile section of SR 73, from Hon-Dah south to the Alchesay National Fish Hatchery, as the White River Scenic Road.

Holbrook to Springerville to Alpine to State Line Highway

Holbrook to Springerville to Alpine to State Line Highway

Roadway: U.S. Route 180
Length: 120 miles
Begins: Holbrook (MP 307.3)
Ends: Arizona-New Mexico state line (MP 433.26)

U.S. Route 180 (US 180) is an east-west federal highway that travels some 1,135 miles through three western states - Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Within Arizona, there are two widely separated segments, totaling some 170 miles of road. The western and newer segment connects Flagstaff to Valle, just south of Grand Canyon National Park. When this 50-mile long segment was included in the state highway system in 1960, it was designated as State Route 164. In 1961, this road was renamed US 180. In 1990, a portion of this ever-green and forested road was declared the San Francisco Peaks Scenic Road.

The eastern and older, historic segment begins at the Arizona-New Mexico state line and travels north and northwest through Springerville and St Johns to Holbrook. Today US 180 incorporates a shortcut between St Johns and Holbrook, but before 1972, the original highway included the 10-mile stretch between Concho and Hunt (now US 180A). A 1912 highway map shows that the predecessor to US 180 was a well-established Territorial period (1864–1912) road. Historical research suggests that this wagon road was created by early Hispanic and Anglo colonists during 1860s and 1870s. Settlers from New Mexico were the first to establish farming and ranching communities near the Little Colorado River and its major tributaries. Among these early communities are Concho, St Johns (San Juan), and Springerville (Valle Redondo). Shortly thereafter, Mormon colonists from Utah explored the upper watershed of Little Colorado River, looking for irrigable land and pasture. After establishing homesteads, Mormons families augmented the population of these same communities and established several others, including Nutrioso and Alpine.

As with many historic roads, highway designations changed over time. A series of highway maps dating to the 1926-1931 period indicate that the highway between Springerville and Holbrook was originally designated as US 70. In 1932, a highway map shows that the Springerville to Holbrook road was designated as US 260. In 1935, the segment between Springerville and Alpine was added to the state highway system, and in 1938, the road between Alpine and the New Mexico state line also was added. In 1961, the entire route of US 260, from the state line to Holbrook, was renamed US 180, and highway maps dating to 1962 and later retain this federal highway number.

Along its 120-mile length, historic highway US 180 traverses an amazingly diverse set of physical environments, each with its own rich history of human experience - some 13,000 years old. From Alpine at 8,050 feet elevation in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, past Lyman Lake State Park and the rich farmland of the Little Colorado Valley, to the painted deserts of Petrified Forest National Park around 5,400 feet, travelers have the opportunity to see some of Arizona’s most colorful rural landscapes in a leisurely three-hour journey.

Hunt to Concho Highway

Roadway: U.S. Route 180A
Length: 11 miles
Begins: Hunt and Junction of US 180 (MP 343.1)
Ends: Concho and Junction of SR 61 (MP 354.27)

US 180A is a short but old road that connects the two small farming-ranching villages of Hunt and Concho to larger towns east and northwest. Prior to 1972, however, it was an essential link in a multistate federal highway that connected St Johns to Holbrook and beyond, and it was numbered US 180. In 1972, highway workers constructed a straighter and shorter route between St Johns and Hunt and designated it as US 180; the older and original route was renumbered US 180A.

A 1912 highway map shows that US 180A was a well established Territorial-period (1864–1912) road. Historical research suggests that this wagon road was created by early Hispanic and Anglo colonists during 1860s and 1870s. Settlers from New Mexico were the first to establish farming and ranching communities near the Little Colorado River and its major tributaries. Concho was among these early Hispanic villages. Hunt was named after retired Colonel James C. Hunt of Fort Apache, who settled here along the Little Colorado River in 1872. Seven years later, Mormon settler Thomas Greer established a ranch to the east of Hunt’s place.

Given its history as part of a federal highway, US 180A has been a well maintained road since at least 1921. It was among the first US highways in Arizona accepted into the state highway system in 1927. US 180A remained a gravel-covered road until 1936, when it was finally paved with BST (bituminous surface treatment).

Ortega Lake to St. Johns Highway and Witch Well to Zuni Highway

Ortega Lake to St. Johns Highway and Witch Well to Zuni Highway

Roadway: State Route 61
Length: 43 miles
Begins: Ortega Junction (MP 352.88)
Ends: Arizona-New Mexico state line (MP 430.26)


North West 

Aguila to Congress Junction Highway

Roadway: State Route 71
Length: 24 miles
Begins: Aguila (MP 85.81)
Ends: Congress Junction (MP 109.68)

State Route 71 (SR 71) is a 24-mile long historic highway that serves as a short cut to the Prescott area for drivers entering Arizona from California. It connects two small communities that were along major highways and railroad tracks in the early twentieth century. Aguila is west of Wickenburg, and Congress Junction is south of Yarnell, Peeples Valley, Kirkland Junction, and Prescott. Although the road was not incorporated into Arizona’s state highway system until 1936, the route existed as an unimproved dirt road during Arizona’s Territorial period ( 1863–1912). Highway workers paved portions of SR 71 for the first time in 1939, but it was not completely paved until 1951.

Bullhead City to Kingman Highway

Bullhead City to Kingman Highway

Roadway: State Route 68
Length: 27 miles
Begins: Bullhead City, Junction 95 (MP 0)
Ends: Bullhead City, Junction 95 (MP 27)

State Route 68 (SR 68) was added to the Arizona state highway system in 1941. Portions of this road, which serves to link the Kingman area to Davis Dam and Bullhead City, were late Territorial-period wagon roads used by gold miners and early settlers. Other portions were newly constructed to reach the building site of the proposed Davis Dam along the Colorado River. Although the Davis Dam Project was authorized in April of 1941 and contracts were awarded shortly thereafter, work was halted after priorities changed when the U.S. entered into World War II. Work resumed in 1946 and the earth-filled dam structure with a concrete spillway was completed in 1950.

