Navajo County is a large county that sits in Northern Arizona. It spans 9960 square feet, 9950 of which is entirely land. The other 10 square feet are rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.
Initially part of Apache County, Navajo County was founded in 1895 with Commodore Perry Owen serving as its first sheriff. Since its inception, it has experienced a rich history including being the site of the Pleasant Valley War.
This turf war lasted for 10 years from 1882 to 1892. It was fought between two families, the Grahams and the Tewskburys. Both families were cattle and sheep ranchers and battled over land on which to graze their livestock. In total, the war cost 50 men their lives. Most of the adult men in both family were killed.
Navajo County currently is home to more than 107,000 residents. The people of Navajo County are spread among numerous cities and towns including Holbrook, its county seat. Other cities in the county include Show Low and Winslow. Smaller towns in the county include Pinetop-Lakeside, Snowflake, and Taylor.
Additionally, Navajo County is home to three Native American reservations. These include the Hopi, Navajo, and Fort Apache reservations.
Being one of the largest counties in Arizona, Navajo County has a population of varied ethnicities. Close to 43 percent of the county’s population is Native American. Caucasians account for 49 percent while Asians and African Americans make up 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent of the population respectively.
Further, the population of Navajo County is relatively young. Most residents are younger than 35 years old.
Eleven unified school districts serve the youth of Navajo County. These school districts include:
• Blue Ridge Unified School District
• Cedar Unified School District
• Heber-Overgaard Unified School District
• Holbrook Unified School District
• Joseph City Unified School District
• Kayenta Unified School District
• Pinon Unified School District
• Show Low Unified School District
• Snowflake Unified School District
• Whiteriver Unified School District
• Winslow Unified School District
Additionally, one major interstate along with numerous state and federal highways run through Navajo County. The major interstate is I-40, which runs through cities like Holbrook, Winslow, and Joseph City. It also runs through the Petrified Forest National Park and is the major thoroughfare that tourists use when traveling through the county.
Other major highways that run through Navajo County include:
• U.S. Route 60
• U.S. Route 160
• U.S. Route 163
• U.S. Route 180
Finally, numerous state highways traverse through Navajo County. The state routes include 77, 87, 98, 99, and 260.
The various highways and interstates that run through Navajo County are critical in bringing traffic to and from the county’s eight airports. The eight airports are used primarily for regional and local air traffic. The Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport in Winslow offers service through TWA and Frontier Airlines
Navajo County is home to some of the country’s oldest and most expansive forests and canyons. A number of them have been designated as state or federally protected sites.
The state and national parks found in Navajo County include Monument Valley, Kearns Canyon that is part of the Petrified Forest Petrified Park, and the state’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest. Other federall protected sites in the county are Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Navajo National Monument, and the Petrified Forest National Park.
As the home to numerous state and federally protected forests and parks, Navajo County welcomes thousands of visitors to the area each year. People who are planning a visit to the county are welcome to stay at any of the campgrounds and resorts that are open throughout the year. The county is also home to one casino, the Hon-Dah Casino, which is located in Pinetop-Lakeside.
The town of Pinetop-Lakeside is one of the newer cities in Navajo County, having been created in 1984 when the two towns of Pinetop and Lakeside merged. The original town of Pinetop was named after the owner of a saloon who tended to the soldiers at Fort Apache during the town’s earlier days. Lakeside was originally founded in 1880 by Mormon pioneers who traveled there from Utah.
Today, Pinetop-Lakeside is a small but thriving city of little more than 4200 residents. It is surrounded by expansive forests and mountains, making it a favorite destination for outdoorsmen, hunters, campers, hikers, and others who want to enjoy the area’s natural beauty.
The forests always carry with them the risk of fire as witnessed in 2002 when the town was threatened by the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire. The fire forced the entire town to evacuate to safety. Pinetop-Lakeside was spared total devastation, however.
The town’s population is relatively young with the median age being 41 years. In addition to offering expansive natural forests, Pinetop-Lakeside also offers recreational facilities to residents and visitors alike. They have access to facilities like the Mountain Meadow Recreational Complex, the Jack Barker Memorial Park, White Mountain Nature Center, and Woodland Lake Park.
Winslow is also a town that is close to some of Navajo County’s natural forests and canyons. It is 60 miles from the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. People who come to Arizona to visit these sites often pass through and stay in Winslow because of the town’s proximity.
Along with its closeness to these national parks, Winslow also is home to one of the state’s 9-11 memorials. Its memorial to people who lost their lives that day was built from two steel beams recovered from the Twin Towers’ wreckage. This memorial draws visitors from around the country who want to view it up close.
However, Winslow is more famously known for being the town mentioned in the rock band Eagles’ song “Take It Easy.” It pays homage to its claim to fame every September with its own Standin’ on the Corner festival, which is held in Standin’ on the Corner park.
People who visit Winslow during the festival or for any other reason are welcome to stay at the local La Posada Hotel, which was the last original Harvey Hotel in the country. After it was no longer used as a Harvey Hotel, it became the site for offices for the local railroad. The railroad discontinued its use of the building in 1994 after which it stood abandoned. It was recently purchased by a real estate developer and transformed into the La Posada.
Winslow has a population of 9100 residents. It is about 75 miles from Flagstaff.
Show Low, Arizona is also located in Navajo County and has a population of little more than 10,000 residents. This city got is unusual name from a poker game that was played in 1876.
The game went on for hours with neither player seeming to win with each hand dealt. To bring the game to an end, both men decided that whoever showed the lowest hand of cars would be the winner.
