On our way home from Clifton we decided to do something different. Fred’s mom has this thing when she traveled she did not like to go home the same way she came so a different route was in order. OMG!!!
Had I know what I was in for we would have taken the same route home, (not really but don’t tell Fred lol). The Black Hills Byway is a 21 mile “road” through the Black Hills, which is the northern end of the Peloncillo Mountain. The road was build by prisoners between 1914 and 1920 and along the way there are grave sites where prisoners died or were killed trying to escape. There are a number of ranchers that still have cattle along the route and you will see them lying beside the road, on the road or you stop to look at a sight turn around and will have a cow standing beside you. It was really a treat at times and others a shock. They tell you at the kiosk that the road will take you back into time and to image yourself as one of the rugged pioneers of those times. They tell you to allow at least two hours driving time one way, not including any stops you may make, to have enough gas, water and other provision for your trip as there is no services along the way. Oh yea and the average speed limit is 20 mph. Guess I should have taken my first clue from that – lol This area also will lead you in the Gila Box Canyon down to the Gila River.
The first sites we see were just wonderful so we decided to continue the trip before we knew it we were to far along to turn back. From here we were looking back toward Clifton, Morenci, and the mine off in the distance. As you can see the road is a dirt/gravel road and is so the entire 21 miles.
Pictures just cannot do justice to the beauty that you see everywhere you look as things were just incredible plus it was as great clear day with the sun shining so you could see for miles.
As we traveled along off in the distance you could see an old railroad trestle. This is an abandoned railroad trestle from the Morenci Southern Railroad, which no longer exist. This track was used in the 1900 to transport passengers and freight between Guthrie and Morenci until 1922.
The first stop we came to was near the Old Safford Bridge and a primitive camping area know as Owl Creek Campground. This area is over the Gila River there is a picnic area where you can launch raft, kayaks and such on the Gila River to go to the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area. This Bridge is also on the National Register of Historic Place.
The CCC through the years have completed repairs and additions along the Byway to preserve and protect it. Note you will see rock spreader dikes that form a network of walls to help prevent erosion of the steep hillside. We saw these all along the way and they were really neat to see. In some places there were wildlife sitting on the walls but of course as I got ready to take the picture they would disappear.
The next major stop you came to had you looking back over the Morenci Mine. Here there are exhibits that explained the area to you and development of the mine.
The drive to this point has been fairly easy and has been enjoyable. The road itself at time is very steep and maybe only one to one and one-half car widths but luckily we have not encountered any cars coming from the other direction. We finally reached the top, and I really don’t know what the elevation was as I did not find anything that shown it nor anything that state what it was.
At the top is Guthrie Peak Rd and towers that belong the the FAA that boost high frequency signals allowing pilots to speak with communication facility in Prescott. It also provides navigational aid for pilots flying between Phoenix and Albuquerque so we were fairly high I would say – lol.
The way down to the Safford area was just simply scary, the road was a lot of hair-pin curves and switch backs. There were no rails on the side of the road and it was just simply a straight drop off down the side of the mountain. Needless to say I had white knuckles and was holding on for dear life. The drive was beautiful when you looked out but at times I was just scared. It was a fun drive and one that I will not forget that is for sure. Glad we took it but have not desire to take it again – lol.
Here are some other pictures I took of the drive and a video of some of the easy part of the drive. Hope you enjoy our fun drive.