TWO GUNS, ARIZONA - STATION TO STATION
The sheer amount of hucksterism, fires, shootings, cultural atrocities, failed businesses, robbery and general western mayhem that have cursed this piece of desert reads like a history of Arizona itself.
Two Guns started life as Canyon Diablo and was nothing much more than a shortcut to Winslow through a canyon that flooded every year, making it impassible. Then, around 1910, a bridge was built over the canyon and it became part of the National Old Trails Road (AKA the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway) that went from New York City to San Francisco. In 1926, the southwest portion of the road was designated as U.S. Highway 66 — both the iconic Route 66 and the future Two Guns tourist attraction were born.
Assorted ruins from the history of the property still stand, most notably the zoo of Fort Two Guns built along the canyon by Harry “Indian” Miller, who advertised himself as “Chief Crazy Thunder.”
Miller also created a tourist attraction in a nearby cave that was the site of an 1878 mass execution of 42 Apaches and their horses. It had been part of a raid on Navajo land and they were burned alive by the Navajo as retribution. He called it “Mystery Cave” and created his own fake ruins — both inside the cave and above it — offering guided tours as well as a gift shop selling the bones of the dead Apaches and cold soft drinks.
Guide Note: Located thirty miles east of Flagstaff at exit 230 on I-40, look for the abandoned yellow roofed KOA on the south side of the highway to find one of the most worthwhile stops you can make between Flagstaff and Gallup.
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At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and roughshelter.com.
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THE AMERICAN GUIDE is joining STATION TO STATION for a cross-country train ride. Passing through: Arizona.
Follow your guide along the rails and see America. [Track A/G’s trip here]
This is all very close to home for me… I’ve never bothered to stop and see any of it. (But I’m going to now!)