About Sanders, Arizona
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation 5,865 ft (1.788 m); population 630 (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) no DST⁄ PDT (UTC-7).
Sanders is a unincorporated town in Apache county in the Navajo Nation in eastern Arizona, on Route 66. See a Map of Sanders.
Time is inexorable...
The now defunct "Stop Go Cafe and Filling Station" in Sanders, AZ. Route 66
The Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans lived as farmers on the vast Colorado Plateau from 700 to 1150 AD. Their territory ranged from the the Colorado River in the west, the south of Nevada, Utah, Colorado to the north, the Rio Grande in Arizona on the east and the Rio Puerco, Puerco of the West and Little Colorado rivers in Arizona on the south.
They moved southwest into NM around 1300 AD pushed by a long dry spell and encroaching Indians from the north. They evolved into the historical Pueblo people encountered by the Spanish explorers in 1540 when Francisco Vázques de Coronado reached the area seeking gold.
Sanders is on the southern tip of the Anasazi territory; further south were the Mogollón, people.
The Navajo reached the area around 1400 AD. They called themselves Diné (or "People") and like the Apaches, belonged to the Athabaskan people from Northwestern Canada. They later moved into the Southwestern USA.
They were hunter gatherers who later bred sheep and goats (introduced by the Spanish), they learned agriculture from the Pueblo.
The Discovery of the Grand Canyon
Coronado sent a party of twelve men under García López de Cárdenas to check out the rumors about a great river to the west of Zuni Pueblo.
Cárdenas marched west from Zuni and crossed the Rio Puerco of the West near what is now Sanders. He reached the Grand Canyon with the help of Hopi guides and he and his men were the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River.
The Spanish occupied New Mexico in 1597 but never settled Arizona (which was a part of the province of Nueva Méjico). They encountered the Navajo in 1620, north of Santa Fe, and gave them their name: "Navajo" derives from "Apachu de Nabajo" (Apache of Nabajo).
The Navajo were warriors and raided the Spanish colonial villages and in Nueva Méjico, and continued doing so during the period of Mexican domination. After the U.S. annexed the territory, ceded by Mexico in 1848 it began a campaign to pacify the region.
Fort Defiance was established by Col. Edwin V. Sumner in 1851 as a military outpost in the Navajo territory in what is now Arizona. It was abandoned at the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, when the Army retreated to New Mexico to face the Confederate threat.
Apache County has the most land designated as Indian reservation of any county in the United States (68.34% of its area). Neighboring Navajo County is in third place.
A new base was established in 1862 near what is now Grants ("Old" Fort Wingate) and Brig. Gen. James Carleton conducted a campaign that starved the Navajo forcing them to surrender. They were then marched 450 miles (750 km) to an internment camp in NM ("The Long Walk"). The terrible conditions at the camp led to Carleton's dismissal, and a treaty was signed with the Navajo in 1868, which allowed them to return to their homeland which became the Navajo Reservation.
Apache County was created in 1879 and in 1895 Navajo county was split from it western part.
Regarding what is now Sanders, the Star Stage Mail route that linked Ft. Wingate in New Mexico with Fort Whipple (nowadays Prescott), ran along the south side of the Rio Puerco River with stops near Sanders at Navajo Springs where it met the old military route from Albuquerque through Zuni Pueblo, Jacob's Well and west towards Holbrook.
This was the trail used by Beale in his 1857 expedition.
Beale and the Camels
The expedition led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale (1822 - 1893) to survey and build a wagon road from New Mexico to the Colorado River near present Needles CA and Tropock AZ, passed by the area where Sanders is now located, in 1857.
He used camels, imported from Tunis as pack animals. Though hardier than mules, the camels scared both horses and mules. The Army decided not to use camels in the future.
The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (Later acquired by the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad), built a station here around 1883. Between Sanders and Houck there was another stop, named Querino. The post office opened in 1896 and was named "Cheto", it later closed to be reopened in 1936 as "Sanders". An Indian trading post ran by (coincidentially) Art Sanders was the first in the area in the 1880s.
The Navajo name was "Lichíí'í Deez'áhí", which means "Horizontal Red Area" due to the red colored sandstone and clays which according to a Navajo myth, gave their color to the local, and still abundant, red deer which was a staple food during their hunter gatherer days.
