History of the Apache TrailSRP websiteandApache Junction Library

“The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have, to me, it is most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.” ~ 1911 Theodore Roosevelt

The Mesa-Roosevelt Road (known as the Apache Trail) was originally an old path. This narrow, rugged trail was converted to transport heavy equipment and supplies a distance of nearly 60 miles from the town of Mesa to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam site.

Some of the most difficult and dangerous work had to be done by hand. Almost 400 "force account" laborers were housed in six camps along the route and worked through the spring and summer. The Apache Indians provided much of this labor force, working long hours under brutal summertime conditions - conditions that required treks of up to four miles for drinking water.

Completed in 1905, the Mesa-Roosevelt Road was constructed at the cost of more than $250,000.

Apache Trail Map 1926

The first Concord stage made a run over the Mesa-Roosevelt Road on June 10, 1905. The first automobile traveling over the road from Mesa to Government Wells was on August 23, 1905. This Knox Automobile was known as the “Red Terror.” The first so called tourist group to travel over the Mesa-Roosevelt Road was on October 10, 1905. The first major accident to occur on the Mesa-Roosevelt Road occurred between Mormon Flat and Fish Creek Hill with a stagecoach. The accident occurred on November 23, 1905. The curves, steep grades, and narrowness of the Mesa-Roosevelt challenged the skill of early teamster and drivers. Even today as we drive the Apache Trail it certainly can still challenge our skill as a driver.

1915 Apache Trail

1915 Apache Trail near the future Apache Lake

The Mesa-Roosevelt Road was highly regulated during the construction of Roosevelt Dam (1906-1911), however when the construction was over the road became a favorite tourist attraction. The road was known as the Mesa-Roosevelt Road and Tonto Wagon Road between 1903-1915. Sometimes the media called the road the Roosevelt Road. Shortly after 1915 the road became known as the Apache Trail. Historians appear to agree in general the origin of the name “Apache Trail” was coined by an enterprising young entrepreneur who worked as a railroad agent for the Southern Pacific. The man’s name was E.E. Watson. Watson was trying to promote the Southern Pacific’s “Sunset Limited” as it made its way through Arizona. The Southern Pacific offered a side trip for its transcontinental passengers over the Apache Trail if they were interested. Southern Pacific had the franchise on the Apache Trail as a special side trip for their passengers.

The Apache Trail was officially dedicated as Arizona’s first historic highway on February 25, 1987, at Lost Dutchman State Park along the Apache Trail. Tourist has been traveling the Apache Trail since 1906. They have been enjoying one of the most beautiful desert highways in America. The Apache Trail is a roadway to adventure beauty and history.

Stories and history from the SRP website and Apache Junction Library

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