Some time ago I mentioned a ghost town called Canyon Diablo. I touched on its inception for the building of a railroad bridge and the outlaw element that frequented its saloons and gambling halls.
In doing a little research, I found that the region was well traveled by the Spanish as early as the 16th century. Legend says that their mules were too overloaded with silver, and they dumped some in the vicinity. That gets the treasure hunters aroused. Sadly, it’s four hundred years later and not much of it has shown up.
Although you might not find silver in the canyon, you’ll see other treasures. There are hundreds of inscriptions on the stone walls from mountain men and explorers who passed through the area. One actually reads Kilroy was here (kidding).
When the railroad commissioned that a bridge be built across the canyon, a small town sprouted up. Canyon Diablo, as it was known, became a freighting hub and a veritable den of sin. Sporting fourteen saloons with colorful names like Road To Ruin and Name Your Pizen, one could find libations to sooth the weary soul. After that, if you were still in need of soothing, there was always Clabberfoot Annie’s house of ill-repute.
If any of you have watched the AMC television series Hell On Wheels, this is what I imagine Canyon Diablo may have been like. Maybe less puddles.
It was such a rough place that reputable lawmen didn’t last long. The first one pinned the badge on 3 o’clock, and five hours later they were burying him. It would appear that whenever the law became too annoying to the criminal enterprise, they would fit him with concrete shoes and make him sleep with the fishes. Okay…that last part was the New York in me.
After the bridge was completed, Canyon Diablo’s existence relied solely on freighting for a few years. With outlaws robbing them blind, the freighters pulled up stakes. Eventually, the 2,000 inhabitants moved on to greener pastures, leaving a cemetery and a few structures.
During the heyday of Route 66, an entrepreneur named Miller built a zoo and a few buildings at the site to lure in tourists. He named it Two Guns, and it was quite the roadside attraction. Sadly, Two guns is now a ghost town, on top of another ghost town. Ruins from both historic places are still there, and worth a visit. Make a point to swing by on your way to Flagstaff and visit one of the roughest, toughest towns of the American West.
If you would like to read an interesting story regarding Canyon Diablo’s past, click here.