The Name: Sanders
The place and railroad siding was first named Sanders, after C.W. Sanders who was an office Engineer at the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Later the railway decided to change the name to Cheto as there was another station with the same name on the AT & SF system. And the siding is known as "Cheto" until this day.
So the station was "Cheto" and the town "Sanders". There is even a mine (Cheto mine) that extracts a valuable type of clay used in the oil industry, a calcium bentonite, known as "Cheto" bentonite.
In 1926 Route 66 was aligned through the area following the National Old Trails Highway, and passed through Sanders, which it reached along the south side of the Rio Puerco. The 1930 roadbed was built on the north side of the river and passed a mile north of Sanders, beyond the railroad.
Surprisingly, in the 1915 Railway map the station figures as Sanders. And it also appears under this name in the Rand McNally road map of 1927, where it is shown as being located on an unpaved but graded highway (US Hwy. 66) 8 miles west of Houck and 15 mi. east of Navajo.
The Arizona State Highway Road Map of 1935, adjusted the distances (8 mi. to Houck and 13.8 to Navajo), it also shows that Route 66 had been paved. Modern US 191 (which until recently was the US Highway 666 at that time was a dirt state highway, AZ-61. Route 66 was later replaced by I-40 in the 1960s.
Where to Stay
There is lodging along Route 66 very close to Sanders:
Lodging Near Sanders along Route 66
Heading East.... New Mexico
- 43 miles. Gallup.
- 105 miles. Motels and Hotels in Grants.
- 124 miles. Motels and Hotels in Acomita Pueblo.
- 183 miles. Motels and Hotels in Albuquerque
- 219 miles. Motels and Hotels in Moriarty
The Santa Fe Route 66 segment in New Mexico
- 241 miles. Motels and Hotels in Santa Fe.
>> There are RV campgrounds near Sanders, in Holbrook AZ.
Weather in Sanders
Sanders's climate is semi-arid and dry. Summers are hot and winters cold. During the whole year, the day-to-night temperature swing is considerable due to the low relative humidity; this means that Summer nights are pleasant and cool, but winter nights are quite cold.
The average high temperature in summer (July) is 95°F (35°C). The average summer low is 59°F (15°C). The winter (Jan) has an average high of 50°F (10°C); with an average low of 21.9°F, below freezing (-6.1°C).
Not much rain falls; only 9.5 inches yearly (241 mm) and half of it falls during the Summer Monsoon period between July and October (5 inches - 127 mm). There are about 50 days with precipitation every year.
Snow is light (due to the desert) with about 6.5 in. per year (16.5 cm), and it falls between October and April.
There is virtually no tornado risk in Sanders: Apache County has no Tornado watches. The area west of this point has no tornado events at all.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Sanders
Map of Route 66 through Sanders Arizona
Display Sanders Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
Route 66's alignment in Arizona: the Historic Route 66 through Sanders
Route 66 across Arizona
Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Arizona.
Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Arizona.
Sanders, Arizona, its Sights and Attractions
Things to Do and Places to See
The land of the Navajo
Sanders a small town in the Navajo Nation, just south of Route 66 and close to three historic bridges on the Mother Road whose 1926 alignment passed through the town.
Welcome to Sanders sign. Navajohistory
Sanders was never a large town; Jack DeVere Rittenhouse in his "A Guide Book to Highway 66" written in 1946 describes Sanders as having 88 residents, two gas stations and the Tipton Brothers' Store. No lodging.
Nevertheless, it stood out among the other towns that were nearby: in 1946 between Houck and Sanders, there was a gas station and curio shop (Querino Trading Post) in Querino, near the Historic Querino Canyon Bridge, 6 mi. east of Sanders. Another trading post 5 miles east, followed by a filling station and garage 2 miles east of the town.
The main attractions were Ranchers Supply, the Sanders Post Office, café, curio shop, and Chevron gas station that were located on the north side of US 66 at the junction with US 666 (now renamed US 191) all of this is now under I-40's roadbed.