SR 68 is the route used today to reach Lake Mohave - the reservoir impounded behind Davis Dam - and Laughlin, Nevada, where casinos attract regular visitors.

Cordes Junction to Prescott Highway

Roadway: State Route 69
Length: 33 miles
Begins: Junction I-17 near Cordes Junction (MP 262.85)
Ends: Prescott (MP 296.34)

State Route 69 (SR 69) is the remaining segment of what was a major route between Phoenix and Prescott (ca. 1936–1961). When Interstate 17 (I-17) was completed in the early 1960s, only the roadway between Mayer Junction northward to Dewey and westward to Prescott remained as SR 69. An additional segment between I-17 at Exit 262 (Cordes Junction) and Mayer was added to the route.

Portions of SR 69 overlie Territorial-period trails and wagon roads dating from the discovery of gold near Prescott in 1863 and the establishment of U.S. military Fort Whipple in 1864. During the intervals when Prescott was capital of Arizona Territory (1864–1867 and again in 1877–1889), the necessity of passable roads for military campaigns and commerce encouraged the development of roads. Economic activity in the area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially ranching and the mining of gold, silver, and lead, sustained the need for good roads in this region.

Well before the state incorporated SR 69 into its state highway system in 1936, Yavapai County took responsibility for the care of this route, seeing to it that the road was graded and improved for proper drainage. SR 69 was paved for the first time in the 1950s. Despite various truncations, additions, and realignments, SR 69 remains the most direct route between Phoenix and Prescott via I-17.

Historic Route 66

Roadway: State Route 66
Length: 67 miles
Begins: Kingman (MP 56.67)
Ends: Seligman (MP 123.17)

State Route 66 (SR 66) is the remaining segment of what was once the famed “Mother Road,” US Route 66. It is a loop north of Interstate 40 (I-40), connecting Kingman and Seligman and passes through Peach Springs - headquarters of the Hualapai Indian Reservation. US 66 was among the original 10 state highways and 8 federal highways incorporated into Arizona’s state highway system on September 9, 1927. US Route 66 was one of four east-west national roads (along with US Route 60, US 70, and US 80) that passed through Arizona before the construction of the interstate highway system in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

SR 66 and numerous small sections of US Route 66 have been identified as official historic roads by the state of Arizona. SR 66 and former US Route 66 segments are designated as “Historic Route 66” and were added to the system at various times between 1987 and 1994.

Kingman to Wickenburg Highway and Hoover Dam to Kingman Highway

Kingman to Wickenburg Highway and Hoover Dam to Kingman Highway

Roadway: U.S. Route 93
Length: 174 miles
Begins: Boulder Dam (MP 0.67)
Ends: From 6 miles north of Wickenburg on US 89 (MP 193.62)

Arizona’s U.S. Route 93 is the most direct ground route between Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a portion of a much longer 1,357-mile federal route that links central Arizona to the Canadian border and passes through Nevada, Idaho, and Montana. Within Arizona, U.S. 93 has two distinct segments. The older, northern segment begins in the middle of the mighty Hoover Dam, which impounds the Colorado River in a giant reservoir known as Lake Mead, and ends near Kingman along today’s Interstate 40 (I-40). The younger, southern segment begins about 6 miles north of Wickenburg and links to I-40 some 20 miles east of Kingman. The northern segment passes through arid Basin-and-Range terrain, while the southern segment runs through a vast array of Joshua trees and the ecological boundaries of the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts. The unusual scenery along 54 miles of U.S. 93 between Wickieup and Wickenburg earned it recognition as the Joshua Forest Scenic Road in 1993.

Prescott to Flagstaff Highway

Prescott to Flagstaff Highway

Roadway: State Route 89A
Length: 81 miles
Begins: At the Junction of SR 89 and SR 89A near Prescott (MP 317.85)
Ends: At the Junction of I-19 and SR 89A near Flagstaff (MP 398.94)

State Route (SR) 89A, from its origin near Prescott to it terminus near Flagstaff, is one of Arizona’s most picturesque roadways. Four separate segments totaling 43 miles have been officially designated either as scenic or historic Arizona roads, including the first road so recognized - the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road. The pine-clad Black Hills; the quirky former mining ghost town of Jerome; the free-flowing Verde River and it ancient and modern bankside communities; the stunning Red Rock formations near Sedona; and the lush beauty of Oak Creek Canyon delight locals and visitors alike.

As with many roads, SR 89A was built in stages. A route from Prescott to Flagstaff, via the middle Verde River valley, however, was planned as early as 1919. When the Arizona Highway Commission finally approved the route in 1927, it was designated as SR 79. The highway maintained this label until 1940 when it was redesignated as US 89A to indicate its “alternate” status to the faster route from Prescott to US 66 and Flagstaff along US 89. In 1992, the route lost its US highway status, but it regained its place among Arizona’s most loved state highways as SR 89A.

Most of today’s SR 89A follows historic trails and roads over the Black Hills, along the Verde River, across the flats and hills to Sedona, and up Oak Creek Canyon to reach the Colorado Plateau near Flagstaff. Ancients trail used by American Indians and historic trails and wagon roads used by nineteenth-century mountain men, military troops, miners, and settlers established the route. The advent of motorized vehicles in the early twentieth century and the need for transportation corridors encouraged state officials to transform unimproved dirt roads into well engineered, safe, and efficient highways.

Beginning in 1919 and 1920, road segments were graded and graveled for the first time, and where possible, roadways widened to be single-lane undivided highways with rare stretches designed as double-lane roads. Thereafter, the most heavily used segments, such as those near Jerome, were subject to road surface treatments that included several kinds of asphalt emulsions mixed with gravel or Portland cement concrete. During the Depression years, various highway projects along the length of SR 79 took place, which resulted in wider and more durable roads and bridges. The northern segment of the SR 79 closest to Flagstaff was paved for the first time in the mid-1930s.