The term “Show Low” became the name for the town in which the game was played. Incidentally, the winning hand was a deuce of clubs. Deuce of Clubs is now the name of the main street that runs through Show Low.
Aside from its unusual name, Show Low has other interesting sites that draw visitors to the area. In particular, it is surrounded by forests and lakes that make the city a popular draw for tourists who want to enjoy the Great Outdoors. Some of the most popular activities that tourists and local residents alike can enjoy in Show Low include:
• Scenic drives
• Horseback riding
The sites in Show Low where these outdoor activities can be enjoyed are Fool Hollow Recreation Area and Show Low Lake.
Show Low came close to being leveled in 2002 when the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire approached it. The town was evacuated. However, the fire was extinguished before it could reach the town’s city limits.
Snowflake is another town in Navajo County with an unusual name. The town did not get its name because of any precipitation, however. Instead, it was named after two of its founding citizens, Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake. These two gentlemen were Mormon pioneers who emigrated from Utah to settle the area. They are honored through the town’s name.
Regardless, Snowflake consistently makes lists of U.S places with unusual names. Despite its quirky name, Snowflake attracts scores of visitors each year because of its proximity to the White Mountains, which surround this town of 5500. People come to Snowflake to enjoy outdoor recreation like skiing, camping, hunting, and fishing.
The town is also part of the county that is undergoing steady expansion and growth. It now has its own 18-hole golf course, for example. It also hosts events that are popular with locals and tourists alike.
Some of these events include the annual Ground Hog Day breakfast, the Easter Egg hunt, Fourth of July Celebrations, Pioneer Day Celebrations, and the 12 Days of Christmas. The town also has its own symphony that puts on performances each year.
Snowflake provides numerous vital services to the town of Taylor, which is situated nearby along Silver Creek in the White Mountains of Navajo County. Taylor was founded in 1878 by Mormon pioneers. It was named after John Taylor, the third president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The town was incorporated in 1966.
The city is so small and has such a remote location that it does not receive home mail delivery service. Instead, city residents must use a post office box in nearby Snowflake to receive their mail. The two towns also combine school services with one unified school district.
The town’s logo depicts an anvil and a bass drum, which refers to two family traditions in Taylor. The anvil refers to the sounding of the anvil that inaugurates the town’s annual Fourth of July celebrations each year. The bass drum refers to the marching band that plays every year during those festivities.
These are a few of the smaller towns in Navajo County. The primary city, Holbrook, serves as the county’s seat and the site of the local government.
Navajo County Seat and Overview
The county seat of Navajo County is Holbrook. The city got its name from the first engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, Henry R. Holbrook. It was founded in 1881 and now has a population of over 500 residents.
Long before it was settled, Holbrook was the site of Native American civilizations including the Anasazi, Puebloans, Navajo, and Apache. When Coronado passed through the area in 1540 in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, he discovered what would later be named the Painted Desert.
Holbrook officially became settled in 1848 after the Mexican-American War when the U.S. Army sent soldiers to explore and found the region. The soldiers were soon joined by Mormon settlers emigrating from Utah into Arizona Territory.
Even with the Mormon settlers, however, the new city of Holbrook became one of the infamous cities of the Wild West. It was dubbed a place that was fit for neither women nor church. Numerous crimes befell the city including cattle and horse rustling. Moreover, continuous battles broke out among landowners who fought for available land on which to graze their livestock.
The fighting reached a culmination in 1887 in an incident that is still known to this day as the Holbrook Shooting. Prior to the shooting, the sheriff Commodore Perry Owens was dispatched to arrest notorious cattle thieve Andy Blevins.
Upon reaching the place where Blevins and several others were hiding out, the sheriff engaged in gunfire with those holed up inside of the building. Owens managed to wound Blevins as well as two of his brothers, a friend, and one of the men’s horses. The friend died of his injuries. Nonetheless, Owens garnered fame for his ability to take on and beat four armed men. He became a Wild West legend at the time on par with the likes of Wyatt Earp of Tombstone, Arizona.
The city’s Wild West days officially came to an end by 1902 when most of the cattle ranchers sold their land to developers. The outlaw factions of the area lost money with having no cattle or horses to rustle and steal. Large parts of the county also came under federal protection with the designation of national parks like the Petrified Forest National Park. President Theodore Roosevelt is credited for preserving much of the county’s natural beauty and landscapes.
Today, Holbrook is a major tourist attraction in the state of Arizona as well as Navajo County. Along with being the site of the Petrified Forest National Park, the city is also home to novelty attractions like the Wigwam Motel. This motel is on the National Register of Historic Places and offers individual wigwams that tourists can stay in for the night.
Holbrook also hosts numerous special events throughout the year. Some of the more memorable events that bring tourists from across the state and country to Holbrook include the Bucket of Blood Races, which is held in July each year. This event features a 20 mile marathon and a 40 mile bike marathon. The marathons are open to people who live in Holbrook as well as people visiting from across the state and country.
Further, the county hosts a Route 66 festival every year in June. The event includes a tour of the Petrified Forest as well as a dance festival and car show. Car show enthusiasts who want to join in the fun can register their cars on the city of Holbrook’s website.
Finally, the city hosts the Happy Holbrook festivities every April each year. These festivities include a challenge called the Almost Amazing Race. It is also a time for the city’s vendors and businesses to showcase their products and services. Many businesses decorate their windows with large yellow smiley faces during the Happy Holbrook event.