SR88 is better known as, The Apache Trail.

SR88 is better known as, The Apache Trail. (Source: 3 TV/CBS 5)

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Now the link between Apache Junction and Roosevelt Lake, the Apache Trail, also known as State Route 88, was once just a path used first by Native Americans to traverse the rugged range we know as the Superstition Mountains.

The road was constructed because of the need to get supplies to the site where the Salt River and Tonto Creek converged and a dam was to built. The year was 1903 and the dam was Roosevelt Dam.

Work crews on the Apache Trail

American Indian laborers were hired by Reclamation Service Chief Engineer Lewis Hill. San Carlos and other Western Apache tribes supplied the bulk of the work force for Roosevelt Dam road construction and other infrastructure needs, 1906. 

At the time, the road was referred to as the Mesa-Roosevelt Road.

The work was backbreaking as it involved crews using mostly hand tools to cut the road out of the mountains.

Fish Creek Hill

Apache workers were known for their skill in building dry-laid stone walls. Without using mortar, they constructed many such retaining walls along the various roads they built. This fine example is on Fish Creek Hill on the Mesa to Roosevelt Road, known today as the Apache Trail, 1905. 

Once the dam was complete, President Theodore Roosevelt traveled along the Mesa-Roosevelt Road in order to dedicate the dam named after him on March 18, 1911.

"The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have, to me, it is most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful," he said. 

Roughly 40 miles long, the Apache Trail is a great day trip that takes the traveler from Apache Junction to points east into the Superstition Mountains.

Along the way, you'll pass Canyon Lake. And then it's on to Tortilla Flat (population 6) which was once a stagecoach stop along the route.

Up to this point, the road is paved, but just before you reach Fish Creek Hill the pavement ends and the dirt adventure begins.

The steep single-lane road should be driven with caution. It's thrilling but is best to take it easy.  More than one car has taken the plunge over the edge of the cliff with disastrous results. The route is not recommended for larger vehicles such as RVs but can be safely driven in a passenger car. 

Winding through the desert for a few miles, Apache lake comes into view on the north side of the road. Finally, the traveler is rewarded with views of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam and the lake the dam created, Theodore Roosevelt Lake. 

Once the world's tallest masonry dam, Roosevelt Dan helped control flooding and led to large-scale irrigation in central Arizona.

Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Content Producer

Eric is an assignment editor and content producer with AZ Family-3TV & CBS 5 News. Read more about Eric in his bio.

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