Skip to main content

Throwback Thursday; Bisbee, AZ and Old US 80

In Cochise County, Arizona along an old segment of US Route 80 designated as Arizona State Route 80 is the old mining town of Bisbee.

Bisbee is located in the Mule Mountains at an elevation of 5,538 feet above sea level.  Back in the early days of Arizona travel wasn't as direct as it is now.  Often roads followed old wagon trails from the major population centers of the time.  In the case of US Route 80 when it was originally plotted out it took the path of the Old Spanish Trail.  This alignment consisted of a huge southwestern swing into New Mexico to Douglas.  From Douglas US 80 swung northwest through the classic mining communities of Bisbee and Tombstone before swinging west to Tucson.  US 80 also took another major swing north from Tucson to Phoenix rather than westward to Yuma.  US 80 was such in impractical route that I-8 largely took the path of AZ 84 west from Tuscon to Gila Bend and I-10 from Benson to the New Mexico state line.  The path of US 80 makes much more logical sense looking at the 1927 State Highway Map of Arizona:

1927 Arizona/New Mexico State Highway Maps Part A

1927 Arizona/New Mexico State Highway Map Part B

Bisbee was founded back in 1880 as a gold, silver, and copper mining community.  Since 1929 Bisbee has been the Cochise County seat which was originally in Tombstone.  Early Bisbee centered around the Copper Queen Mine which was in operation from 1880 until 1985.  Bisbee's mining industry survived far longer than it did in Tombstone and largely moved to open pit mining in the 1950s.  The Lavender Pit is the most obvious example of the open pit days with the massive hole easily observed on the south side of AZ 80.

Bisbee's population peaked out near 1960 at about 10,000 residents.  After Lavender Pit closed in 1974 followed by the Copper Queen in 1985 Bisbee began to decline.  The current population of Bisbee is approximately 5,000 residents and doesn't show much signs of slowing any time soon.

US 80 had a huge alignment shift through Bisbee prior to the completion of the Mule Pass Tunnel in 1958.  Early US 80 used Main Street and Tombstone Canyon Road west through Bisbee on an approach of Mule Pass.   US 80 used West Boulevard and Old Divide Road climb over Mule Pass.  By 1989 US 80 had been truncated out of Arizona and the route through Bisbee had become AZ 80. on the Mule Pass Tunnel

USends on US 80 end points


Popular posts from this blog

Old US 101; the San Juan Grade

While researching maps for California State Route 183 I noticed something interesting on the 1935 County Highway maps for San Benito and Monterey County.  From what it appeared it seems that there used to be a state highway running from US 101 south on San Juan Highway, through San Juan Bautista, south over the San Juan Grade to Salinas.  It turns out what I discovered was an a very old alignment of US 101 which was replaced by 1932.

The information relevant to the history of US 101 over the San Juan Grade is as follows:

-  The San Juan Grade was built in 1915 which presumably replaced Old Stage Road from Salinas to San Juan Bautista.  Presumably this was part of alignment adopted as Legislative Route 2 from San Francisco south to San Diego in 1909.  This history can be seen on 1931 edition of the California Highways and Public Works Journal and on

1931 Highways and Public Works Journal

CAhighways on LRN 2

-  By 1926 the San Juan Grade became part of US 101.  The San Jua…

The Tioga Pass Road

Last Summer the Tioga Pass Road over the Sierras in Yosemite National Park opened late due to the heavy snow pack during the previous winter.  Approaching the start of July the Park Service finally had cleared Tioga Pass, I headed up shortly after the 4th of July holiday during a lull in the tourist season.

The Tioga Pass Road runs from the Big Oak Flat Road east to US Route 395.  The Tioga Pass road is largely within the boundary of Yosemite National Park but is also partially on California State Route 120 east of the Tioga Pass entry station to US 395.  The Park Service maintained portion of the Tioga Pass Road serve as a implied connection between the two segments of CA 120.  The Tioga Pass Road is the highest road mountain pass in California with Tioga Pass which lies at 9,945 feet above sea level.

The Tioga Pass Road is very old with the eastern section up Lee Vining Canyon to the Tioga Mine being built in 1883.  The connecting section of the Tioga Pass Road from Big Oak Flat R…

California State Route 49, The Golden Chain Highway (CA 16 north over Yuba Pass to CA 89)

After completing California State Route 124 I took CA 16 to the eastern terminus to start my first Trans-Sierra route; California State Route 49/Golden Chain Highway over Yuba Pass.

As stated I joined CA 49 from the eastern terminus of CA 16 in Amador County.  CA 49 actually begins in Madera County to the south in Oakhurst at CA 41.  CA 49 is about 295 miles long and travels most of the traditional 1849 Gold Rush Country north from Oakhurst to CA 70.  If you want history and old towns then CA 49 is one of the best routes on the West Coast to see both.

To the north of CA 16 the next major junction is Signed County Route E16 in Plymouth which is on Shenandoah Road.  E16 is a 33.2 mile route which travels northeast to US 50. 

Plymouth dates back to the 1850s and is mostly known for a winery that dates back to 1856.  These photos are from Main Street looking west.

CA 49 generally is very rural and doesn't deviate much from when it was first signed back in 1934.  While CA 49 isn'…