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Route 66 - Oatman, Az

Sitgreaves Pass

Sitgreaves, an officer in the Corps of Topographical Engineers, was directed to perform a survey of the Zuni and Colorado Rivers by the commanding officer of the Corps, Col. J. J. Abert, on Nov. 18th, 1850. The three-page letter of instructions, signed by Albert, directs Sitgreaves to go to Santa Fe "as soon as practicable," find the headwaters of the Zuni, follow it to the Colorado, and thence to the Gulf of California. If the Zuni flows into the Gila, Sitgreaves was to pursue that course to the junction with the Colorado.


Sitgreaves Pass

Sitgreaves assembled his expedition in the spring and summer of 1851, and departed from the Zuni Pueblo on September 24. They proceeded across northern New Mexico and Arizona, observing the countryside, flora and fauna, and Indian inhabitants in detail, passing roughly along the present path of Route 66 and Interstate 40. On November 9 the party reached the Colorado River. William H. Goetzmann says of the expedition in his 'Exploration and Empire,' "The Sitgreaves Expedition, which also made significant contributions to archeology and ethnology, marched along the Zuni and the Little Colorado westward across Arizona, past the San Francisco Mountains, to the Mojave Villages on the main Colorado.

"Despite the presence of the skilled mountain man guide Antoine Leroux, the group ran afoul of Indians and suffered a number of casualties, including Leroux himself, who was so badly wounded by a Yampais arrow that he was eventually unable to function as guide...not only was the country rough and the water scarce, but the Indians were decidely hostile". The manuscript of Sitgreaves' account gives a brief summation of the activities of the party up to their departure from Zuni, a day-by-day diary of their progress across New Mexico and Arizona, and a summation of their trip down the Colorado to Ft. Yuma, which they reached on November 30.

In September, 1851, Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves of the Topographical Engineers continued the reconnaissance of New Mexico. Seeking the westward wagon road that Simpson believed feasible from Albuquerque to the Colorado and perhaps all the way to Los Angeles, Sitgreaves, Lieutenant John G. Parke, Richard Kern, and an infantry escort went around the San Francisco Mountains and across the great Colorado River to California. With nineteen years of service, thirteen of them in the Topographical Engineers, Sitgreaves made a good teacher for Parke, also a topog but in the West for the first time. Although harrassed by Mohave and Yuma warriors, the party reconnoitered the slightly known country between Canyon de Chelly and the Colorado. Sitgreaves disliked the Southwest even more than Simpson and, in his twenty-page report, summed up the 250-mile expanse between Bill Williams Mountain and San Diego in a single sentence: "The whole country traversed from the San Francisco mountains was barren and devoid of interest."

from - NPS







"The whole country traversed from the San Francisco mountains was barren and devoid of interest."
~ Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves - 1811-1888

This pass is east of Fort Mohave and is a gap in the Black Mountains, by which Captain Sitgreaves and Mr- Beale approached the Colorado River in 1851. This gap is the only pass that exists in the portion of the range south of the Black Canon.

For nine or ten miles the road is good, and leads over a succession of gravel terraces and slopes to the base of the mountains. Soon after is reached a wide and beautiful valley which divides the Black Mountains from a high snow-capped chain, called by Lieutenant Whipple, who had seen it from the east, the Cerbat Range. A rapid descent leads through a ravine to the eastern base of the range. When nearly down the hill, the head of a creek is encountered, and half a mile from the valley the ravine spreads out for a few hundred yards, forming a snug meadow carpeted with good grass and fringed on one side by growth of willows.

History of Arizona Territory - 1884

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