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Arizona Route 66

Route 66 and
the Pine Country

Arizona Route 66


Bellemont, Arizona - Highest Town on Route 66

Bellemont, Arizona has the distinction of being the highest town on old Route 66 with an elevation of 7,130 feet above sea level. The small town of Bellemont was named for Belle Smith, daughter of the superintendent of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, F. W. Smith in 1882. Before that time it was know as Volunteer in honor of an 1863 militia camp at the site. The springs found in the area were called Volunteer, and provided a reliable water stop for weary travelers long before Route 66 came through.

Pine Breeze Inn has had Better Days
Pine Breeze Inn once had better days

The railroad took advantage of the springs and built two large water tanks to supply the trains that ran along the 35th parallel here. In the arid San Francisco Peaks country this was an important stop, and saved the railroad the long eighty-mile trip to the Colorado River for refills.

1941 Alignment of Route 66 at Bellemont
Route 66 ends at Interstate-40 in the distance

During World War II the Navajo Army Depot was located at Bellemont and was one of the largest storage sites for the Pacific Theater. It still remains today and is used by the Army National Guard. The large expanse of the base with all its buildings, many abandoned, can easily be seen from the Interstate. When Jack Rittenhouse passed this way back in 1946 he mentions that Bellemont contained a store, post office and two gas stations but no other accommodations.
Whiting Brothers established a gas station and motel in east Bellemont sometime after Jack Rittenhouse came through. They used wood from powder boxes taken from the Navajo Army Depot to build the motel section of their establishment. The ruins of the old Whiting Brothers gas station and motel are slowly returning to the earth; a few more winters and they will be but a pile of rubble.

Whiting Brothers Gas Station and Motel at Bellemont

Bellemont Cabins

I was stationed at the Navajo Army Depot briefly in the mid 1980's and Bellemont was my first taste of old Route 66 as a bygone highway. I was intrigued by the old ruins and only wish I had taken pictures of them back then. There was a really fine old abandoned wood frame garage still standing then, more cabins by the tracks and Whiting Brothers was in a lot better shape. Time has taken its toll on the Route 66 establishments of Bellemont.

 

Brannigan Park on the Old 1921 Alignment

The earliest alignment of what would become Route 66 ran through Brannigan Park and over Fortynine Hill. This was the highest point of Route 66, topping out at a whopping 7,425 feet above sea level. This narrow, winding road presented special hazards to the early Route 66 traveler, especially in the winter. Brannigan Park businesses closed when Route 66 was moved south in 1941 to avoid the climb over the pass. Brannigan Park is a beautiful area today with grassy meadows, and tall stands of pine and aspen. I would bet that a drive through here in late fall is spectacular with all the fall colors.

1921 Alignment and Brannigan Park

 

Parks by any Other Name is Still Parks...Sort Of

Parks has had several names in its hundred-year history. And some of those names didn't last very long either. Originally it was called Rhodes when the first post office opened in 1898. That name lasted for all of a day. Someone crossed out Rhodes and scribbled in "Maine" in honor of the famous battleship sunk in Havana Harbor a month earlier. The name stuck. The town of Maine was located near the railroad tracks where a boxcar was used as the first depot and post office. The lumber industry provided the economic base for the town with its sawmill. When the first highway came through, the town was relocated two miles east.

Parks General Store
Parks General Store Today

A man named Parks opened a new store at the site and began handing out the mail. It was about this time, in 1907, that the U.S. Postal Service realized that the citizens had changed the name of the town from Rhodes to Maine. It only took the post office about ten years, but they finally made Maine the official name of the town. Unfortunately, no sooner had they done this that they found out there was already another Maine in the Territory, so another name had to be found. For want of any better name the post office designated the town as Parks in honor of the storekeeper.

1921 Alignment at Parks

If you look really close through the trees, about a hundred feet or so from the 1931 alignment you can see the 1921 alignment of
Route 66.

1931 Alignment at Parks

This is another beautiful stretch of high country highway. On the east side of Parks, just before you get to the old Parks general store you can find three alignments of Route 66 side by side. Route 66 into Parks is the old 1941 alignment; in the forest near an Auto Tour sign is the 1931 alignment which is now a walking trail. About a half mile walk down the road is an old springhouse that once provided water to a camp located here in the hey day of Route 66. It's a great walk if you have the time.

Forest Service Campground Spring House at Parks

Photographs taken May 2001


Click on an area or city of Route 66 on the map below to take a cyber tour of that section of the  Mother Road

Travel Cyber Route 66 in Arizona

Go West on Route 66

NAVIGATION NOTE: Buckle up and hold on to your mouse! These pages are arranged like the map above. I have set up this site as if you were traveling from EAST to WEST, much like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. You can click on the Route 66 shields to "travel" the Mother Road in either direction though. Clicking West Route 66 or East Route 66 will take you to the next town or area on the map in that direction. Or you can select any shield below to take you to that specific state.

Go East on Route 66

To Williams

To Flagstaff

 

Select the Route 66 State to Visit

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