Monday, November 16, 2015

Crozier Canyon and Truxton Canyon -- Where the Waters Flow

Early explorers figured out that there were only two good routes from eastern Arizona to the Colorado River.  The southern route ran through the harsh Arizona desert and followed the Gila River to its confluence with the Colorado just north of Yuma.  This was the route chosen by the Southern Pacific.

The northern route crossed the treeless plains of the Colorado Plateau from New Mexico to the snow-covered volcanoes overlooking Flagstaff, then followed a series of natural passes through sandstone buttes and towering cliffs to the Colorado River and California.  This was the route chosen by the Atlantic and Pacific.

Eastbound in Truxton Canyon, Approaching Crozier Canyon, with Tall Trees in Canyon Floor
One of the most interesting places on this northern route is Crozier Canyon, filled with tall trees, even though the surrounding landscape is dry and barren, supporting little more than cacti and scrub grass.  

Eastbound in Crozier Canyon with Cactus in Foreground Above Spring-Fed Stream and Trees
The Atlantic and Pacific built through here in 1880 - 1883, following the old Beale Road, a wagon trail descending the Grand Wash Cliffs, one of the western stair steps off the Colorado Plateau.  Beale named a spring in the canyon Truxton.  This is the source of a dependable water flow, even in the driest months, and of the trees that look so completely out of place.
Eastbound Entering  Crozier Canyon, Crossing Truxton Wash
Westbound Entering Crozier Canyon with Eastbound in Distance
Truxton Wash flows through two canyons -- the upper and narrower Crozier Canyon, and the lower and wider Truxton Canyon.  In 1883, the Atlantic and Pacific installed a pump and tank in Crozier Canyon to feed its steam engines.

Eastbound Climbing Grade in Truxton Canyon
My first visit to Crozier Canyon was on a cold February day.  Remnants of a previous light snow still coated portions of the canyon walls, but in the deep and narrow valley, water flowed smoothly.  I approached the canyon from the west and, not knowing any better, climbed down into the canyon bottom and wadded across the water, which was surprisingly mild.  I quickly learned routes into the canyon that did not require getting my feet wet!
Meet in Crozier Canyon Beside Tall Trees in Valley Floor
The predominant color of the canyon and surrounding environs is a dark lava brownish-red.  The canyon, named for state legislator Sam Crozier, is most brilliant in late afternoon, when the rocks appear to come alive with fire.
Eastbound in Crozier Canyon at Dusk

Eastbound in Setting Sun

Westbound in Crozier Canyon at Dusk
Average annual rainfall here is 10.87 inches, with the bulk coming in July and August during the monsoon season.  Annual snowfall is 2.4 inches, occurring from November through early April.  The coldest month of the year is January, with an average minimum temperature of 27.8 degrees; the hottest is July, with an average high of 96.8.
Meet in Canyon
Westbound in Crozier Canyon
Westbound in Crozier Canyon -- Aubrey Cliffs in Far Background
Westbound in Full Length of Canyon
Crozier Canyon is a truly marvelous place to take railroad photographs, because the traffic in both directions is heavy, and the scenery is spectacular.  The better shots require significant hiking and climbing, but don't the best things in life require effort?  
Eastbound in Crozier Canyon
These images give, I hope, some indication of the natural beauty of this area.
Westbound in Canyon
The original Atlantic and Pacific line through Crozier Canyon was single track and constructed at the level of the wash.  I have seen photographs of that line in the early 20th century, showing a canyon devoid of trees.  My speculation, completely unsupported, is that when the line was built, the trees were removed.  The line was relocated to higher ground after a flood, and my guess is that the trees then began to grow back.  In 1922-23, the railroad installed a second track.  The line today still follows the 1922-23 relocation.
Another Westbound
Passing sidings on the original single-track line west of Peach Springs were named Cherokee, Truxton, Crozier, Valentine and Hackberry.  In the late nineteenth century, Truxton on the railroad map was at the location now called Crozier.  Later the railroad applied Truxton to a siding at the eastern edge of the Canyon.  
Westbound Entering Truxton Canyon
In the 1950's, some entrepreneurs built a cafe and gas station between Peach Springs and Crozier on Route 66 and named it Truxton.  Detailed highway maps still call this location Truxton.  The last time I drove through there, both a gas station and cafe were still standing, though they appeared to be closed.
Westbound Running Compass South Beside Old Route 66
Arizona maintains the portion of old U.S. Route 66 through this area.  The highway does not run through Crozier Canyon, instead climbing the mesa to the north.  The road does run through the larger Truxton Canyon, paralleling the tracks for several miles as the line runs north/south. 
Meet Beside Old Route 66
Westbound Beside Old Route 66
When I have been in Truxton Canyon, the most common traffic on the old road has been swarms of motorcyclists, like migrating birds or May flies.  I have never understood the attraction of a motorcycle, but then again, few understand the attraction of railroad photography.

