Route 66 in the News

Ghosts of Two Guns

2009-03-22 19:46:13

TWO GUNS, Ariz. - As drivers head East and West on Interstate 40, the majority of travelers have never noticed the ghost town of Two Guns eroding away in the desert.

It sits abandoned just south of the busy freeway. Two Guns is about 30 miles east of Flagstaff and 25 miles west of Winslow, AZ. Trapped in time--between these two cities--are the remains of what was once a very popular Arizona travel attraction and tourist stop from the 1930’s to the 1960’s.

The town was originally called Canyon Lodge since its location was near the notorious Diablo Canyon. When the National Trail Highway was later renamed Route 66, the town’s name would be changed as well. From that point in time the small tourist Mecca was officially renamed Two Guns. Rumors say Two Guns was named after a local resident nicknamed “Two Guns Miller.”

Two Guns flourished in the 1940’s. The tourist haven along the popular Route 66 sported a gas station, café, souvenir shop, and had accommodations for an overnight stay. Later a desert zoo was added to the complex with almost every beast and bird native to Arizona. Mountain Lions, panthers and bob cats were housed in cages that clung to the rim and north side of the canyon wall.

When I-40 bypassed Two Guns, its popularity slowly faded into the background. The fast, non-stop flow of traffic on the new super highway kept the tourism away. The stone buildings became a part of the desert once again. The abandoned zoo and ruins of the town sit quietly near the old Route 66 Highway Bridge that crosses Canyon Diablo.

Nikki, Shiela and I decided to explore Two Guns on a July summer day. We carefully followed a dirt road that led us to the crossing of the old Route 66 Bridge. We stopped the truck and stepped out to take a look at the condition of the bridge and roadway. There were gaps on each side of the bridge where safety rails were missing. The bridge seemed very narrow to today’s standards. We noticed a jeep in the distance close to the ruins—so we figured if the jeep could make it, Shiela’s Nissan truck could get across too. I remember holding my breath as we slowly inched our way along the forgotten span of concrete.

Once across the bridge, we continued driving toward the abandoned city and wildlife zoo. The owner of the jeep saw us and returned to his vehicle to get a bottle of water. I chose to chat with the gentleman and get information and the history of Two Guns. Meanwhile, Shiela and Nikki wandered down some of the old narrow trails on the side of the rocky hill. They saw where the old wire cages and animal pens from the zoo were dug into the side of the cliff.

The hiker told us of Indian caves along the cliffs where skeleton remains were discovered by treasure hunters. They sold the skulls as souvenirs to early tourists. I asked if the town was known to be haunted. The man did confirm a man was shot and murdered at the site due to a conflict between business partners. This confirmed the disturbing emotions I was feeling in my mind.

The hiker headed out in his jeep to find the Canyon Diablo town site—but not before giving me the directions to use at a later date. We walked around the complex exploring what was left of the old gas station and souvenir shop. The desert winds blew ghostly whispers past our ears. Then, we posed for a few pictures on the steps of the lookout tower that once stood tall and proud just as many bygone tourists had done time and again before us. I could almost catch the aroma of leather moccasins and rubber tomahawks in the air.

~Debe Branning,


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