U.S. Highway 89: Scenic Route to Seven National Parks

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U.S. Highway 89: Scenic Route to Seven National Parks 1

U.S. Highway 89 Gallery
The Scenic Route to Seven Western National Parks

Text and Photographs by Ann Torrence

Ann Torrence’s U.S. Highway 89: The Scenic Route to Seven Western National Parks is a beautiful coffee table book with lots of gorgeous photographs, and it’s a self-published project no less! Here’s a gallery of our favorite selections, and be sure to check it out on Amazon!

Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs of Arizona on Highway 89
Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs of Arizona

For over 25 years, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs of Arizona have organized the Florence Prison Run. Originating as a show of support for an incarcerated member, today over 1,000 motorcyclists from across the region meet each year in Florence to ride past the state prison.

Salt River Bridge
Salt River Bridge

The newest bridge over the Salt River carries the Phoenix metropolitan area’s light rail trains. A moving pattern of colored lights sweeps across the span paralleling the old Highway 89 route over the Mill Avenue bridges connecting Tempe and Phoenix.

Buckhorn Bathes
Buckhorn Baths

The Buckhorn Baths welcomed travelers along U.S. 89 for over 60 years. Ted and Alice Sliger built the mineral baths, taxidermy museum, and motel units along Arizona’s major connecting route between Tucson and Phoenix. From the late 1940s through the early 1970s, the New York Giants baseball team stayed at the baths for Cactus League spring training. Ted died in 1984; Alice continued to run the resort into her 90s. The property will likely be demolished to make way for another big-box store.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Park
Sunset Crater Volcano National Park

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument: Outrage over a Hollywood film crew’s plans to dynamite Sunset Crater resulted in public support to create a national monument to protect it in 1930.

Santa Parade
Santa Parade

Classic car clubs converge each summer for the Williams, Arizona, Fourth of July parade along Route 66, which for 60 miles was co numbered with the route of Highway 89. Santa on a newly restored motor trike was the crowd favorite parade entry.

Mouth of Zion River
The mouth of Zion River

U.S. 89 parallels the headwaters of the Virgin River in the Long Valley east of Zion National Park. The river, carving for miles through the Navajo sandstone layer of the Colorado plateau, exits the Zion Narrows into a cottonwood valley enclosed by sheer cliffs soaring upward over 2,000 feet. At the mouth of Zion Canyon, the river bends around the Watchtower, eventually joining the Colorado drainage at Lake Mead.

Watercolorist Buffalo Kaplinksi
Watercolorist Buffalo Kaplinksi

Watercolorist Buffalo Kaplinski at work near the Virgin River in Zion National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park.
Sanpete Valley Sheep Ranchers
Sanpete Valley Sheep Ranchers

The Eliason’s of Fountain Green, Utah, are some of the last sheep ranchers in Sanpete Valley to move their herds from summer grazing lands to winter pasture on foot on Highway 89.

Sanpete County Agriculture
Sanpete County Agriculture

Agriculture has been the mainstay of the economy in Sanpete County, Utah, since the arrival of the first Mormon settlers. In the early 1900s, farmers raised peas for canneries and sugar beets for industrial processing plants. Most of the row crop farms in Sanpete County have been replaced by cattle, sheep and turkey producers.

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Afton, Wyoming Antler Arch
Afton, Wyoming used more than 3,000 antlers to create its landmark elk antler arch (opposite, top) in 1958. It weighs over 15 tons and spans 75 feet across the entire Highway 89.
Bull Elk Wyoming
Bull elk shed their antlers in early spring, before leaving the winter feeding grounds at the National Elk Refuge, outside Jackson, Wyoming.
Oxbow of the Snake River
Oxbow of the Snake River: Grand Teton National Park
Old Faithful
In 2006, over 15 million people visited the seven national parks served by Highway 89. Yellowstone National Park alone attracted 3 million people, with about 85 percent visiting the Old Faithful area. The crowds peak on summer holidays, and can reach 25,000 people per day.
Jammers Touring Coaches
During the Depression, the White Motor Company built 500 touring coaches for use in the national parks, including the Grand Circle of Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon, as well as Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. After 60 years in service, Glacier’s original fleet of red buses was reconditioned by Ford Motor Company and converted to run on clean-burning propane fuel. In Glacier, the driver/guides were known as “Jammers” for their noisy, gear-jamming driving techniques while summiting the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Grain Elevator Montana
Grain Elevator in Wilsall, Montana
Beneath Rainbow Dam
Beneath Rainbow Dam, the falls drop 47 feet on the Missouri River. A partnership of government agencies, private enterprises and citizen volunteers in Great Falls has built 30 miles of pedestrian and biking trails linking the dams on the Missouri River.
Ear Mountain
Beneath Rainbow Dam, the falls drop 47 feet on the Missouri River. A partnership of government agencies, private enterprises and citizen volunteers in Great Falls has built 30 miles of pedestrian and biking trails linking the dams on the Missouri River.
Blackfeet Reservation
In 1964 catastrophic dam failures killed 30 people on the Blackfeet reservation, displaced hundreds and inundated Highway 89. Sculptor Jay Laber’s family left the Blackfeet reservation. He returned as an artist, turning scrap metal from cars destroyed in the flood into these sentries placed at the northern boundary of the reservation on Highway 89. The sentries face eastward across the prairie to greet the rising sun.

Ann TorrenceAnn Torrence is a writer and photographer based in Salt Lake City. Visit her website, AnnTorrence.com.

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