From Apache Junction we headed east, out to Tortilla Flat. An old camp ground for prospectors, stagecoach stop, camp for the workers carving out the road and long-time tourist destination. Population 6.
The makers of the road, from the Tortilla Flat Museum:
Construction of the road began in 1903. Crews worked at both ends building towards each other. Nearly 400 Pima and Apache men worked on the road and later the dam.
Severe thunderstorms washed out sections of the road from time to time causing setbacks. However the crews prevailed, surmounting some of the most difficult construction challenges known up to that time.
Apaches were to do the roughest work on the road to the dam. And article read: ‘Where water is 4 miles distant and white men won’t labor, Indians will work for cheaper wages and will walk for the water.’
War had raged through this basin between 1871 and 1875 as General Crook fought to force the Apaches into the reservations.
After short, brutal wars with the government a Military Reserve of 900 square miles was established in 1871 to accommodate both groups. However, this Reserve was rescinded by Presidential Order in 1875 and all of the people, Yavapai and Apache alike, numbering around 1,700, were forcibly marched to the San Carlos agency east of Phoenix. By the late 1890′s the reservation system was breaking down and beginning in 1900 the survivors of the removal began drifting back to their home country in small family groups. In 1909 a postage stamp reservation was established in Camp Verde, followed by additional parcels in Middle Verde, Clarkdale and Rimrock. Today the descendants of these stalwart Yavapai and Apache people live in communities totaling about 600 acres.
— Intertribal Council of Arizona, Inc.
This explains the shift from warriors to exploited workers, part of the economics of oppression and broken treaties.
After Tortilla Flat, State Route 88 shortly turns to dirt (a surprise, that, I didn’t do my homework and didn’t realise any state routes were still dirt). It is well graded, but very narrow in places as it winds through a spectacular canyon wilderness. I was pretty glad to get to the bottom, I think my passenger was even happier. I honored the men who built it. Definitely drive it from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Dam so you get to the hug the inside of those hairpin curves and watch the views opening out beneath you.
You can get a better sense of the road looking back at it winding over the hills:
Made entirely of mortared blocks of stone and brick, Roosevelt Dam created what was in 1911 the world’s largest artificial lake – Roosevelt Lake with a million-acre-foot capacity, a depth of up to 190 feet and 89 miles of shoreline. Wrestling the 344,000 cubic yards of masonry into place in the remote, flood-prone canyon proved unexpectedly dangerous. During construction, which relied on an innovative 1,200-foot-long cable line with iron scoops that could hold 10 tons of rock and mortar, 42 men died.
—Arizona Scenic Roads
The spectacular Route 188 bridge:
I love bridges.
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