Route 66 Side Trip

Route 66 Side Trip

Padre Canyon Bridge

Route 66 Side Trip

Great old Route 66 Bridge crossing Padre Canyon near Twin Arrows, AZ

Padre Canyon Bridge in 1917
Padre Canyon Bridge in 1917
(Biennial Report of the State Engineer 1917)

Padre Canyon Bridge in 2001
Padre Canyon Bridge July 2001


Aerial Shot of Padre Canyon

On July 5, 2001 I had the pleasure of accompanying Route 66 chronicler Scott Piotrowski of 66 Productions and noted Route 66 photographer Peter Harpin on an expedition to explore Padre Canyon near Twin Arrows. Our goal was to check out the great old bridge that spans that canyon. I had not known of this fine relic of yesteryear until Peter had suggested we explore the area. The bridge cannot be seen from the Interstate, though it is very close to it, because it is around a bend in the canyon as the aerial photo shows. This bridge was originally built in 1914 and served Northern Arizona for 12 years before it officially became a part of Route 66 in 1926. It was used until 1937 when a new bridge was built (I-40 runs over the site of that bridge).


In its day this must have been one heck of a bridge. Unfortunately, it is a little worse for the wear. One of these days it may come tumbling down if we ever get a rip-roaring flash flood down Padre Canyon. We did notice that there was some undercutting of its foundation on one side. At least today it didn't fall down as we crossed it. Peter raced across the bridge; his reasoning was that in the event of it collapsing he would be on the other side safe and sound before he knew it. Scott on the other hand used uncommon caution while crossing the bridge as his reasoning was totally opposite that of Peter's. Scott felt that the least amount of vibration while crossing the old bridge was a good thing. Well at least today we all made the crossing in one piece...


Concrete Detail of Padre Canyon Bridge
Detail of Concrete Bridge Posts

The Padre Canyon Bridge is unique with its graceful lines and artistic construction. It was built in the days before standard highway architecture and it shows. This delightful bridge speaks of another era, one can almost imagine hearing the sound of Model T engines echoing off the canyon walls. Because of its special historical value it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Both pictures of the bridge concrete detail and overhead span are available in larger versions on my Gallery page. They'll make nice wallpaper!

Both Padre Canyon and Canyon Diablo (9 miles east) have been obstacles to the traveler in this part of Arizona since the earliest days. These two canyons break the relatively flat plain of the high desert of Northern Arizona. The Padre Canyon Bridge was a bright spot on the old Flagstaff-Winslow road. Originally built for a total cost of $7,900 it served until 1937 when a new bridge was built to accommodate higher volumes of traffic on Route 66. The new bridge was wider and eliminated several dangerous curves on the approach to the 1914 bridge. This later bridge was destroyed when the new Interstate was built, though concrete foundations can still be seen under the west bound lanes of I-40.

Relic From the Past - Padre Canyon Bridge
Still Standing After 87 Years!

1914 - 1937 Alignment of Route 66 at Padre Canyon
Pre 1937 Route 66 Alignment Approach to the Padre Canyon Bridge

Twin Arrows Trading Post Dump in Padre Canyon
Twin Arrows Trash Dump
(photo courtesy Peter Harpin)

The approach on either side of the Padre Canyon Bridge is a rough 4wd road . It can be reached from Winona, about a five mile drive, or from private property, a one mile drive, on the Twin Arrows side. Be sure to get the property owner's permission before crossing his land.  Driving along Padre Canyon and the old pre-1937 alignment we found a large trash dump. We studied the trash and judging by the style of cans and bottles at the dump we figured most of it was put here during the mid to late 1960s. The trash comes from the Twin Arrows Trading Post and is typical of what you would expect to find from a service station and trading post of that time. This trading post was in operation from the 1960s through early 1990s and serviced travelers on the new Interstate. It just closed a few years ago.

While exploring the canyon near the bridge we found a hubcap poking out of the sediment from previous flash floods. Using sticks we found (we didn't have any digging tools with us) we attempted to dig it out of the silt and rocks. Eventually we used Peter's jack handle to help with the "excavation". It was so wedged in the sediment that it took well over an hour to remove. Then what did we do? We left it there under the bridge!

Infamous Hubcap Adventure...

11:00 AM     Padre Canyon at Twin Arrows     05 July 2001

Old Hub Cap Near Bridge

Documenting the Hubcap Experience

Peter Harpin Offers Moral Support to Jon
(Scott's assistant).

Scott Piotrowski Documents
the Hubcap Excavation.

Excavating the Hubcap

I think it was Peter who spied a piece of metal in the debris below the bridge which upon closer inspection turned out to be an old hubcap buried in rock and sand, or I should say wedged tightly between rocks and sand. And I also think it was Peter who suggested we dig it out. Of course we didn't have any digging tools with us and I think it was Peter once more who suggested we use some twigs and sticks for that purpose. Peter was extremely helpful; he gave us so much moral support in this endeavor.

Just Joking

Take this exit to return to Route 66 at Twin Arrows

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