Friday, May 18, 2018

Blackfeet Nation - US 89 North

US 89 ends deep in the Heart of The Blackfeet Nation hard beside Glacier National Park where Montana meets Canada on the 49th Parallel.

The Story Of The Blackfeet People is complex & compelling and can't be told in a simple post such as this.  Suffice to say The Blackfeet People once totally controlled an area from the north Canadian prairies to the south side of today's Yellowstone National Park and from The Rocky Mountain Front to The Dakotas!

The Blackfeet Nation's 1.5 million acre reservation today is a mere fleeting shadow of The People's once enormous cultural control.

Two of the many defining moments in modern Blackfeet Nation History were the infamous Two Medicine Mission boarding school and the epic, tragic June 8, 1964, flood that killed 30 Blackfeet Nation People.

The Blackfeet Nation's boundaries are now marked on all sides by both remnants of the Two Medicine Mission and the detritus of car bodies lost in the Sixty Four Flood.

Sculptor Jay Laber was tasked by Blackfeet Nation Elders & leaders to remove all the cars and trucks destroyed in the 1964 Flood, as well as to deal with remnants of the old mission.  Laber masterfully combined both essential elements into world class art works marking the entrances to The Blackfeet Nation on the North, East, South and West.

Laber's sculpture reaches deep into the human psyche to capture primal emotions and render them forever memorable in metal.  To see Laber's monumental pieces sitting astride the building blocks of an old Indian Boarding School long gone destroyed only makes the scene more powerful.  It is as if the icons of wanton cultural and physical life and death destruction have once again been reborn into new forms of Power & Knowledge for those of The Blackfeet Nation People who move forward with hope, promise and fortitude.

As we stand humbled beneath Laber's creations, we can only see a positive future ahead for The Blackfeet Nation.  Laber, by the way, is an accomplished atlatl hunter who reasons that atlatls jumped started modern North American culture!

Here are the links to all our photos of Laber's South & North Blackfeet Nation guardians:

Birch Creek:



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Intro & Status

24APR18 Status: Rather than clutter up this page with excessive narrative, we created a blog to post the status updates:

19APR18 Status: Reconnected to high speed internet yesterday so will begin processing video and photo files.

16APR17 Status: Finished US 89 as far as Alpine, WY at 4:40 PM 15APR18. Camped 20 miles west at Palisades Dam. Heading home to Idaho Falls today...50 miles farther west. Old US 89 is closed in Grand Teton NP until May 1. US 89 won't open thru Yellowstone until May either. Parts of Glacier NP rec'd over 600 inches of snow. We're going to wait until spring truly comes to the Northern Rockies before we complete driving the remainder of US 89.

14APR18 Status: Camped @ Palisade State Park south of Manti & 7 miles from geographical center of Utah. Driving old US 89 thru the Main Streets of many cities along the Wasatch Front today.

12APR18 Status: Finished driving all of US 89 in Arizona yesterday. Camped at Lone Rock beach on Lake Powell. WINDY!! Today we will be in Kanab. If we get lucky and find relatives of Dee Woolly & Dave Rust, we might spent the night there. Photo below taken at 7:40 AM from our camp a mile east of US 89 just north of the Utah line.

 On April 3, 2018, we gathered more information about Yarnell Hill and The White Spar Highway.  The above photo shows the Yarnell Hill overlook sometime before November 1933.  The bottom photo shows the same general scene on 03APR18.  Click the link for a 1:55 03APR18 video showing a portion of driving old US 89 on Yarnell Hill:

The US 89 Team project began in early October 2017. Countess hours have been spent doing online research, reading historical books and writing articles about various aspects of old and current US 89. The US 89 Team long-term goal is to thoroughly document and describe US 89 in the pre-interstate highway era from Mexico to Canada.  As of early April, US 89 Team maintains this website, a Facebook, Twitter and over a dozen active blogs.

US 89 was officially designated in 1926 extending from Nogales, Arizona, to Spanish Fork, Utah.  In 1932, additional portions were added and US 89 extended from Mexico to the Canadian border at Piegan, Montana.

In addition to various ongoing research topics, the US 89 Team plans to drive the entire old and current highway from Nogales to Piegan in 2018.  The Drive began on the Spring Equinox at 10 AM, March 20 at Mile Zero right on the Mexican Border.  A Customs & Border Protection agent escorted us into a secure zone at the old 1930's East Garita to begin The Drive.

As of March 24, The Drive was completed to Prescott, Arizona.  As of April 3, the US 89 Team is once again based in Prescott to conduct further field work at Yarnell Hill and on the historic White Spar Highway.  Another section of The Drive will soon be added from Prescott to Ash Fork and then to Flagstaff.  (US 89 and Route 66 ran together between Ash Fork and Flagstaff.)

