Promoting Tourist Travel in 1884 Northern Arizona

Susan Olberding//November 21, 2014

Promoting Tourist Travel in 1884 Northern Arizona

Susan Olberding//November 21, 2014

Road conditions on the Grand Canyon stage route from Flagstaff to Grandview Point in 1909.
Road conditions on the Grand Canyon stage route from Flagstaff to Grandview Point in 1909.

The following article appeared in the Weekly Champion, a Flagstaff newspaper, on March 22, 1884. Today’s reader may enjoy the flowery writing style of the time; may be curious as to why the route would travel so far to the west unless it was to reach the waters of the Colorado River instead of viewing the Canyon from the rim? It was eight to nine more years before stage travel between Flagstaff and Grand Canyon’s Grandview Point would be established. The stage route traveled the same as in this article for the first three stops – but at Young’s Tanks (now Cedar Ranch) it turned northwest toward Grandview. The route through Cataract Canyon was never developed. Below is the letter reprinted in its original form. Added in parenthesis are the current names of the locations to which the original author was referring.

EDITOR CHAMPION – From an old Arizonan of twenty-five years residence, we are informed that a route from Flagstaff to the Grand Canon is not only practicable, but that a road already exists the greater portion of the way. The road or route referred to would not only reach the canon at a point unsurpassed in point of grandeur, but the route itself embraces many of the most interesting features of the country. We give the distance below in detail, each station or point designating where water may be obtained in abundance:

From Flagstaff to Fort Maroni(sp) (Young’s Station): 7 mi.
From Fort Maroni(sp) to Frank Hart’s (Hart Prairie): 5 mi.
From Hart’s to Young’s tanks (now Cedar Ranch): 21 mi.
From Young’s Tanks to Ava Supai (sp) Peach Orchards: 15 mi.
From Peach Orchards to (Colorado River) Rapids: 12 mi.
From Rapids to Grand Canon: 8 mi.
Total miles from Flagstaff: 68

The first seven miles to Fort Maroni leads through fine forests of pine with alternate parks. The country at any season is suitable for tourists, is abundant in a profusion of vegetable growths and wild flowers for which this section is so remarkable. Its course lies off the base of the Bonito range, and you reach Maroni in time to lunch at the famous Youngs Springs (now Leroux Springs), that bursts from the rugged side of the main ridge of the ‘Frisco (San Francisco Peaks). From Maroni to Frank Hart’s ranch (now Fern Mountain Ranch) the road winds along the base of the ‘Friscos at an elevation sufficient to give you a fine view of Bill Williams, Kendrick, Sitgreave(s), with the ever changing features of Mount Agassiz overshadowing you.

From Hart’s one can ascend to the summit of the highest point in Arizona and return to Mr. Hart’s the same day, giving ample time to take in the grandeur of the scenery for hundreds of miles around. So uniform is the slope that horses or burro can be rode with ease beyond the timber line. The view from the summit, standing as it does for above any other point in the Territory, is described as simply incomparable in point of mountain scenery. From Young’s tank a day or two might be spent in hunting and form, perhaps, one of the most interesting features of the trip; that section abounding in game of countless numbers and of various specie (sp). From the Peach Orchards a day or two of profitable and enjoyable excursions might be made to the Carbonate mines and Supai villages in the depths of Cataract Canon. The Supai’s are described as a remnant of some sun worshiping tribe who inhabit the narrow valley many hundred feet below the surrounding surface (and) are a friendly hospitable people and are believed to be the “most interesting as well as the most isolated people on the continent of North America.”

The remaining twenty miles to the Canon must at the present be made on saddle animals. It threads its way among the black gorges of the Cataracts (Cataract Canyon) with its awe-inspiring depths, its matchless echoes, its wonderful transmissions of sounds and its ever-shifting scenes of light and shadow, rendering it perhaps the most interesting feature of the route. It is as remote from “the busy hands of man” as the most romantic soul could desire, and its wild, weired(sp) and wonderful grandeur at almost every step is unequaled in any country under the sun. It reaches the Canon at a point where the scenery at any other available point sinks into insignificance in comparison.

The expense of sending some experienced mountain men over the route would be trivial in comparison to the benefits derived from the opening up if a practicable road to that point. By a united effort and a little judicious advertising we may reap the benefits of this proposed route. It is cool and enjoyable in this altitude even in the hottest weather, and it will eventually become the favorite route. Will not some of our public spirited citizens move in this matter?


— S.D. Olberding. Photo courtesy of the USFS Fort Valley Experiment Station archives, Flagstaff.