Coincidentally, the same year that I discovered the historic
Beale Wagon Road also happens to be the Beale Wagon Road’s 150th Anniversary! I was excited to see that historian Jerry Snow, a docent at the Museum of Northern Arizona, was going to be presenting a free lecture and slide show about the Beale Wagon Road at 7:00 pm on June 9, at . The park grounds closed at 5:00 pm, but the gates re-opened at 6:30 for guests to attend the presentation. Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
I was surprised at how many visitors turned out for this topic – the audience contained at least 40 people. However, most of them were older retirees. Don’t young people care about history? There was only one other child there besides our three, and she appeared to be the park ranger’s daughter. We ended up way in the back which made it a little difficult to hear the speaker (no microphone) and see the slides (especially those with words), but that was okay because we were right next to a side door where Jon, Josh, and the little girl could go out into a courtyard and walk around when they got bored.
There were two previous federal expeditions through this area (Sitgreaves in 1851 and Whipple in 1853-54). Nevertheless, the story of Beale and his unique expedition is a most fascinating one, with long-lasting historical significance. Here is a brief overview:
In 1857, the War Department decided to look for an alternative route to
A secondary objective of Beale’s mission was to test the feasibility of using camels in the American Southwest as pack animals. Camels were well suited to the arid desert, they were capable of traveling for days without water, carried much heavier loads than mules, and could thrive on coarse forage that other animals wouldn’t touch. Beale’s camel driver Hadji Ali (Hi Jolly) later lived in western
As for the Beale survey party, in September of 1857 they passed through what is now
Some homesteaders did come to the
If you can afford $265 per person, you can join Jerry Snow for a series of three day-long guided field trips to visit remaining sections of the original Beale Wagon Road that are still visible between Leupp and Seligman, AZ. (The next trip is scheduled for October 2007; see www.mnaventures.org/day-trips_beale-wagon.html.) Otherwise, you can do a little research and exploring on your own to discover Beale’s trail, some portions of which are travelable by car and others which are only accessible by foot. The following references will provide a good start:
A Guide to the
www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai/recreation/trails/wil_beale.shtml (Beale Wagon Road Historic Trail #31, printable handout and trail guide from the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest.)
P.S. Another clue as to the whereabouts of the old Beale Trail is the El Paso Natural Gas pipeline. Mr. Snow mentioned that whenever he’s out searching for the Beal Trail, he often comes across a natural gas line. We noticed that, too, on our scouting expeditions!