Although many segments of today’s SR 89A have been altered to facilitate traffic and safety in newly populated communities, there are still places along the old route that maintain their historic character and rural feel.

Wickenburg to Prescott to Ash Fork Highway

Wickenburg to Prescott to Ash Fork Highway

Roadway: State Route 89
Length: 106 miles
Begins: West of Wickenburg (MP 258.23)
Ends: Ashfork, at the Junction of I-40 / Old Route 66 (MP 363.84)

Arizona had four early US highways that facilitated movement from east to west (Route 60, 66, 70, and 80), but only one numbered highway that completely traversed the state from south to north, US 89. Today only portions of this early national road remain. One of these segments, now renumbered Arizona State Route (SR 89), is the highway between Wickenburg and Ashfork, which passes through Prescott - Arizona’s first Territorial capitol ( 1863-1867 and 1877-1889).

Highway 89 was developed incrementally. Highway segments were improved in southern Arizona primarily in the 1910s, in central Arizona in the 1920s, and northern Arizona in 1930s. Improvements, however, varied from locale to locale. Existing two-track dirt trails and roads for animal-drawn wheeled vehicles, such as stagecoaches, buggies, and freight wagons, were graded and contoured for proper drainage. Early automobiles also traveled along these “improved earth” roads. Later, these roadways were graveled and modified to suite local traffic and population needs. In some places, SR 89 was widened and its shoulders were modified for utility lines. Elsewhere, guardrails were constructed or bridges were replaced to accommodate increased loads. Finally, highway segments in well-traveled areas were surfaced with various asphalt or concrete treatments to create all-weather surfaces fit for automobiles and trucks.


South Central

Benson to Douglas to Rodeo Highway

Benson to Douglas to Rodeo Highway

Roadway: State Route 80
Length: 122 miles
Begins: Benson, south of I-10 (MP 293.27)
Ends: West of Rodeo, at the Arizona-New Mexico state line (MP 415.39)

Modern State Route 80 (SR 80) spans 120 miles from the New Mexico border near Rodeo to Interstate 10 at Benson. Along its path, SR 80 passes through the historic communities of Douglas, Bisbee, Tombstone, and St. David. Today SR 80 is but a remnant of the 2,568-mile U.S. highway (US 80) that stretched from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego, California, forming an important element of the U.S. national defense system after World War I.

Unlike some historic highways in Arizona, SR 80 does not follow the path of an ancient Indian trail. Rather, it owes its existence to the discoveries of silver in Tombstone and copper in Bisbee. Prospectors found these precious metals in the same year—1877—and trails were created, connecting mines with mills and miners with supplies. After the Southern Pacific Railroad reached Tucson, Benson, Willcox, and Lordsburg in 1880, mule-drawn freight wagons carrying mill-stamped ore deepened the trails between Bisbee and Benson, establishing the basic route for the future state highway. Stagecoaches also traveled along these informal roads, connecting these rich mining towns with the rest of the nation. Although Tombstone’s silver played out by 1886, Bisbee, “Queen of the Copper Mines,” persisted. By at least 1900, critical portions of what would be SR 80 between Bisbee and Douglas were improved, not by the Arizona Territorial government but rather by the mining companies. The companies wanted to ensure that heavy loads of crushed copper ore would get to new smelters in the recently planned community of Douglas. By the time automobiles became regular features on the landscape of southeastern Arizona, between 1905 and 1910, concerns for better roads became paramount.

In 1909, the Territorial Legislature created the position of Territorial Engineer to develop well engineered roads that would facilitate commerce, local travel, and tourism. That year, plans were drawn up to transform existing wagon roads, county roads, and trails into a major north-south highway (Douglas to Flagstaff), complementing an existing east-west highway (Yuma to Solomonsville). By 1909 - three years before Arizona would become a State—plans for improving the road between Douglas, Bisbee, and Tombstone were firmly in place.

The earliest roadwork took place in 1910, involving the 21- mile stretch between Bisbee and Douglas. Cochise County - the richest county in Arizona Territory - spent $90,769 (equivalent to $1.99 million today) to treat the existing gravel road with an asphalt mix, stabilizing the surface and reducing dust. Six years later, the State of Arizona realigned, graded, and drained the 25.9-mile section north of Bisbee for $260,185 (equivalent to $4.90 million today), using prison labor to reduce costs. The remaining segments between Douglas and the New Mexico state line and between Tombstone and Benson were graded or graveled for the first time between 1920 and 1922. In 1926, SR 80 was renamed US 80 to acknowledge its importance as a transcontinental highway. As funds became available through a variety of government programs, US 80 was completely paved with either asphalt mixtures or concrete by 1935. In the late 1930s, laborers funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) repaired worn sections of highway, rebuilt bridges, replaced culverts, and improved drainage. Since that time, both prison and paid laborers have maintained the old road, all the while improving its durability and functionality as road-building technology advanced.

In 1989, US 80 lost its U.S. highway status, and remaining sections not covered by Interstate 10 or other state roads once again became a state road. Despite its numerous face-lifts and name changes, SR 80 persists as an essential state road that still retains aspects of its early beginnings when it was part of the intercontinental highway nicknamed the “Broadway of America.”

Coolidge to Florence to Casa Grande to La Palma Highway

Roadway: State Route 287
Length: 22 miles
Begins: SR 87 at La Palma (MP 111.72)
Ends: Junction with SR 87 near Coolidge (MP 142.74)

State Route 287 (SR 287) is a two-segment historic highway southeast of Phoenix. The first segment to be incorporated into the state highway system in 1935 connects Florence and Coolidge. The second segment was incorporated in 1960 and connects the city of Casa Grande to SR 87 at the little community of La Palma. Although the Coolidge to Florence Highway is only 8 miles long and the Casa Grande to La Palma is 14 miles long, both serve as important local arteries for this cotton growing region of the state. The road surfaces have been paved since the 1930s.

