Monday, December 1, 2014

Apache Trail Circle Route, Part 2 of 3

November 24, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Fish Creek Hill struck fear into the hearts of teamsters and tourists as they began their descent of this notorious grade.
Driving along the shores of Canyon Lake (formed in 1925, by the completion of Mormon Flat Dam) is a real contrast compared to the desert along much of the road.  Visitors seldom expect to see such a large body of water in the middle of such an arid region. 

At Canyon Lake you will find a restaurant, marina and a variety of services. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at the beautiful lakeside restaurant. If you have time take a cruise on the Dolly.  Tourists have been visiting the beautiful waters of Canyon Lake since October 4, 1925, when the S.S. Geronimo was launched. You might consider camping for a night on the grassy private beach owned and operated by the Canyon Lake Marina.

Two miles from Canyon Lake is the famous old stage stop of Tortilla Flat. This stage stop was constructed in 1904, and served as a staging area for the construction of the Mesa-Roosevelt Road from this point to the bottom of Fish Creek Hill. At Tortilla Flat you can enjoy fine food, drinks or just do a little tourist shopping if you want.

There are several interesting points along the Apache Trail between Tortilla Flat and Apache Lake. As you leave Tortilla Flat you cross Tortilla Creek, which drains a large portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area.  Some old timers claim the legendary Dutchman Lost Mine is located in the drainage of Tortilla Creek somewhere.

The pavement ends about six miles east of Tortilla Flat.  The Arizona Department of Transportation maintains the road from this point to Roosevelt Dam. Recently the state department of transportation has been experimenting with a variety of sub-surface treatments of the roadway. These treatments have provided a much smoother ride over the Apache Trail from Tortilla Ranch corrals to Reavis Ranch road turnoff. Today these road surface treatments have all eroded away.

From Mesquite Creek, the second crossing after Tortilla Creek, you begin to climb.  Seven miles from Tortilla Flat you will see a sign marked ‘Fish Creek Hill.’  There is a beautiful rest area recently constructed at this site.

It was Fish Creek Hill that struck fear into the hearts of teamsters and tourists as they began their descent of this notorious grade. The roadway down Fish Creek Hill is a 10% grade. The road is still narrow, single lane and with sheer cliffs. Since 1906 automobiles have been tested on Fish Creek Hill for power.  Professional filmmakers and photographers still find Fish Creek spectacular for filming.

Once you descend the hill, about eight-tenths of a mile from Fish Creek Bridge, on the right side of the road you will see the site of the old Fish Creek Lodge. All that remains today are a few concrete footings and a stone cistern.

The lodge burned on January 6, 1929, ending an era on the Apache Trail.  The lodge has served as a halfway station for tourist since the construction of Roosevelt Dam.  Beyond the lodge site you will cross another steel bridge then you will travel along the course of Lewis and Pranty Creek until you arrive at the Arizona State Highway Yard and the IV Ranch. 

At the top of the divide, on the right side of the road, is a sign directing your attention to the Reavis Ranch Trail Head. This trail leads to a beautiful high mountain valley deep in the Superstition Wilderness. Elisha Marcus Reavis once occupied this valley. He was known better as the “Hermit of Superstition Mountain.”  Reavis lived in the valley from 1874 until his death in 1896. He grew vegetables and packed them to the many mining towns around the area.  After Reavis died John J. Fraser moved into the valley and ran cattle.  Fraser sold out to William J. Clemans in 1909. Clemans and his sons operated the ranch until 1946.

It was 1910 when a group of Mesa entrepreneurs thought they could promote the qualities of the Reavis Valley to residents of the Salt River Valley.

This group started selling lots in the pines south of the Reavis Ranch to provide valley residents a relief from the hot summers. They promised to build a road from the Apache Trail to the Reavis Valley, a distance of 12 miles.  They named their resort Pineair.  The resort failed and the road was finally completed in 1947, for another reason. The road serviced a cattle operation not a resort in the pines. This service road was closed in 1967.

The Reavis Valley’s greatest claim to fame has to be when it was selected as the site of the first Roosevelt Council Boy Scouts’ Camp Geronimo in 1921. Arizona’s Governor Campbell visited Camp Geronimo the first year at the Reavis Ranch.