Two Guns, Arizona
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 that road was designated as U.S. Highway 66, and 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 that had been part of a raid on Navajo land and were and 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.
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.
The Apache Death Cave (link)
Two Guns, Arizona by Gladwell Richardson (link)
For the American Guide (link)