Florence is the county seat of Pinal County, home of two state prisons, and the older of the two Territorial-period towns (est. 1866) at the ends of the road. Coolidge, at the western end of SR 287, however, is the town that grew up around the prehistoric Casa Grande community now preserved in Casa Grande Ruins National Monument—the oldest federal archaeological preserve in the United States (created 1892; monument established 1918). This ancient community was occupied during the A.D. 1300-1450 by an ancestral Indian group that archaeologists call the Hohokam. Modern Casa Grande evolved as twentieth century agricultural center and is the largest city between Metropolitan Phoenix and Metropolitan Tucson.

Nogales to Tombstone Highway

Nogales to Tombstone Highway

Nogales to Tombstone Highway

Roadway: State Route 82
Length: 66 miles
Begins: Nogales (MP 1.19)
Ends: Junction of SR 80, north of Tombstone (MP 67.57)

State Route 82 (SR 82) is one of the 10 original state highways designated by the Arizona State Highway Department (Arizona Department of Transportation) on September 9, 1927. Although it probably captures trail segments used by Pima, O’odham, Sobaipuri, and Apache Indians prior to the arrival of Europeans during the Spanish-Colonial period, SR 82 owes most of its existence to nineteenth-century historic developments. Foot paths, animal trails, and wagon roads associated with the movement of cattle, military personnel and supplies, silver and lead ore, and stagecoaches, as well as railroad construction, during the 1854–1882 time period established the route what would be SR 82.

The route is associated with a multitude of historic events, beginning with establishment of the visita of San Ignacio de Sonoita by Father Kino in the late 1600s. After the acquisition of what is now Southern Arizona through the Gadsen Purchase of 1854, surveyors, soldiers, suppliers, and miners established the overall alignment of the road. Surveyor Andrew Gray, searching for a railroad route south of Gila River in 1954, was an early route maker of SR 82. The mounted soldiers and supply wagons associated with Fort Buchanan (1856–1861) and Fort Crittenden (1867–1873) near Patagonia accentuated the trail. The ruts deepened with the movement of ore by freight wagons from rich silver mines, like the Mowry Mine, to railroads and smelters far to the East in the 1860s and 1870s. At least one stagecoach line, the Tombstone & Patagonia Express, frequented the trail in the early 1880s. About the same time, the workers who built the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad between Fairbank and Nogales in 1881 and 1882 traveled the winding road as it passed through grasslands, forests, and riparian settings.

By the time of statehood in 1912, future SWR 82 was already a historic road, linking a major east-west route near Benson (soon to called US 80, much later redesignated as Interstate 10) and a south-to-north route (soon called US 89, later redesignated as Interstate 19). Nevertheless, SR 82 remained a dirt road with only slight improvements by grading and for drainage from 1926 until 1935. In 1935 selected segments on either side of the Santa Cruz River received their first application of gravel. Not until the period between 1938 and 1946 did the vast remainder of the 66-mile road receive it first coating of mixed gravel and sealant, with funds largely provided by the federal government through the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

SR 82 from Nogales east to Sonoita, along with a portion of SR 83 from Sonoita to Mountain View near Interstate 10, is officially designated as one of Arizona’s Scenic Roads.

Parker Canyon Lake to Mountain View Highway

Parker Canyon Lake to Mountain View Highway

Roadway: State Route 83
Length: 25 miles
Begins: Sonoita (MP 33.18)
Ends: Mountain View and junction with Interstate 10 (MP 58.58)

State Route 83 (SR 83) is one of the 10 original state highways designated by the Arizona State Highway Department (now called Arizona Department of Transportation) on September 9, 1927. The territorial period road, which hugs the east side of the Santa Rita Mountains, seems to have come into being in the 1860s. It was a trail used by freighters, mail carriers, and ranchers who serviced Fort Crittenden near Sonoita.

In the 1870s, SR 83 became a transportation route for the renowned Empire Ranch and its cattle industry, as well as the newly discovered gold and silver mines in the Santa Rita Mountains and Empire Mountains. The most famous of these mines were the Kentucky Camp gold mine in the Santa Ritas discovered in 1874 and the Total Wreck silver and lead mine in the Empire Mountains discovered in 1879. With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1881, SR 83 became the most direct way to reach railroad and supplies at the Pantano-Marsh Station along what is now Interstate 10 (formerly U.S. 80).

Even before this road became an official state highway in 1927, Pima and Santa Cruz counties considered the road an important transportation route. In 1920, each county graded and engineered their respective segments for better drainage. In 1926, the state graveled its full length. SR 83 received its first surface paving using different combinations of aggregate and binders between 1953 and 1959.

SR 83 and a portion of SR 82 from a point north of Nogales to Sonoita are linked together as an official scenic byway. So lovely are the views through these hilly grasslands and mountain valleys from this undivided highway that the “Patagonia–Sonoita Scenic Road” was the second road given this designation by the state of Arizona.

Picacho to Coolidge to Chandler to Mesa to Payson to Winslow

Picacho to Coolidge to Chandler to Mesa to Payson to Winslow

Roadway: State Route 87
Length: 227 miles
Begins: Near Picacho (MP 115.17)
Ends: Winslow (MP 342.17)

The middle segment of today’s State Route 87 (SR 87) is locally known as the Beeline Highway because it makes a “beeline” from the low, hot desert in the Phoenix Basin to the high, cool mountain country near Payson, a destination for desert dwellers seeking relief from summer heat. This highway segment, however, is the youngest of all portions of SR 87, which was added to the Arizona state highway system in 1960 and partially realigned in subsequent years. The oldest segments, which were components of the original Arizona state highway system in 1927, are in the south, near the contemporary communities of Picacho and Coolidge. In 1934, segments between the Pinal Maricopa county line to Chandler and Mesa were added. The final historic segment, which linked Winslow to the northern margin of the Coconino National Forest, near Jack’s Canyon, was added in 1936.