Named after a local wash, and canyon, which runs with a north to south direction into the Rio Puerco River, it was a station on the AT & SF railroad roughly half way between Houck and Sanders. Route 66's first alignment did not go by here, it followed the National Old Trails Road south of the Rio Puerco from Allentown to Sanders. However the 1930s alignment with the new bridge across the Querino Canyon moved the roadbed to the north side of the Puerco River and aligned it just north of the tracks through Querino.
During the Route 66 heyday, Querino was a mere railroad siding with a trading post, curio shop and gas station.
The Route of the Beast, U.S. 666
Route 191 which runs along the western side of Sanders used to be US 666. It merged with US 66 at Sanders and then headed west overlapping it to Gallup, where they separated, US 666 went north, into Colorado.
But superstition got involved in the matter and on May 31, 2003, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials approved a new number for it: the route US 666 became U.S. 191 and the road north of Gallup became US 491, a spur of U.S. 191.
In NM, US 666 was an unsafe highway and things were made worse by those D.U.I, quite common in the area. But for NM state officials the cause was supernatural and they voted to have the number changed for the following reasons:
WHEREAS, people living near the road already live under the cloud of opprobrium created by having a road that many believe is cursed running near their homes and through their homeland; and
WHEREAS, the number "666" carries the stigma of being the mark of the beast, the mark of the devil, which was described in the book of revelations in the Bible; and
WHEREAS, there are people who refuse to travel the road, not because of the issue of safety, but because of the fear that the devil controls events along United States route 666; and
WHEREAS, the economy in the area is greatly depressed when compared with many parts of the United States, and the infamy brought by the inopportune naming of the road will only make development in the area more difficult....
So US 666 was abolished.
Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun
Nearby Route 66 Towns
The Alignment of Old Route 66 near Sanders
Route 66 Near Sanders: Allentown to Sanders 1926 alignment
For those who enjoy driving along rough dirt surfaced roads should drive along the original 1926 alignment of Route 66 from Allentown to Sanders.
If you favor a paved road, then the later alignment, built in 1930 is a better option. Below we describe both routes.
Each road has its share of history, the 1926 road has two historic bridges built in 1923, and the 1930 alignment has a bridge built in 1929.
The 1926 alignment from Allentown to Sanders
Allentown is a village located on the north side of I-40, on what was the alignment of Route 66 since it was created in 1926.
From Allentown, head south across I-40 at Exit 351 and head south, and then west along Co. Rd. 7240, covering 15.5 miles to Sanders along a rough back-country road.
There are two historic bridges that carry the Old Route 66 across the Rio Puerco of the West River. The first one is right beside Allentown, the second one is beside Sanders. You can drive across the first one, but not the second one (at Sanders) where you will have to backtrack a very short distance, to be able to drive through Sanders and reach US 191, I-40 and US 66.
Historic 1923 Bridges
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Both were built in 1923 on the Old Trails they crossed the often flooding Puerco of the West River. Their decks were built in wood, this was supplied locally and lowered the bridge costs.
Allentown Bridge, it was a Pratt deck truss bridge. Truss is the steel structure formed of triangular units that give the bridge its strength. A "Deck" truss is one where the deck (roadbed) is placed on top of the truss. And a Pratt truss is shaped so that the diagonal beams face towards the center of the bridge.
Sanders Bridge, a Pratt pony truss bridge. A "pony" is a bridge where the sides of the truss extend above the deck, but are not connected.
Along the 1930s Alignment from Allentown to Sanders
This alignment bypassed Sanders north of the Rio Puerco River.
The two 1923 bridges and the Old Trails alignment required improvement. This lead to the construction of a shorter route north of the river, west from Allentown and passing through Houck and Querino. It was built in 1929 and in 1930 it replaced the old segment, which now is a county road.
The segment from Allentown to Houck is now overlapped by the westbound lanes of I-40, but after Houck it can be driven as the north frontage Road westwards.
After 4 miles, the road passes by the scattered houses that form Querino and reach the Historic Querino Canyon Bridge.
For those who opt to skip both alignments and go from Houck to Sanders along I-40, look north as you drive across the Querino Canyon Bridge and you will spot the Historic bridge (to the right).
