The Partridge Creek Bridge
The Partridge Creek Bridge
In western Arizona, not far beyond Ash Fork, is a very special remnant of Rt. 66 that was built in the 1920’s. Though cracked and crumpled, the old red asphalt can still be driven several miles back east towards the distant mountains.
Along the road are discarded items that were tossed from car windows long before “Do Not Liter” signs appeared, as well as occasional rusted out fender or other car parts from those that could make it no further. Even one fairly intact skeleton of a 1930’s era Ford, abandoned and left for dead, remains as a testament to the rigors of automobile travel in those days.
A few miles down the road, seemingly held in place by a large elm tree growing through its base, is the lovely Partridge Creek bridge. Also built in the 1920’s and still drivable, it provided the first dependable crossing of Partridge Creek. A concrete culvert had been built earlier, but the crossing was still difficult or impossible after a hard rain, and travelers often had to wait a day or more for the water to recede before crossing.
In those days, traveling the rugged and unmaintained western roads was a challenge, and sometimes even dangerous. It was a long way between towns and travel was slow, so every car was well supplied with food and camping equipment, and traveling with others heading in the same direction was always advisable.
My dad drove from Oklahoma to Los Angeles and back several times in the 1920’s when the road was dirt all the way. Few people made such long automobile trips in those days, and they were always an adventure. A story he told me of one of these early trips was of his crossing of Partridge Creek before the bridge was built.
He arrived at the crossing late one day after a heavy rain and stopped to camp for the night with a few others headed west. While the women prepared the evening meal, the men sat around and shared tales of their travels and talked of the things men talk about.
Soon a campfire was blazing, and one man appeared with his guitar and another with his banjo. One man brought a small metal tub to use as a drum, and another brought a washboard. Dad joined in with his harmonica and soon everyone was gathered around the fire singing and enjoying the music and camaraderie. The Arizona desert came alive that night with the sounds of happy people, all glad to be sharing the night with other travelers.
By morning the water had receded, repairs were made to the crossing, and everyone worked together to get the cars to the other side. Then the little group continued west together, glad for the mutual support and companionship.
Today, remains of the old culvert and the crossing can still be seen just north of the bridge, as can the original dirt road approaching the crossing from the east. And on the higher ground above the creek where these and other adventurous travelers camped, the ground is still littered with flattened and rusted tin cans, broken bottles and dishes, and occasionally a piece of old clothing, sometimes with the buttons still attached. And the old bridge still stands as lovely as ever.
Enjoying the peace and quiet among the pinions and junipers above the crossing, it is easy to imagine both the hardships and joys that were experienced in the early days along this historic road. And watching the cars and trucks frantically racing along I-40 in the distance, it is easy to believe that, in spite of the difficulties, travel in those days was far more peaceful and enjoyable than it is today.
To visit this wonderful old bridge, take the Crookton exit (139) west of Ashfork, turn left and cross over I-40, then turn left on the frontage road. In a little over a mile the road splits and the main road makes a sweeping right turn. At this junction go straight ahead onto the old pavement. The bridge is three miles ahead.