The earliest segments of SR 87 from Picacho to Coolidge and Chandler were featured as Auto Tour 4C in The WPA Guide to 1930s Arizona (1940, reprinted by the University of Arizona Press in 1989). This history book and travel log was compiled by unemployed and unnamed authors working for the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) in the late-1930s. From this paved state highway, tourists were encouraged to visit the well preserved archaeological ruins in Casa Grande National Monument near Coolidge and appreciate the vast and fertile agricultural fields near Sacaton on the Gila River Indian Reservation and around Chandler. The writers also informed pleasure-seeking travelers that “a resort hotel catering to winter visitors and providing golf, riding, and desert outings” awaited them in Chandler. Although much has changed since the WPA era, the featured sights along this portion of SR 87 remain, including the historic San Marcos Resort in Chandler.

Sasabe to Robles Junction Highway

Roadway: State Route 286
Length: 45 miles
Begins: International Boundary at Sasabe (MP 0)
Ends: Junction SR 86 near Robles Junction / Three Points (MP 45.48)

State Route 286 (SR 286) is rural state highway in southern Arizona that leads to one of Arizona’s least used international border crossings, Sasabe. The highway follows a very old route used by Jesuit missionaries in the eighteenth century, Spanish land grantees in the nineteenth century, and American cattle ranchers in the twentieth century. From its origin at Sasabe, SR 286 travels through the wide Altar Valley, skirting the western margin of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for desert plants and animals adapted to the semidesert grasslands of the Lower Sonoran Desert. SR 286 also travels along the eastern flanks of the Baboquivari, Quinlan, and Coyote mountains and telescope-famous Kitt Peak, which collectively mark the eastern edge of the large Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation.

Seemingly remote, SR 286 is a well-maintained highway that has been part of the state highway system since 1955. Prior to its incorporation into the state system, Pima County maintained this historic road. Today, it is not only a route to cross the border for local populations but also the means to reach the historic Hacienda de la Osa, a famous guest ranch located on the old Ortiz Brothers’ 1821 land grant in Sasabe.

Sierra Vista to Bisbee Highway

Sierra Vista to Bisbee Highway

Roadway: State Route 92
Length: 34 miles
Begins: Sierra Vista (MP 321.21)
Ends: Near Bisbee (MP 355.11)

State Route 92 (SR 92) and SR 90 are two historic-period highways that link US Army Fort Huachuca (established 1877) and modern Sierra Vista to the copper mining district near Bisbee. Of the two, SR 92 is the older road that provided access to the international border communities of Naco, Arizona and Naco, Sonora. The two Nacos were not only an important access route into Mexico, but the Mexican town was also a long-standing entertainment spot for weary soldiers and miners and a ready source of liquor during Prohibition Era (1915–1933).

Before the Arizona Highway Department (now Arizona Department of Transportation) accepted the road into the state highway system in 1936, the county and state expended funds to maintain the road. They rebuilt bridges across the San Pedro River and Greenbush Draw in the 1920s and applied a gravel-mix surface treatment to a single section of well-traveled roadway between Bisbee and the turnoff to Naco in 1934. The remainder of the busy road was surfaced either with BST (Bituminous Surface Treatment) or other gravel and asphalt mixes for the first time in 1938 and 1939.

Among the first actions taken by the Highway Department once it assumed responsibility for SR 92 was the construction of a highway overpass near Stark, Arizona above the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. On February 8, 1936, Shelton Dowell, Chairman of the Arizona Highway Commission, dedicated the “Stark Overpass” to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters as east-bound Engine #4320 passed below. Among the crowd were many Fort Huachuca soldiers and an Army brass band. Undoubtedly, the well-wishers were grateful for the protection that the overpass offered soldiers and civilians from short respites from military and rural life in the Border communities.

Tucson to Oracle Junction to Globe Highway and Show Low to Holbrook

Tucson to Oracle Junction to Globe Highway and Show Low to Holbrook

Roadway: State Route 77
Length: 148 miles
Begins: Oracle Junction (MP 68.1)
Ends: Holbrook (MP 388.67)

Contemporary State Route 77 (SR 77) is a north-south route in east-central Arizona. The southern segment runs between Oracle Junction and US 70, east of Globe and passes through one of Arizona’s most important mining districts. The northern segment connects the White Mountain town of Show Low to the railroad town of Holbrook along modern Interstate 40 and then north to the boundary of the Navajo Indian Reservation. In between these two segments, SR 77 follows the same path of US 60 between Globe and Show Low. The oldest highway segments were Territorial-period roads between Show Low and Globe and Oracle Junction and Globe.

SR 77 from Holbrook to Show Low became part of the Arizona State Highway System in 1930, but its forerunner was a territorial-period wagon road used by Mormon pioneers as they moved into the sparsely settled Silver Creek drainage. One important farming community bisected by Route 77’s forerunner came into being after Mormon colonist William Flake purchased the existing Stinson Ranch along Silver Creek in 1878. Later that year, Mormon Apostle Erastus Snow and his fellow colonists joined him when floods repeatedly destroyed their irrigation system along the Little Colorado River. Apostle Snow laid out the town site of this new community of Snowflake on an idealized Mormon plan: large square blocks divided into city lots with roads wide enough to turn a horse- or mule-drawn wagon. The wide main street followed the existing stagecoach and freight wagon trail from Fort Apache to the Beale’s Road (the route surveyed in 1857 for the planned railroad and predecessor of U.S. Route 66). Within a year of its founding, Snowflake was a prominent center of Mormon settlement in Arizona and the county seat of Apache County (1879-1881).

