Over the summer, we were exploring in the Ponderosa pine forests of northern Arizona. One of the spots we visited was Law’s Spring. It’s an old campsite along the historic Beale Wagon Road.
The Beale Road was born from a need to travel over newly won territory from Mexico after the Mexican-American War (1848) and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1857, President Buchanan and the US Congress commissioned Navy Lt. Edward Beale to find a route from Ft. Smith, Arkansas to the Colorado River (in what would become Arizona). Beale brought in twenty-five camels, from the Camel Corps (imported from Tunis in Africa) to trek across the desert. The animals were well-suited to the dry climate but rocks injured their feet and muleskinners (mule wranglers) generally found them smelly, ugly and ill-tempered.
The route was heavily used for many years until the coming of the transcontinental railroad in 1883. On the California side, the route would later be called the Government Road (and now called the Old Mojave Road).
These days, parts of US Route 66 (the Mother Road), Interstate 40 and the Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) follow along traces of the old wagon road that Beale pioneered.
Of course, long before Law’s Spring was a watering hole for pioneers coming west, the tank was known to the Native Americans of the area. Petroglyphs adorn a few walls around the spring.
It is believed a tombstone carver who was traveling with the expedition engraved the words “Laws Spring” into the basalt rock at the spring. He did excellent work.