Snapshot Expeditions

Road to Tuba City


Tuba City, Western Navajo Reservation, Arizona


About Snapshot Expeditions
On the Road
Road to Tuba
Navajo National Monument
Wetherill Trading Post
Lee's Ferry



A Photographic Tour of the Old Road into Tuba City

In 1933 a small entourage of motoring tourists made their way from the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff, north to "Indian county."   My great-uncle, Charles Clock,  served as tour guide, driver, and photographer.  Joining him were his wife, Muriel, and two friends, Clarence and Florence White ~ all from Redlands, California. The couples planned a 10 day trek across the western Navajo Reservation.

Highway 89 wound its way along toward the Painted Desert, running up the steep grade beside the San Francisco Peaks, then several miles outside the city of Flagstaff and passed Sunset Crater.  Traveling north they continued along the dirt road to Cameron and the crossing of the Little Colorado River and from there across the Moenkopi Wash to lower Moenkopi.  Determined to make it to the Shonto Trading Post by nightfall, the tourists left early in the morning.  In the 30's, the "highway" was a rugged dirt road leading from Flagstaff to Tuba City ~ if conditions were good, a motorist might make the trip in four hours.

At Cameron, the tourists picked up "Shine" Smith.  Hugh Dixon "Shine" Smith was an old-timer on the Reservation who had earned the reputation as a renegade preacher for abandoning the traditional practices of his church, or so the story goes. He was known as a kindly man who worked among the Navajo, learning their language, and going from post to post, helping out the traders and frequently acting as a post clerk.

The group stopped for a picnic lunch at a place called the Petrified Pumpkin Patch, a tourist attraction named after the large round rocks that littered the ground. Charles had left the group, taking his camera or cameras with him, to photograph the distinctive butte just across the road (directly north) from the Pumpkin Patch. Following the picnic lunch the little entourage left the Petrified Pumpkin Patch and continued up the road to Lower Moenkopi and a brief tour of the Moenkopi Village, stopping for photographs along the way.


Excerpt from:
"Trip Memories" by Clarence White
circa 1934

We headed north from Flagstaff of a morning, into the peace and strength of the mountains.  The fresh air, without human smells and noises, blew away all routine worries and responsibilities.  The NRA, kidnaping [sic], the inflation, war threats, were all behind us.  What a relief.

Many places on the Reservation were isolated by washouts or bogged trails.  Many flats were covered with water.  We were to face the problem often of whether it were best to dare with the auto the wetness of the trail, or the softness of the countryside.  But, the weather, after all, proved ideal.

The roads degenerated into tracks; the purple sage and small cedars of the mesa companioned us more and more.  The sandstone colors in knoll, rock, cliff, and mountains became more and more brilliant.  Never during the entire trip did mesas, cliffs, and mountains become monotonous.  Always some shaping of form, tints and shades of grays, browns, reds, chocolates, blacks, greens and blues constantly changed the aspect.

Among our first interests was Sunset mountain, whose top, whenever visible, glows in the sun; and Shadow mountain, always in the gloom, however bright the day.  On the landscape there were few humans, and practically no desert animal life.  Yet, over the reservation were scattered 43,000 Navajos.

Preacher Smith

In the course of the first morning we arrived at Camerons [sic], a trading post with an interesting guest lodge, and a bridge over the Little Colorado.  Here we picked up Preacher Smith and carried him a way.  He is loved by White and Red.  He is called "Shine Smith" because he taught the young Indians the Sunday school song, "Arise and Shine and Give God the Glory."  No longer an official missionary he does off jobs for the traders as contact man, or substitute clerk, and spends everything he has on the Indians.  The Mission Board discharged him because to him a stand-back policy was impossible if he was to have a strong influence.  At the Indian sings he ties on a coyote tail bustle, capers and whoops with the best of them ~ and yet serves God.


From Moenkopi, and saying good-bye to  Shine Smith, the travelers continued on their way to Shonto.  Another adventure lay ahead.

Go To Shonto



Sunset Crater, circa 1930


Tanner Bridge at Cameron, circa 1930


The picnic at Petrified Pumpkin Patch on the way to Moenkopi, circa 1933.  Left to Right: Muriel Clock, Florence White, Hugh D. "Shine" Smith, Clarence White.


The knoll in the background remains little changed, with the exception of some erosion on the top of the hill.  Behind me, the ground is littered with trash and debris. The long mesa in the background (below) was the clue to this location.


Petrified Pumpkin Patch, circa 2001


Old maps of the road indicate that dinosaur tracks lay embedded in the rock just across the road from the Petrified Pumpkin Patch ~ a possible reason for this snapshot.  


Rephotograph taken in July, 2001. 


The northern horizon from the Petrified Pumpkin Patch, circa 1933.  This section of Highway 89 was little more than dirt tracks.


Road 6731, now routinely graded, circa 2001. Not much has changed in the seven decades between the Clocks' forays to Tuba City and ours. 

Shine Smith and Navajo boy, Lower Moenkopi, circa 1933.


Road 6731, just past the bridge crossing the Moenkopi Wash,  circa 2001.  Corn is still planted in the field alongside the road.  



The road to Tuba City, circa 1930's 


Tuba City Trading Post, circa 1930's.


Visiting with the locals along the way.  Shine Smith is the man standing in the center of the photograph.  Clarence White looks on from the side of the road, while Muriel chats with the Navajo family in the wagon.


Shine Smith with a group of children further along the road leading in to Tuba City. During the 1930s, this was still known as "lower Moenkopi."  Kerley's trading post was located less than a mile from where this picture had been taken, at the foot of Walker Hill.  The dirt road making the climb up the mesa and across to the historic Tuba City Trading Post remains unpaved today.

Moenkopi Village, circa 1933.  


Having made their way up to Tuba City the tourists prepared to make the rest of their journey that day.  They would arrive in Shonto, 49 miles east of Tuba, just as the sun was setting.


Copyright 2001 ~  Terree Duncan ~ All Rights Reserved