Skip to main content

Throwback Thursday; US Route 60/Arizona State Route 77 Salt River Canyon

Back in 2011 and 2012 I was frequently in the Arizona Rim Country for work in Show Low.  Given that a huge expressway expansion of Arizona State Route 260 was going on at the time I often found myself on US Route 60/Arizona State Route 77 to get to/from Show Low from the Phoenix Metro area.


Salt River Canyon is an approximately 2,200 foot deep gorge bisected by a river bearing the same name in rural Gila County.  The Salt River is a 200 mile tributary of the Gila River which has a source to the east of Salt River Canyon in the White Mountains.  Salt River is probably the most well known of the rivers in the Phoenix Metro Area from all the reservoir lakes from Salt River Project along the Apache Trail/AZ 88.

Prior to US 60 entering Arizona traffic from the Show Low area would have had to use AZ 73 to get out of the eastern Mogollon Rim Country.  AZ 73 was one of the original 1927 State Highway in Arizona and was far longer in length stretching from Springerville to the original alignment of US 70 (modern US 60) south all the way through the San Carlos Reservation to the village of San Carlos at the original US 180 (later US 70 and former AZ 170).  The original alignment of AZ 73 can be seen on the 1927 state highway map.

1927 Arizona State Highway Map

By 1932 US 60 had been extended to Los Angeles and thus entered Arizona for the first time.  US 60 used a huge temporary routing from the New Mexico State line which included a multiplex of AZ 73 while the planned roadway through Salt River Canyon was completed.  Said alignment of US 60T can be observed multiplexing AZ 73 on the 1935 Arizona State Highway Map.

1935 Arizona State Highway Map

By 1938 the new Salt River Canyon alignment of US 60 was completed and the route was shifted off of AZ 73.  AZ 77 was created possibly at the same time US 60 was shifted to into Salt River Canyon and multiplexed it between Show Low to Globe.  AZ 73 was truncated to Fort Apache while the rest of the route became largely modern BIA Route 9 south to San Carlos.   These changes can be seen on the 1938 State Highway Map.

1938 Arizona State Highway Map

So essentially US 60 and AZ 77 from Globe to Show Low have basically had the same alignment since the late 1930s.  I'm not sure what the logic was in routing US 60 through Salt River Canyon other than the terrain in the San Carlos Reservation may have been unworkable to upgrade to a major US Route via AZ 73.  That all said, the route US 60 took from Springerville to Show Low was also a new construction.  The new highway to Show Low traversed much easier terrain than AZ 73 from Springerville to the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

Either way the Salt River Canyon is a blast to drive through if you can manage not to get stuck behind a trucker.  US 60/AZ 77 even to this very day still carries a large amount of truck traffic since the route serves as a direct routing to the mines in Globe and a solid all-year route to Phoenix from I-40.


US 60/AZ 77 obviously has had some substantial upgrades to handle the truck traffic.  The hairpins are wide with huge pull-outs and passing lanes for uphill traffic are plentiful.  Really the amount of engineering that ADOT has put into making Salt River Canyon passable is pretty remarkable.




Interestingly the north rim of Salt River Canyon is the boundary for the White Mountain Apache lands while the south rim is the boundary for the San Carlos Reservation.  At the bottom of Salt River Canyon there is an abandoned gas station that was accessible back in 2012 when I took the greener pictures.


The above gas station has apparently been barricaded since I visited last back in 2012.  At the time there was an abandoned ADOT rest area on the south bank of the Salt River which has since been rebuilt.  The original Salt River Canyon bridge is accessible next to the 1993 replacement from the ADOT rest area.  At the time the older bridge wasn't accessible for pedestrians but has been since upgraded to a walking path.



At the top of the south rim of Salt River Canyon is the ghost town of Seneca.  Apparently Seneca was a mining camp that was established on the San Carlos Reservation after the Salt River Canyon alignment of US 60/AZ 77 was built.  All that left of Seneca is some decaying prefabricated buildings rotting alongside the highway.


The only time I've ever seen Seneca appear on maps was in the 1950s/60s.  Interestingly on the 1956 State Map of Arizona AZ 789 can be seen routing through Salt River Canyon along with US 60/AZ 77.

1956 Arizona State Highway Map

AZ 789 was part of a multi-state route which included New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.  My understanding is that there was a push to create a border-to-border US 789 which never was approved.  In fact the only surviving portion of the multi-state 789 route is in Wyoming.  I don't know exactly when AZ 789 was removed but it appears to have been taken out of Salt River Canyon by 1961 and Arizona Roads seems to suspect it was decomissioned completely by 1965.

1961 Arizona State Highway Map

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Vague Original Southern Terminus of US Route 91 in the Californian Mojave Desert

One of the more intriguing mysteries of the early US Route System in California is where the original south terminus of US Route 91 was intended to be located in the Mojave Desert.  This blog is a little different than my usual behind the wheel fare and explores why US Route 91 ultimately ended at US Route 66 in Daggett instead of Bannock. What ultimately became the US Route System was first discussed during the American Association of State Highway Officials ("AASHO") during their annual 1924 meeting.  Ultimately the AASHO recommended to the Department of Agriculture to work with the States to develop a system of Interstate Highways to replace the many Auto Trails in use.  The Joint Board on Interstate Highways was ultimately commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and it's branch agency the Bureau of Public Roads in March of 1925.  The Joint Board on Interstate Highways first met in April of 1925 and decided on the new interstate road network would be known a

Where the hell is Hill Valley? (US Route 8 south/US Route 395 east)

Recently I made a visit to Universal Studios near Los Angeles.  While on the back lot tour I came across a piece of infamous movie-borne fictional highway infamy; the location of town square of Hill Valley, California on US Route 8/US Route 395. The above photo is part of the intro scene to the first Back-to-the-Future movie which was set in 1985. To anyone who follows roadways the signage error of US 8 meeting US 395 in California is an immediately notable error.  For one; US 8 doesn't even exist anywhere near California with present alignment being signed as an east/west highway between Norway, Michigan and Forest Lake, Minnesota.  To make matters worse US 8 is signed as a southbound route and US 395 (a north/south highway) is signed as an eastbound route.  At minimum the cut-out US 8 and US 395 shields somewhat resemble what Caltrans used in the 1980s. Assuming Hill Valley is located on what would have been US 395 by 1985 what locales would be a viable real world analog? 

Legend of the Ridge Route; a history of crossing the mountains between the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley from wagon trails to Interstates

Over the past two decades I've crossed the Interstate 5 corridor from Los Angeles north over the Sierra Pelona Mountains and Tehachapi Range to San Joaquin Valley what seems to be an immeasurable number of times.  While Interstate 5 from Castaic Junction to Grapevine via Tejon Pass today is known to most as "The Grapevine" it occupies a corridor which has been traversed by numerous historic highways.  The most notable of these highways is known as the "Ridge Route."  This article is dedicated to the Ridge Route and the various highways that preceded it.  The Ridge Route is a 44 mile section of highway which was completed in 1915.  The Ridge Route originally stretched from Castaic Junction north over Liebre Summit and Tejon Pass to the tiny community of Grapevine.  In spite of a roadway that once utilized nearly 700 curves the Ridge Route is generally considered far ahead of it's time and one of the first modern highways constructed for automotive use.