In 1881, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe Railway) reached Horsehead Crossing?the settlement at the confluence of the Puerco and Little Colorado Rivers just south of Beale’s Road. Needing ties, they hired John W. Young, son of the famous Mormon Leader Brigham Young, to procure the wood for the rail. A year after the railroad’s completion, Young founded a new town a few miles west of Horsehead Crossing and named it after the Santa Fe’s first engineer, H. R. Holbrook. Because of its access to the rail, Holbrook prospered and so did Young. From this railroad town, the territorial version of SR 77 to Show Low became an important route for the flow of goods and services to Fort Apache and much of the White Mountain region.

SR 77 between Oracle Junction and US 70 winds it way through down the San Pedro River Valley to its intersection with the Gila Rover at Winkleman and then cuts a route through mountainous terrain until it reaches US 70. This section of SR 77 was added to the state Highway System in 1938. It too, was an old road developed to link the mining communities near Mammoth with larger communities and railroads north and south. In 2008, the state of Arizona designated as 38-mile stretch of SR 77 as the Copper Corridor Scenic Road East.

Whetstone Traffic Interchange to Junction SR 80 Highway

Roadway: State Route 90
Length: 47 miles
Begins: I-10, Exit 302 (MP 289.59)
Ends: SR 80 north of Bisbee (MP 336.4)

Contemporary State Route 90 (SR 90) is state highway that connects Interstate 10 to US Army Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista. It also is the short-cut between Fort Huachuca and Bisbee.

The oldest segments of modern SR 90 follows a Territorial-period (1963–1912) equestrian trail and wagon road that connected SR 82 to the north gate of Fort Huachuca and, after a gap on the Fort’s eastern boundary, the east gate of Fort Huachuca to the town of Fry (Sierra Vista).The Arizona Highway Department (Arizona Department of Transportation) incorporated these two sections of road as SR 90 in 1936. In 1942, the Arizona Highway Department assumed responsibility for the gap between the two gates, as well as the old road that connected Fort Huachuca and Fry to SR 80 between Tombstone and Bisbee. These roads were added to the length of SR 90.

The section of modern SR 90 north of SR 82 to what was then US 80 (now Interstate 10) west of Benson did not exist before 1961. It was newly built along the east side of the Whetstone Mountains to facilitate movement from the fast-growing community of Sierra Vista (incorporated 1956) to service and population centers to the north.

Why to Tucson Highway

Why to Tucson Highway

Roadway: State Route 86
Length: 119 miles
Begins: Junction SR 85 (MP 53.06)
Ends: Tucson (MP 172.39)

State Route 86 (SR 86) is the major east-west road across the large Tohono O’odham (Papago) Indian Reservation in southern Arizona. It is also the route that leads to the world-famous Kitt Peak National Observatory (established 1958), which operates the Earth’s most diverse set of 24 telescopes.

Although this stretch of road was added to the Arizona state highway system in 1943, it existed as an ancient trail and dirt road for centuries before that, connecting human communities, water wells, and other resources across the Indian reservation. Prior to the construction of Interstate 10 in the 1960s, SR 86 also ran east of Tucson to the Arizona-New Mexico state line. This decommissioned portion of SR 86 was taken into the Arizona state highway system in 1930, but was not maintained as a state highway after 1961. 


South East

Chiricahua National Monument Highway

Roadway: State Route 181
Length: 27 miles
Begins: Junction of US 191 (MP 38.25)
Ends: Chiricahua National Monument (MP 65.04)

State Route 181 (SR 181) was added to Arizona’s State Highway System in 1936, but it existed as an access road to Chiricahua National Monument as early as 1924, when the monument was created. The road passes through private land and US Forest Service land before its reaches the Monument, famed for its vertical volcanic rock formations and stunning scenery.

Douglas to Wilcox to Safford to Springerville to Sanders

Douglas to Wilcox to Safford to Springerville to Sanders

Roadway: U.S. Route 191
Length: 259 miles
Begins: Douglas (MP 0)
Ends: Sanders (MP 368.47)

U.S. 191 is a major north-south rural travel route in eastern Arizona. It also is the southern reach of a border-to border transcontinental U.S. highway that spans 1,624 miles from Mexico to Canada and passes through the states of Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. The historic Arizona portions of this north-south road are those from Douglas near the U.S.-Mexican border to Sanders at Interstate 40, added at various time between 1927 and 1947. When it was first recognized in Arizona as a U.S. highway, the old road was designated U.S. 666. Objections to the number “666,” which is associated with the “name of the beast” in the Christian Bible (Revelations 13:18) eventually resulted in assignment of a new number for existing segments in Arizona. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials approved the number change in 2003, and the federal highway was renumbered as U.S. 191.

A particularly lovely stretch of this old road, which connected historic mining and ranching communities in eastern Arizona, is the 103-mile section between Clifton and Eagar designated as Coronado Trail Scenic Road.


Duncan to Guthrie Highway

Duncan to Guthrie Highway

Roadway: State Route 75
Length: 20 miles
Begins: Duncan (MP 378.92)
Ends: East of Guthrie (MP 398.43)

State Route 75 (SR 75) is the remaining segment of a Territorial-period road that linked the farming and ranching community of Duncan with the important copper mining town of Clifton. Although SR 75 was not incorporated into Arizona’s state highway system until 1932, it was an old and much used trail and wagon road along the eastern side of Gila River.

The end-point communities of Duncan and Clifton were established in 1873, whereas the mid-point farming and ranching communities of Guthrie, York, and Sheldon were established in the early 1880s as railroad stations. The Arizona and New Mexico Railroad company laid narrowgauge (36-inch wide) tracks on the west side of the Gila between Lordsburg, New Mexico and Clifton in 1881 and 1882. After the arrival of the railroad, more farmers and ranchers moved into this portion of Greenlee County to cultivate the broad, irrigable terraces along both sides of the Gila River. As the copper mines, agricultural sector, and cattle industry grew in economic importance, travel along what would become SR 75 increased.