Motorcycles on Old Route 66
For my money, the best time for photography in Crozier and Truxton Canyons is late October through early November.  Winter weather can be harsh, as can summers.  In the fall, the sun is lower in the southern sky, allowing one to climb the towering mesas and shoot down into the canyons.  Photographs from the north sides of the canyons, on the other hand, can only be taken in warmer months when the sun sets north of due west.
Eastbound Climbing Grade Toward Crozier Canyon
Westbound Exiting Crozier Canyon
Truxton Canyon is easily accessible from old Route 66.  Crozier Canyon can be approached on the west only through a primitive road somewhat better than a cow trail.  Even that road only takes one to the western entrance to the canyon.  From there, a significant hike is required to reach good locations for photography.  Shots from above the canyon require climbing, though nothing dangerous.  
Eastbound in Truxton Canyon
Meet Above Foliage in Truxton Wash
If you desire to climb all the way to the top of the south mesa, I recommend approaching it from east end of the canyon, where the grade is manageable.  If you try to approach from the west, you will be forced to scale sheer rock walls 30-40 feet high, which will require climbing equipment and expertise, except for one small break which can be surmounted with hands.  But this spot is difficult to locate and can still be intimidating.
Westbound Exiting Crozier Canyon
Eastbound in Truxton Canyon Approaching Crozier Canyon
To approach the east end of Crozier Canyon, however, one must enter from the west, because all roads in from the east have been gated.
Westbound in Truxton Canyon
One other word:  when coming down the Crozier Canyon mesa on the western side, do not climb into the wash bottom, wade across the stream and hike up the other side.  If you do, you will discover a thicket of large bushes or small trees with thorn-covered branches.  I don't know what these plants are called, but they grow so low to the ground that the only way through them is to crawl on your belly.  If you raise you head or other extremity even an inch or two, you will gash yourself on the thorns.
Westbound Exiting Truxton Canyon
In Truxton Canyon, where water from Truxton Spring flows after leaving Crozier Canyon, there are fewer trees.  Instead, the water course is lined with cane and other vegetation.  Climbing through this thicket is as taxing as through the cane forest along the Cimarron River at Curtis Hill in Oklahoma.

Eastbound in Truxton Canyon, Showing Cane Field Along Truxton Wash
Eastbound in Truxton Canyon Beside Old Route 66
Westbound in Truxton Canyon
Eastbound in Truxton Canyon Approaching Crozier Canyon
The last time I drove old Route 66 through Truxton Canyon, I saw a number of properties for sale, making me think that life is difficult along the wash.  Nonetheless, the water was flowing that day, the sky was brilliant blue and the only sound was an approaching eastbound train struggling against the grade.  

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  1. what year? current? this clarifies a bit some pictures I took at the first available pullout_ going east- the tracks were further off in the distance; seems to be a village out there though; across the tracks ( just trying to label my pictures ) All this is a few miles before Valentine. I remember the train going up the steep grade as in your pictures; thanks !!

  2. Wonderful photos and commentary. Do you have information regarding the track mile posts designating the west and east borders of the Hualapai Indian reservation? In other words, how far east and west from Peach Springs does the track run on tribal land? Thank you.

    1. I'm sorry, but I don't have that mile post information. Wish I did.