Old US 60 bridge shows original way to cross Queen Creek

Old US 60 bridge shows original way to cross Queen Creek


Old US 60 bridge shows original way to cross Queen Creek

Old US 60 bridge shows original way to cross Queen Creek

By David Rookhuyzen / ADOT Communications
November 13, 2020

It's a question as old as transportation itself: How are we going to get across that?

Whether it be a river, creek, wash, arroyo, canyon or crevice, getting a vehicle from one side to the other is a prime concern when it comes to building roads. Today we have a plethora of options, machinery and materials at our disposal to build a crossing that will both be functional and stand the test of time. As we told you in an earlier blog, we can even build bridges seemingly in mid-air using some fancy engineering. 

That's why it's good to sometimes go back and look how they did it in the old days, when getting to the other side was just as important, but engineers didn't have access to the same resources.

Which brings us to the old US 60 bridge over Queen Creek, just east of Superior. In a blog post last year we explained the original road between Superior and Miami opened in 1922 and was a 21-mile winding mountain road that took motorists down to and over Queen Creek, Devils Canyon and Pinto Creek. This original road and the associated bridges were done under the auspices of Lamar Cobb, Arizona's first state engineer who also planned the state's initial highway system.

It was one of the most difficult road building tasks the young state had done up to that time and the subsequent road has been described as a "winding ladder." You can still see the old road in several spots on your way toward Top-of-the-World.

The original bridge over Queek Creek on the east side of Superior is what you see at the bottom of the photo to the right. It's at the floor of the same canyon where the modern Queen Creek bridge is now, which you can see in the background. Like the original bridges over Devil's Canyon and Pinto Creek, this old bridge is a site-specific, single-span reinforced concrete arch, with steel pipeway guardrails and paneled concrete bulkheads. Which is to say it definitely has none of the modern frills or architectural flourishes you see in some bridges today.

But it did the job it was designed to do. The bridge served motorists for nearly 30 years before a post-World War II population boom called for new, wider road alignments on major highways. In order to accomodate a wider road, US 60 had to be moved to a higher elevation. And that meant new bridges. Eventually the new graceful steel arch bridge over Pinto Creek (which ADOT is currently replacing) opened in 1950 with the new Queen Creek bridge opening in 1953.

So, if you are driving on US 60 heading east from Superior, go ahead and steal a glance of the original bridge, and maybe think about how lucky you are to be crossing its wider, flashier younger brother. 

A Superior state of mind along US 60

A Superior state of mind along US 60


A Superior state of mind along US 60

A Superior state of mind along US 60

By John LaBarbera / ADOT Communications
November 9, 2020

US 60 is nearly 370 miles long, stretching from the New Mexico state lane to Quartzsite, just 30 miles shy of hitting California. Along the way it's dotted with plenty of interesting locales.

But there is one place that stands above them all, at least in its name: Superior.

Tucked away in a peaceful spot along Queen Creek in the rough terrain at the southern end of the Superstition Mountains,  there's a lot of history here waiting to be discovered on your next road trip.

Dominating the landscape is the recognizable Apache Leap to the southeast. According to Native History Magazine, the name comes from an early 1870’s battle between the tribe and the U.S. Cavalry. Attacked and driven to the edge of the steep cliff by U.S. troops, the Apache brethren decided to leap to their deaths rather than surrender. Apache Leap looms over Superior as a reminder of the area’s bloody history.

Like many of Arizona’s once-boom towns, Superior owes its existence to a nearby mine. Silver was found in the area in 1875 and the Silver King Mine, from which it was plucked, remained in operation until 1920. The Silver Queen was the King’s sister mine, though it had a relatively shorter life, shutting down in 1907.

Precious metal royalty aside, the undoubted sultan of Superior was the Magma Mine. Founded by William Boyce Thompson (namesake of the nearby arboretum), Magma Mine opened in 1910 and incorporated the shuttered Silver Queen in its operations. Magma shut down in 1982 but had a short resurgence from 1990 to 1996. All in all, nearly 1.3 million tons of copper and over 34 million ounces of silver (along with a decent amount of gold) were recovered from the mine.

Mining continues to this day, with crews exploring deep within the former Magma Mine for any untapped copper deposits.

The automobile road that would connect Superior with the outside world was established in 1922, part of Arizona’s “Million Dollar Highway.” After a national numbering system was adopted in the mid-1920s, this eventually became US 60. Just four years later, the Claypool Tunnel was erected east of Superior to better aide travelers who were on their way to (or from!) Miami. While extremely photogenic, the Claypool Tunnel was replaced by the much more efficient Queen Creek Tunnel in 1952. The tunnel’s dedication ceremony served as the crowning moment of the Arizona Highway Department’s (as we were known at the time) 15-year project to improve US 60 between Superior and Miami.

Those passing through can still spot the original bridge and highway down in the canyon just east of town. That winding road and simple concrete bridge were in use for nearly three decades before widening work and other improvements demanded moving the highway to a higher elevation. 

Today, a trip to Superior consists of taking in their downtown area, just a quick turn off US 60 onto Magma Avenue, and basking in the locked-in-time appeal of its buildings, especially the McPherson Magma Hotel. Built in 1912, the hotel has been used for many purposes throughout its existence and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. After a collapse in 2006, the Magma Hotel recently reopened.

The World’s Smallest Museum offers a plethora of random knick-knacks all tucked within a space just big enough to be generously called a hallway. Nearby, you can also visit the gravesite of Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp’s first wife (by common law), Mattie, who died tragically of an opium overdose in 1888.

Another stop near Superior on US 60 is the aforementioned Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Founded by its eponym in 1924, the arboretum is the oldest and largest in Arizona featuring a plethora of desert plants and the wild animals they attract. It officially opened to the public in 1929 and continues to attract more than 75,000 visitors a year. That's just one view of it that you can see in the photo above.

So, if you are looking for a quick day trip or maybe even a weekend getaway, hop onto to US 60 to visit this historic spot that certainly lives up to its name.

Can't get enough US 60? Take a virtual road trip and check out some more alluring Arizona scenery.