Historic Querino Canyon Bridge
Route 66Querino, AZ.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Historic bridge built in 1929 across the deep Querino Canyon on U.S. Highway 66
This is the Map showing the location of the bridge
Querino Canyon is just east of Sanders and has a north to south direction flowing into the Rio Puerco of the West which has a NE to SW direction. The original alignment of Route 66 when it was created in 1926 ran to the south of modern I-40, following the course of the National Old Trails Highway with a meandering alignment that crossed the Rio Puerco River twice, once near Allentown and a second time at Sanders.
The Arizona Highway Department decided to shorten the alignment and avoid crossing the Puerco River. To do so it laid down a new roadbed west of Allentown, through Houck to Sanders, to the north of modern I-40. As Querino Canyon lay in its way, it had to be crossed, and a bridge was designed: 77 ft. long and 20 ft. wide with a steel tressle supported by very tall steel piers rising from the canyon's bed.
Route 66 ran along this alignment an across this bridge until I-40 replaced it in the late 1960s. The bridge is still in use and is part of the local highway network.
The alignment is 17.5 miles long and this Map from Allentown to Sanders via Houck on the 1930s Route 66.
The alignment ends near Exit 399 at Sanders , but it is a dead end so Follow this map to get to Exit 339 on I-40 at Sanders.
It is here, at Exit 339 that both the 1926-1930 and 1930-1960s alignments meet.
From Sanders west to Holbrook
Leave Sanders and head north along US 191 until reaching Exit 399 of I-40, cross to the north side and head west along US 191 Frontage Rd. (also I-40s Frontage Road). This is a 6.5 mile-long stretch that ends at US 191 just north of Chambers. See this Map from Sanders to Chambers.
The road ends there (in the past it continued west) meaning there is a gap in the old roadbed. So you must drive south towards Chambers along US 191 and at I-40's Exit 333 head west again along I-40 until Exit 330.
At Exit 330 you can: a) drive the segment to the north of I-40 to its dead-end, turn around and then b) drive to the south of I-40 all the way to Crazy Creek. A total length of 8.5 miles. This is shown in this Map West of Chambers to Crazy Creek.
At Crazy Creek the old road uses a culvert to pass under I-40 and reach its north side. The road (Pinta Rd.) runs north of I-40, parallel to it, but not close to it. It is a 12.3 mile segment that ends at the Petrified Forest National Park on Park Road. See the Map from Crazy Creek to Petrified Forest NP.
At this point there is a nother gap, you will have to follow Park Rd. south to I-40, and at Exit 311 head west along I-bu40. You will see the original US 66 on the south side of I-40, and you can reach it if you want to drive along it, at Exit 303. This Map of US 66 from Petrified Forest to Little Lithodendron Wash, it is a 8.1 mile-long segment.
Little Lithodendron Wash Bridge
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
This wooden bridge is 243 ft. long and 23 ft. wide, it spans the Little Lithodendron Wash, also known as Carrizo or Little Carrizo Wash -Carrizo is Spanish for "rush".
Little Lithodendron Wash Bridge on Route 66. Google. Click to enlarge
Lithodendron combines the Greek words "Lithos" (stone) and "Dendros" (tree), "stone tree" after the neighboring Petrified Forest National Park.
Read more about the historic bridge at our Holbrook page.
After the historic bridge, at Exit 300 you must get on I-40 westbound all the way to Exit 294, at Sun Valley, where you can drive the original alignment along Pima St., this ends right next to Exit 292 in a dead end. You can backtrack a couple of miles and reach I-40 at Exit 294 (See this map) or, take a dirt road that runs south right beside the dead end,and reach the North Frontage Rd. at Exit 292. See the Map from Little Lithodendron Wash to Hopi Travel Plaza.
West of Exit 292, the roadbed of I-40 overlaps the original alignment until Exit 289, here you can leave I-40 and drive into Holbrook along Navajo Blvd. (3.1 miles). This is the Map of Route 66 into Holbrook
National and State Parks
Read about the parks nearby, at Holbrook: Petrified Forest National Park.
Will Croft Barnes, Arizona Place Names, University of Arizona Press, 1988.
Historic Route 66 in Arizona All-American Road, National Scenic Byway, www.fhwa.dot.gov.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.