Painted Desert - Page 2
Just a short three miles to the west,
Route 66 travelers will arrive in the small town of Houck.
This small city of a little more than 1,000 people is called Ma’ii Tó
by the Navajo, meaning Coyote Water, which is the name of a local
spring. Houck was founded by an express rider carrying the mail
between Prescott, Arizona and Fort Wingate,
New Mexico. This route was an old indigenous travel corridor that
became important to colonizers in Fort
New Mexico when the U.S. Government began to remove the area
Navajo people. The first non-indigenous route in this corridor was a
wagon road on the south side of the Puerco River that connected Fort
New Mexico with
road became the “Overland Stage Road” and was in regular use by
the 1870s. It intersected with the 1858 Beale Wagon Road farther west
at Navajo Springs.
In 1874, the mail carrier,
James D. Houck,
built a trading post on the south side of the Puerco River, where he
also had a water tank, hence, the post was called Houck's Tank. The
main section of the post was an oblong red sandstone building put
together with mud and mortar. He ran sheep in the area in
addition to operating the trading post. In 1880, William Walker and
William Smith were murdered by Native Americans here. If his nearby
neighbors didn't already know, violence appeared to follow Houck as he
would make a reputation for himself in years to come.
He continued run
the post intermittently until 1885, when he moved to the Mogollon
Mountains. That very same year, he served as a representative in the
Territorial Legislature. He was serving as an Apache County Deputy
Commodore Perry Owens when the Pleasant Valley War between sheep
and cattle men erupted in the 1887. During this conflict, William
Graham was gunned down on August 17, 1887. He lived long enough to
identify Ed Tewskbury as the shooter. However, Deputy J.D. Houck would
publicly announce that he had shot and killed the man. The following
year, he was involved in the lynching of three alleged cattle
rustlers. He eventually made his way to a place north of Phoenix where
he operated a sheep ranch.
The trading post then went through several
hands, operating until 1922. At that time, the highway was moved north
of the Puerco River and when a competitor got a trading license for a
new store along the rerouted road, the owner abandoned the post.
Cowboys from a neighboring ranch used the buildings for a line camp
and ran a still there. Unfortunately, there are no remains today.
The transcontinental railroad was built through the corridor in 1881,
originally crossing from north to south of the Puerco River. A post
office was established in Houck in 1884, with J.W. Bennett as the
first postmaster. Bennett was the second owner of Houck's Trading
Post. In 1913, the wagon road (Adamana-State Line Highway) was an
alternative route of the US Old Trails Highway, which was rerouted to
the north side of the Puerco River in about 1920. After the road was
rerouted, most all businesses moved to the north side of the river.
The rerouted Old Trails Highway become part of transcontinental
automobile road US Route 66 in 1926.
Though there had been several other
trading posts in the area over the years, the one doing the most
business during the
Route 66 era was the
White Mound Trading Post, which was established in about 1924. This post
was first located north of the Allantown Bridge along the US Old
Trails Highway and owned and operated by Joseph Grubbs. At some point,
about 1933, the highway was rerouted farther north, and Grubbs moved the
store to the tract now occupied by Fort Courage, a tourist facility.
In 1934, the
Navajo Reservation Boundary Act extended the reservation boundary
south of the new store, so in 1936 Joseph Grubbs deeded the land to
the US government. However, the store evidently continued to operate
into the late 1940s and belonged to Al Frick, who also owned the
Lupton Trading Post store.
Unlike many other small towns located on Route 66, the passing traffic had little effect on the small town,
which never featured more than a trading post, gas, and groceries. The
White Mound Trading Post held Houck's post office from 1924 until
1946. In 1958, U.S. Interstate 40 came through the area, superseding
Route 66. The White Mound Trading Post closed two years later.
Then, in the 1960's, a new modern trading
post was built at the same site. Called Fort Courage, this place was
inspired by the television show F-Troop, a 1960's television series.
Over the years this stop featured a Coffee Shop, Restaurant, Gas
Station, Grocery Store, Gift Shop, and Trading Post which kept a large
selection of authentic Indian jewelry, Navajo rugs, and all types of
curios and souvenirs. It also featured motel units, a trailer park and
a campground. Today, however, Fort Courage is only a shell of its
former self, with only abandoned buildings to testify to more
Just south of Houck is the old Allentown
Bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also
called the Puerco River Bridge, it was in 1923 part of the National
Old Trails Road. The single span wooden timber bridge became a part of
Route 66 from 1926 to 1931. It is located just south of I-40, exit 351
on Indian Route 9402/Allentown Road.
Just past Houck, at the Pine Springs Exit #346, you can follow an old
alignment on the north frontage road, which crosses a box canyon,
passes by the ruins of the Old Querino Canyon Trading Post and over
the Querino Canyon Bridge. However, be aware that the north frontage
road soon turns to dirt and can become impassible during rains.
Querino Canyon Bridge
The Querino Canyon Bridge is picturesquely situated over a rugged and
beautiful canyon just outside Houck,
Arizona. Designed by the Arizona
Highway Department, the bridge is a representative example of early
highway truss design: 77 feet long, 20 feet wide, and comprised of a
concrete-decked steel trestle with three Pratt deck trusses supported
by steel piers. Concrete abutments support the bridge from below and
steel lattice guardrails typical of the period line the roadway.
The State built the bridge in 1929 as part of a grand rehabilitation
and relocation of Route 66 across northern
Arizona. The project
included several bridges, drainage construction, and at least 25 miles
of roadway. The largest of these multiple efforts, the bridge over Querino Canyon formed an integral link on one of America’s primary
This section of the highway became a county road during the 1960s
after construction of Interstate 40. The Querino Canyon Bridge remains
intact, carrying local traffic on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It
was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
The Querino Canyon Bridge crosses Querino Canyon 3.8 miles southwest
as part of Old Highway 66.
As you head on through Sanders and Chambers
to Navajo, you begin to see signs of the Painted Desert,
with its multi-colored sand formations and tremendous views. The
Painted Desert covers almost 100,000 acres, stretching from the
Petrified Forest to the Grand
Canyon. There are times that even the sky above this colorful park
glows with the pink and purple hues of the desert.
Continued Next Page
Legends of America
- The Canyon State -
Arizona's storied past reaches back
thousands of years and you will enjoy it's tall mountain ranges, swift
rivers, grasslands, sand dunes, and cactus forests. Experience the many tales
Ghost Towns, Old West Forts,
and Route 66,
to interesting people including
Native Americans, and More.