Kingman lies in high-desert country at an elevation of 3,345 feet surrounded by the Cerbat, Hualapai, and Black mountain ranges. Lewis Kingman came through the area in 1880 while surveying a right-of-way for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Needles, California. The railroad camp that later bore his name grew into a major mining, ranching, and transportation center for northwestern Arizona. A county election in 1886 required the county seat to move from Mineral Park to Kingman, but residents of Mineral Park balked at turning over county records. Kingmanites, according to one story, then sneaked over to Mineral Park in the dead of night to snatch the records and bring them to Kingman, where they've stayed ever since.
Kingman (area population 37,000) lies in the heart of the longest remaining stretch of Route 66—one of the predecessors of today's transcontinental highways. Area businesses play up the Route 66 theme, and there's a good museum in town illustrating travel on the old road. Many motels and restaurants serve motorists on their way across the country on I-40 or US 93. Other visitors use the town as a base to explore regional attractions such as the "Mother Road" Route 66, the cool forests of Hualapai Mountain Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the old mining towns of Oatman and Chloride.
A map available at the town's visitor center provides a brief rundown on many of the old buildings in the historic downtown area. You can tour the early 20th-century Bonelli House or stay in the 1909 Brunswick Hotel, which also has a good restaurant. A few doors down from the Brunswick, Hotel Beale dates from 1899 and was the boyhood home of actor Andy Devine. It currently awaits restoration. The huge steam locomotive across from Powerhouse Visitor Center ran from 1929 to the mid-1950s, when the era of steam ended for the Santa Fe Railroad.
Mohave Museum of History and Arts
The varied collection (400 W. Beale St., 928/753-3195, www.mohavemuseum.org, Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sat. 1-5 p.m., closed Sun. and major holidays, $3 ages 13 and up, $2 seniors 60+) offers a fine introduction to the history of northwestern Arizona. Dioramas, murals, and many artifacts show development from prehistoric times to the present. A ranching video tells about life on the range, past and present, in Mohave County. The Hualapai Native American Room contains a full-size wickiup brush shelter, pottery, baskets, and other crafts.
You'll also see paintings, sculpture, and crafts in the art gallery, photos showing construction of Hoover Dam, carved turquoise mined in the Kingman area, portraits of U.S. presidents with their first ladies, and a special exhibit on local-boy-turned-movie-star Andy Devine. The museum even features a pipe organ used in concerts here. Outdoor exhibits display ranching and mining machinery, storefronts, a mine replica, and a 1923 railroad caboose. History buffs can dig into the museum's library. A gift shop sells regional books and Native American crafts. Admission also gets you into the Route 66 Museum (below). From I-40 Exit 48, turn east 0.3 mile on Beale Street toward downtown.
Route 66 Museum
You'll the experience the history of travel on the 35th Parallel in this museum (upstairs in the Powerhouse Visitor Center at 120 W. Andy Devine, 928/753-9889, daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m., to 5 p.m. in winter, $3 ages 13 and up, $2 seniors 60+). The story begins with early trade routes and the Beale Wagon Road, which enabled pioneers to cross the land in "prairie schooners" such as the one on display. An old Chevrolet truck and quotations from John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath help you understand the tough times along Route 66 during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Storefronts, murals, and a 1950 Studebaker Champion car illustrate the good times of the post-war era. Photo exhibits and personal accounts bring the past to life. A small theater shows videos on request.
This historic house (downtown at 430 E. Spring St. and N. Fifth), 928/753-1413, Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. except major holidays, donation requested) of native tufa stone reflects the lifestyle and taste of a prominent Kingman family early in the 20th century. The Bonellis built their house in 1915 using both American and European designs. Thick walls insulate the interior from the temperature extremes of Kingman's desert climate. A member of the Bonelli family lived here until 1973, when the city of Kingman bought the house for restoration as a bicentennial project.
Other Historic Buildings
The former Saint John's United Methodist Church, east across 5th Street from the Bonelli House, dates from 1917; Clark Gable and Carole Lombard got married here in 1939. A block east, you can't miss the commanding 1915 Mohave County Courthouse; unfortunately the old courtroom is normally locked unless in use. A few doors west stands the diminutive 1907 St. Mary's Church; it's now used for Sunday school classes. Turn south one block on 4th Street from the Courthouse to see the 1906 Elks Lodge; the downstairs served as an opera house. South across Oak Street, many early Kingmanites learned their three Rs at the 1896 Little Red Schoolhouse.
Wagons creaking down the hill into Kingman from the 1870s to the early 1900s carved deep ruts in the soft volcanic bedrock. Wagon masters used the evenly spaced holes beside the road for braking or leverage with long poles. Another road bypassed this spot in 1912, leaving the old road in its original condition.
The site lies near a pretty canyon just a short drive from town. From the Mohave Museum of History and Arts, take Grandview Avenue north 0.4 mile, then turn right and drive 0.6 mile on Lead Street, which becomes White Cliffs Road. Look for a wooden footbridge on the right, then walk across and follow the path across to the old wagon road.
Camp Beale Loop
If you'd like a scenic walk in the hills, this 3.2-mile loop trail of the Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area will fill the bill. The trail climbs gently up a ridge from 3,640 feet to a well-deserved rest bench 460 hundred feet higher at the top, then returns a different way. Panoramas take in Kingman, the Hualapai Mountains, and surrounding valleys and hills. Head out W. Beale Road/US 93 for 0.5 mile from I-40 Exit 48 toward Las Vegas, turn right 1.3 miles on Fort Beale Drive, then left 0.3 mile up a paved lane.
On the drive to the trailhead, you'll pass the remains of historic Camp Beale Springs. It's on the left 0.7 mile up Fort Beale Drive, opposite the sign for Wagon Trail Road. You may need a permit from Kingman's Parks & Recreation Dept., 3233 Harrison in Centennial Park, 928/757-7919, open Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
If you'd like a longer hike, head northwest on an old road from the ridge-top bench. This is the Castle Rock Trail, which reaches a trail junction at the base of its namesake peak (elev. 4,634 feet) in 4.4 miles one way, where you have the option of ascending it in 1.2 miles roundtrip, or continuing west 3.2 miles one way on the Badger Trail. This trail ends at the Badger Trailhead (elev. 3,400 feet), just off US 93 a short way north of the AZ 68 junction; it's accessible only from the northbound lanes.
Kingman Army Air Field Museum
During the darkest hours of World War II, the army hastily constructed a vast training camp northeast of Kingman to prepare gunners, pilots, and copilots for battles in the air. By war's end 35,000 cadets had earned their certificates here. Peacetime saw more than 7,000 bombers—mostly B-17s—make their final flight and land at this airfield to be broken up and melted into aluminum ingots. The museum (Kingman Airport, 928/757-1892, Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., donation) tells the stories of the men and women at the base. You'll see their photos, read of their experiences, and examine their equipment. The collection also includes many poignant tales and mementos from combat in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It's in an original 1942 wooden hangar at what's now Kingman's airport. Drive northeast 4.5 miles on AZ 66 from I-40 Exit 53, turn right 1.1 miles into the airport to the 4-way stop just before the old control tower, then turn right 0.5 mile on Flightline Drive to #4540.
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