Greenlee County funds were used to build the bridge over the Gila River in 1912 and grade the road in 1916. In 1921 federal funds were used to install culverts and drainage ways. During the Great Depression, federal funding programs, including the WPA, were used every year between 1936 and 1941 to grade, widen, and pave the road. Today, SR 75 is a well-maintained rural highway that still has the potential to evoke stories of bygone days when freight wagons navigated dangerous roads and ranchers lost cattle and horses to Apache raiders.

Globe to Lordsburg Highway

Globe to Lordsburg Highway

Roadway: U.S. Route 70
Length: 133 miles
Begins: Near Globe at the Junction of U.S. 60 and State Route 77 (MP 252.14)
Ends: Arizona-New Mexico state line, east of Duncan and Franklin (MP 385.25)

U.S. 70 was the later of two early transcontinental highways that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, North Carolina to California. It was commissioned in 1936 and designed to link communities in the southeastern and south-central U.S. to the West Coast. The other interstate highway was U.S. 60, which was established in 1926. Unlike U.S. 60, however, U.S. 70 shared the road with other numbered highways for its last westernmost 500 miles, for a total of 2,385 miles. Today, few segments of historic U.S. 70 remain active U.S. highways, but those that do remain important thoroughfares, particularly in Arizona and New Mexico.

When state officials in Arizona approved the route for future U.S. 70 in 1927, the route they chose was an ancient one, long-used as a trail along the Gila River. From its entry into Arizona at the New Mexico state line near Duncan to its current terminus near Globe, future U.S. 70 followed an indigenous trail used by American Indian populations for thousands of years. This same route, known as the Gila River Trail, was used by trappers and traders during the 1820s, by Colonel Stephen Watts Kearney and the Army of the West during the Mexican American War of 1846-1848, and by early Anglo settlers in the 1870s and 1880s. The Gila River Trail became a wagon and stagecoach road in the 1880s and the route followed by the first railroad in the mid-1890s.

The advent of automobiles and trucks encouraged improvements to the dirt road in the 1900s and 1910s. Only after statehood in 1912 did the future route of U.S. 70 get it much needed improvements, which began as grading and drainage. Surfacing the roadway to improve durability and safety began in the 1920s but took place first in the most populous locales. Prime among these was the stretch between Eden and Safford, where Mormon colonists had settled along the rich farmland of the Gila Valley in the 1880s. Later improvements were made in the vicinity of the mining town of Globe and the ranching country near Duncan.

Major changes to the route and engineering of future U.S. 70 - also known the Atlantic-Pacific Highway and National Highway 180 - took place during the years (1929–1931) when the Gila River was impounded by Coolidge Dam as part of the San Carlos Irrigation Project. A new route leading to the man-made lake behind the Dam, San Carlos Reservoir, was created and maintained between 1930 and 1956, when it, too, was abandoned for the earlier and more direct route between Globe and Bylas.

In 1936, the old Gila River Trail was assigned its U.S. 70 status. It has retained this designation to this day and continues to serve the many rural communities and small towns of this historic region of the American Southwest.

Willcox to Dos Cabezas to Chiricahua Highway

Roadway: State Route 186
Length: 33 miles
Begins: Willcox (MP 326.32)
Ends: SR 181 near Chiricahua National Monument (MP 359.42)

State Route 186 (SR 186) is a historical-period highway added to Arizona State Highway System in 1955. It provides direct access to Chiricahua National Monument from the major highway and railroad town of Willcox. The road is depicted on much earlier maps, however, and appears to have existed at least since the 1910s. Chiricahua National Monument was established in 1924 to preserve its “wonderland of rocks” within one of the most picturesque “sky island” mountain chains in southeastern Arizona.

Winkelman to Superior

Roadway: State Route 177
Length: 31 miles
Begins: Winkelman (MP 136.31)
Ends: Superior (MP 167.61)

State Route 177 (SR 177) is a state highway that currently links miners to mines and community services between Winkelman and Superior. Although the basic route of what would become SR 177 existed many decades before it was incorporated into the state highway system in 1952, several segments of this dirt and gravel road were realigned and widened for safety. SR 177 has been a paved road since the mid-1950s.

SR 177 travels through beautiful, rugged mountains and river valleys, with road cuts exposing extraordinary geological strata typical of this copper-bearing region. So fascinating are the geology and terrain along this road that a 15-mile segment was officially designated in 2008 as the Copper County Scenic Road West. The road passes through the rough country south of Superior known as Apache Leap and the Dripping Spring Mountains and the vast humanly altered landscape of the open-pit Ray copper mine. Thereafter, the road follows along the east and north side of the Gila River past the mining communities of Kelvin, Kearny, and Hayden to Winkelman, where the northward-flowing San Pedro River joins the westward-flowing Gila.


South West

Gila Bend to Lukeville Highway

Gila Bend to Lukeville Highway

Roadway: State Route 85
Length: 81 miles
Begins: Gila Bend (MP 0)
Ends: Lukeville (MP 80.69)

State Route (SR 85) is a paved highway that stretches south from Interstate 10 (I-10) near Buckeye to Interstate 8 (I-8) near Gila Bend and onward to the Mexican border at Lukeville. For many Arizonans, it is the fastest way to reach sandy beaches along the Sea of Cortez in Sonora, Mexico. The oldest and historic portions of route are the southern segments south of Gila Bend, associated with the rich copper mines at Ajo.

It is often said that Arizona’s tradition economy depended on the five “Cs”: copper, cotton, cattle, citrus, and climate. Of these, copper was certainly “ king” at the turn of the twentieth century as America entered the age of electricity. Copper was discovered in the Ajo area at least as early as 1750 during the Spanish-colonial period. During Arizona’s Territorial period, Anglo-Americans further explored the Ajo area for copper and other precious metals, and Arizona’s first American-operated mine was established in Ajo in 1854.

