Roads In Cave Creek Canyon

by Alden Hayes

Note: Several property owners names have changed over the years

When Stephen Reed came into Cave Creek by wagon in the fall of 1879 he wasn't breaking trail. Presumably he followed a track first used by the Army, because he spent the winter near a cavalry vedette somewhere in the vicinity of the old CCC Camp. According to Reed family tradition he spent the winter of '79- '80 extending that road up the canyon to the junction of the main and the north forks of Cave Creek where he settled on the site now occupied by the Southwestern Research Station.

By the time of Walter Neil's 1884 survey for the General Land Office the road up Cave Creek from the mouth of the canyon, and the ford a few feet downstream from the present bridge below Portal, was well established. When I came here in the spring of 1941 that road, hereafter referred to as the "old road," was still in existence and was known as "the Canyon road" and as the original road up the canyon. It went between Penny Johnson's house and the Gertsh place, then east of Junella Haynes's, just east of the little adobe tool house of Pete Miller's, right through the Miller' car port, the Rehurek living room, up the present easily identifiable lane passing just west of Fagan's and Spoffords, through the middle of the Tapps's house, then down along the side of the Ward's place thence up the canyon.

In 1920 when Lincoln and Elizabeth Gurnett bought the unsold lots of the defunct Portal Townsite and the adjacent homesteads of Fitch McCord and Emmett Powers to make their Sierra Linda Ranch, Powers retained ca. 50 acres around his house. The old road then passed the Sierra Linda barn (Fagan's) and house (Redding's) and the Powers's house (in the now empty lot partially surrounded by a dry-laid stone wall). In 1930 Powers sold what remained of his homestead to Gordon Newman who built guest cabins on the place eventually known as Cave Creek Ranch.

The Gurnett's, who had in the meantime built a large adobe poultry house (now part of Spofford's house) along the road between the McCord and Powers houses, found the increased traffic, including Newman's guests, through the middle of their ranch to be a nuisance. They petitioned the county to move the road and gave it permission to cross its land (1). No trade was made because the old road had never been condemned by the county who didn't claim ownership of it. Sometime between that date and 1934 the county built the new and current road, which left the old road just above the bridge and joined it again 2-300 feet above Newman's property, and near the entrance to the gravel pile on the old CCC grounds. The Gurnetts and subsequent owners continued to pay taxes on the land occupied by the new road.

The sharp turn for the up-canyon entry to Newman's cabins was difficult and at Newman's request the Gurnett's granted him an access - the present entrance to Cave Creek Ranch. At Gurnett's insistence Newman, and successive owners of the cabins, paid $1 a year and the proceeding was meticulously recorded by them and by A. G. Greenamyer who bought out the Gurnetts in 1941. After the purchase of Sierra Linda Ranch by Col. Barteldt in the late 1950s the "rent" was no longer collected (2).

The old road remained open, however, for many years. Sierra Linda people and, less often, employees at "Newman's Cabins," used it for its shorter run to the post office, and the ranger's kids went to school in Portal by it. After the county and the CCC replaced wire gates on the new road with cattle-guards the use of the old road fell off, as that road still required opening gates. The lower end of it was finally closed about 1948 when Greenamyer sold to Ralph Maitland the small piece of road that separated Maitland's rock house (Kuntz's) from the Cox house (now owned by Junella Haynes).

After the building of the new road, people at Newman's Cabins wishing tn go up the canyon continued to use that stretch of the old road from the current cattle-guard entrance to Cave Creek Ranch to its junction with the current road by the CCC camp. When Newman sold his place to a man named White about 1946, he kept back a little piece at its south end. About 1948 or '49 he successfUlly bid on the old CCC barracks, tore them down and used some of the salvage lumber to build a summer house that became the nucleus of the present Ward house. It was then, with knowledge and consent of the ranger (Euel Nave), that he cut the short lane now used by the Ward's as their entrance.

Originally the old road was cut across unclaimed public domain. When the Forest Reserve was established in 1902 its boundary was upstream from the Reed place and did not touch the old road. In 1906 (3) an executive proclamation extended the boundary to the 26-35 section line (roughly on Conejo Lane), putting all of the old road up-canyon from that line on the Forest. However, by that time the McCord and Powers homesteads had been filed so the road crossed deeded land up to the point where it left the present Ward property.

(1) The error in setting the Sec. 26-35 quarter corner which has caused so much confusion in property lines in Portal, also resulted in the Gurnetts donating some land that wasn't theirs. The stretch from Squier's to the Paradise Road was on land which resurvey showed to belong to John Hands. He a few years later sold his land to what became AVA Ranch which now, by that error pays taxes on a very narrow strip on the south side of that road.

(2) In the 29 years the Forest Service crossed about a mile of the Sierra Linda's and Powers's private land for access to the Forest it was never charged a use fee.

(3) Shortly after the forest extension the Ranger Station was moved from Rodeo to its location in the canyon.


Howard Topoff 2011