Rest Stop in the Desert

When you’re driving from the east on the Arizona segment of Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman, the highway transitioned from a drive on a flat plains of the Sacramanto Valley from Kingman to a treacherous climb up through the Black Mountains near Oatman. In the old days, this was quite intimidating for the travelers as they would have to go through a narrow road with steep grades and hairpin turns. Some people even hired locals to drive their cars through these area or even tow their cars to the summit.

Just before you start the climb, there was rest stop called Cool Springs that was was opened up as a place for the travelers to check their cars or fueled up before they tackle the challenging terrain, or for those who traveled from the west, a stop to rest after going through mountainous road. A family from Indiana opened and ran the litte shop since the 1930s and handed the property over through a couple generations through the heyday of Route 66 in the 1950s. By early 1960s, however, the new alignment of Route 66 that bypassed the segment through the Black Mountains, and then later the development of the Interstate highway ended up killing the traffic through this road. And finally in the mid 1960s, a fire burned down the rest stop building reducing it to ruins.

In 1997, an Illinois man named Ned Leuchtner passed the area and was very impressed with the landscape around it. He wondered what ever happened to the place when he saw the ruins of Cool Springs, and through the help of a local real estate broker, he was able to find the owner of the property and learned the story about the place. After three years persuading the old owner to sell the property to him, he finally was able to get the property with his promise to rebuild the place. From 2001 to 2004, Ned worked to restore Cool Springs to what it was like back in its heyday, and in 2005, the restoration was complete and the place was reopened as a museum. Now travelers can see what the place looked like decades ago when this was an important stop on the old route to the West.

From Oatman, we traveled east through the Black Mountain towards Cool Springs. So in our case, we went through the Black Mountains route in reverse and it was mostly negotiating steep downhill drive through narrow roads with hairpin turns that definitely lived up to the description we read in guidebooks. Fortunately we managed to go through this segment when it’s still light outside. It was quite beautiful as well to see the sun setting in the distance as we drove through the mountainous region.

When we reached Cool Springs, the place was not open and we were pretty much by ourselves. We stopped there to admire the scenery and took some photos of the old rest stop, the restored gas pump, and some architectural details on the facility that showed the quality of the restoration that was done at the place. There was also an old Ford pick up truck parked outside the building, adding an authentic feel to the scenery. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet some of the folks that made this happen, but it was a cool stop nevertheless.

The photo below was taken from across the street of the building. You could see the picturesque mountains behind the building.

Cool Springs

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