Initially, the ore was packed to Yuma on mule back along an International Border-route known as Jaegger Pack Trail. Beginning in 1857, a succession of stage coach companies carrying passengers, mail, and other supplies moved along the south side of Gila River, and Gila Bend became a major stagecoach station. With the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) across southern Arizona in the 1880s, branch lines connecting important places to the SP came into being, and stage coach service died out. In 1916, the Phelps Dodge Corporation built the Tucson Cornelia & Gila Bend Railroad (TC&GB) to move copper from their New Cornelia open-pit copper mine in Ajo to the SP and on to Tucson to the copper smelters. With the construction of the TC&GB, portions of the route that would become SR 85 were impressed into the landscape.

So important was copper mining to the young state of Arizona that Maricopa and Pima Counties graded and improved their segments of future SR 85 from Gila Bend all the way to what would become the “ wye” junction of future SR 85 and SR 86, named Why in 1930. In 1936, the Arizona Highway Department added SR 85 to the state highway system. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument along the US-Mexican border, not far south of Ajo. Between 1937 and 1939, all portions of road, from Gila Bend to Why, were paved with one or more surface treatments. The final segment between the Why and the International Border at Lukeville was paved in 1942 and 1943, although it was not considered a portion of SR 85 until 1955.

In 2008, a 21-mile segment of SR 85 was designated the Organ Pipe Cactus Parkway in recognition of its extraordinary desert vegetation and scenery as it passes through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Junction State Route 95 to Hope Highway

Roadway: State Route 72
Length: 37 miles
Begins: Junction SR 95 (MP 13.11)
Ends: Hope (MP 49.91)

State Route 72 (SR 72) is a 37-mile long road that was incorporated into the state highway system in 1932. Prior to the construction of US 95 between Quartzsite and Parker, SR 72 was the main access road to a crossing over the Colorado River at Parker. It also was the Territorial-period (1863–1912) route that reached the Colorado River Indian Reservation, which was established in 1865 for several tribal groups, including the Chemehuevi and Mohave. During the period of construction for the Parker Dam (1934–1938), highway workers improved SR 72 by widening and paving. It remains a useful route to reach Parker Dam and its recreational reservoir—Lake Havasu.

Quartzsite to Wickenburg to Phoenix to Globe to Show Low to Springerville

Quartzsite to Wickenburg to Phoenix to Globe to Show Low to Springerville

Roadway: U.S. Route 60
Length: 371 miles
Begins: Near Quartzsite at I-10 intersection (MP 31.26)
Ends: At the Arizona-New Mexico state line, near Springerville (MP 401.97)

U.S. 60 is a transcontinental U.S. highway commissioned in 1926. Although it once spanned the distance from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, it now terminates in western Arizona. The still-active route runs 2,670 miles from North Carolina to Quartzsite, Arizona. The earliest portions of U.S. 60 within the state of Arizona were approved in 1927 and incorporated pre-existing routes from Phoenix to Miami, Wickenburg to Phoenix, and Springerville to the Arizona - New Mexico state line. The remaining segments from the Globe area to Show Low and onto to Springerville, as well as segment from the California-Arizona state line to Wickenburg, were completed in the 1930s. By 1935, U.S. 60 navigated almost 400 miles across Arizona’s midline and functioned as one of the state’s most important eastwest transportation routes. Today, a 26-mile section of U.S. 60 between Florence Junction and Miami has been officially designated as the Gila-Pinal Scenic Road.

San Luis to Yuma to Quartzsite Highway

San Luis to Yuma to Quartzsite Highway

Roadway: U.S. Route 95
Length: 105 miles
Begins: San Luis (MP 0)
Ends: Quartzsite (MP 104.51)

U.S. Route 95 (US 95) is a primary federal highway that runs from international border to border and passes through Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. It’s total length of 1,689 miles. Within Arizona, modern U.S. Highway 95 (US 95) is a south-to-north highway in southwestern Arizona that crosses the Colorado River into California at Blythe. Prior to 1960, the route between San Luis and the Colorado River near Ehrenberg was Arizona State Route 95. Its current alignment is depicted on Arizona highway maps as early as 1939.

Today, as it did in the past, US 95 links rural communities in western Arizona and provides access to important resources and facilities in the far southwestern portion of the state. Among these are the Mexican-American port of entry at San Luis; Colorado River crossings at Yuma and Ehrenberg; primary east-west highways (now Interstates 8 and 10); former gold, silver, and lead mines in the Kofa, Castle Dome, and Trigo Mountains; historic military camps and modern military training grounds; Indian reservations; railroad stations; hydroelectric-powered dams and damimpounded lakes; and more recently, tourist destinations and retirement communities.

The earliest segment of modern US 95 to be included in Arizona’s Historic State Highway System (1912–1955) was the roadway from the international border at San Luis to Yuma. This paved but single lane road was maintained by Yuma County during Arizona’s Territorial (1863–1912) and early Statehood (post-1912) periods. In 1936, the Arizona Highway Department (Arizona Department of Transportation) incorporated this 24-mile stretch into the highway system as SR 95. In 1938, the highway department accepted responsibility for the largely unimproved road from Yuma to Quartzsite. In that same year, state highway workers widened the busy San Luis Yuma road and realigned most of the 80 miles of road between Yuma and Quartzsite.

The Yuma to Quartzsite segment of US 95 is an undivided two-lane highway that passes through the eastern margin of the Yuma Proving Grounds, one of the US Army’s largest installations. US 95 also skirts the western edge of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, which is a preserve for endangered Desert Bighorn sheep and other Lower Sonoran Desert life forms. Contemporary travelers of US 95 north of Yuma often speed along what appears to be an unoccupied wilderness. In reality, the region through which this essential desert highway travels is teeming with life and rich in mining and military history.