Sometime before mid-April, US 89 Team will continue The Drive from Flagstaff through Utah and southeast Idaho to Alpine, Wyoming. We will then take a break at our Idaho Falls summer home before finishing The Drive in June when weather conditions improve in northwest Wyoming and Montana.

A link in the left margin will take you to a list of the various blogs we maintain for this project.  If you wish to support the US 89 Team project, please become a Life Member for $25.

We can be contacted at Thank you for your interest.
John Parsons, Susun McCulla & the US 89 Team Life Members, Contributors and Supporters.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Floatin' Old US 89

 Believe it or not, when US 89 was "born" in 1926, not all of the highway was a road.  Nope. A small portion of the highway was water.  The only way to cross The Colorado River was at Lee's Ferry on a boat.  Above is the only known photo (so far) that shows a early US 89-era vehicle crossing the river at what's known as the "upper" ferry.  The vehicle is a 1927 Studebaker Dictator.  The cabin and log crib in the background clearly identify the "upper" ferry. This photo was probably taken in Jun 1927 during high river flows when the "lower" ferry beach was under water.  That year, The Colorado River peaked at 127,000 cubic feet per second on July 1st. (All sources listed at end of blog post.)
 The so-called road to the "upper" ferry was known for decades as "Lee's Backbone" and even in horse and wagon days was called by drivers "the worst road they ever traveled."  In the late 1890's, another river crossing was developed to avoid the Lee's Backbone route. Traces of this so-called road (shown above)  are easily visible to modern day Lee's Ferry visitors.
 The "lower" river crossing was relatively more accessible and somewhat safer than the "upper".  It was the preferred route of old US 89 unless high spring runoff put the south beach (shown above ferry in photo) under water.  Note that both ferry crossing used a cable system.  By angling the ferry boat into the river current, the water's force carried the boat back and forth across the river.
 If the ferry ride wasn't enough tribulation, getting to and from the ferry boat was yet another trial for early US 89 motorists.  Routes to and from the river bank were barely suitable for horse drawn wagons, let along primitive early vehicles.
Lee's Ferry began in the 1870's and continued in operation until June 1928 when what's now known as Navajo Bridge construction was in full swing.  The ferry boat flipped and sunk, killing three people and forever ending perhaps the most historic aspects of Northern Arizona travel. Navao Bridge opened to vehicle traffic in January 1929 and ws dedicated in June that year.

Sources: The top photo source is:
Note that the source data file says the photo is from 1923.  That's incorrect.  The car onboard the ferry was positively identified on 06MARCH18 by experts from the Antique Automobile Club of America as a 1927 Studebaker Dictator. Photographer is unknown.

The dugway picture was taken by famed photographer Emery Kolb in the 1920's, probably about 1923.  Source:

The quote about the "worst road" comes from Page 54 of W.L. Rusho's "Lee's Ferry Desert River Crossing" (ISBN 0-9656645-1-1)

Photo of "lower" river crossing was taken by A. R. Hromatka in 1925.  Source:

Photo showing boat in back of truck is associated with a 1923 US Geological Survey trip on The Colorado River. Photo take by Lewis Ransome Freeman.  Source:

The final photo is also clearly from 1923.  Photographer is listed as P.T. Reilly but undoubtedly it was I.G. Cockroft, a USGS employee working then at Lee's Ferry. Reilly was a dedicated collector of "all things Colorado River."

Above is a photo of I.G. Cockroft show just how high the water came across the lower dugway in the high river flow of 1921.  Source Page 80 of:

(Editor's Note: Future post(s) are anticipated documenting and describing both actual so-called roads to the "upper" and "lower" ferry crossing sites.)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Colorful rocks named for a song

Most US 89 travelers well know Big Rock Candy Mountain between Marysvale and I-70 in the Sevier River Canyon.  Most travelers also know the name came from a song title.  Well, here's the full story of how that happened in the late 1920's...and a lot of other information, too.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Crossing The Colorado

Nowhere else along US 89 posed as formidable a challenge as crossing The Colorado River at Marble Canyon.  We put together an article for our History Pages which gives some background, provides additional resources & showcases old photos.  See:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Kinsleys - US 89's biggest roadside attraction

The Kinsley Ranch Resort south of Tucson at Arivaca Junction was definitely the biggest single US 89 roadside attraction from Mexico to Canada.     We put together a brief overview of Kinsleys Ranch Resort, as well as various resources for more in depth reading.