The Coronado Trail/ US191 has a rich history going as far back as Francisco Vázquez de Coronado a Spanish conquistador and explorer who led a large expedition from what is now Mexico to present-day Kansas through parts of the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542 this expedition included the Coronado Trail. The Coronado Trail/US 191 is also part of what was previously US Route 666 or more commonly referred to as “The Devil’s Highway”. Being referred to as “The Devil’s Highway” of course because of the correlation of the number of the beast, as you can imagine with there was often talk of strange, supernatural problems, with some people even claiming the highway was cursed. In 1992 Arizona successfully petitioned to have the Highway/Route renumbered.
The Coronado Trail connecting Clifton to Alpine is one of the great classic rides in the nation. The spectacular roadway retraces the steps of the Spanish Conquistadors of the 1500's, offering some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Southwest. Cool in the summer, delightful in the winter, the curves, vistas and wildlife of the Coronado Trail will have you savoring this bucket-list trip. Look for fishing, hunting, hiking camping, cross-country skiing and many other outdoor activities along the Trail.
The P&H Model 1800 Excavator Shovel #11 worked in the Phelps Dodge Morenci Pit from 1/20/1958 – 2/11/1980. In its 22 years of service; it moved 68,483,849 tons of material. If the total tonnage was stacked on top of a 1700 Sq. foot home the pile would be 202.7 miles high. Through the joint efforts of Phelps Dodge Morenci and the Town of Clifton this shovel was saved to be restored as a reminder of a piece of machinery that helped build post war America. The shovel restoration project began on 7/29/89 and after over 458 hours and 40 volunteers was completed on 6/5/93.
As with most industries of the 19th and early 20th century the mining industry relied heavily on the railroads which is true even still today. The local locomotives were numbered and often had “official” names. The little locomotive on display in Clifton next to the Old Jail is the #8 locomotive or “The Copperhead”. The #8 locomotive was used to haul ore between Clifton and Longfellow. Throughout the years ownership of “The Copperhead" has gone from Arizona Copper Company, Phelp’s Dodge, a scrap metal collector, a mayor and finally the Town of Clifton. It was beautifully and carefully restored by Thomas Sidebotham.
Clifton was founded in 1873, the year the Lesinsky brothers built a smelter in Clifton due to the close proximity to water. During the mining years before and after this, criminals were not sentenced to prison time, instead they were sentenced to work in the copper mines for a certain amount of time. This was an ideal way to deter criminals as well as increase the labor in the profitable copper mines. The only problem was that many of the sentenced workers would flee rather than finishing out their work sentence. The Lesinsky brothers decided a jail to house the workers was necessary.
In 1878 the Lesinsky brothers hired a local stone worker Margarito Varela. Varela worked his way through the cliff forging his way with a pickaxe, drill and blasting powder. Varela formed two rooms in the Cliff jail, the smaller held the more dangerous criminals the bigger cell was used for the more minor offenses. Each cell had a large heavy iron-barred cell door and a window to allow for fresh air, the windows did not look directly outside, they were instead connected to small tunnels that led to the outside. Local legend will tell you that Margarito Varela was not only the builder of the jail, but he was also the first to occupant of the Cliff Jail. As the story goes after Varela received his pay; he went to celebrate at a local dance hall with some Snakehead Whisky. At some point in the night, he began to fire his gun in the air at the dance hall to try and get everyone’s attention to share that he was done building the jail. It just so happened that the owner of the dance hall was also a Deputy Sherriff and he arrested Varela and locked him up in his newly finished jail.
The Clifton Cliff Jail was used up until 1906 when a particularly bad flood hit Clifton and flooded the jail, leading to the occupants needing to be rescued and leaving the jail so full of sediment is was unusable. Over the nearly 3 decades that the Cliff Jail was in service it said that many of the Old West’s notorious bad guys spent time there and It is also said that no one ever managed to escape the infamous Cliff Jail.
Mayor Peter Riley started a movement in 1929 to have the Jail restored.
Built in 1912 and historically named; Arizona and New Mexico Railway Passenger Station located on US191 Coronado Blvd (Previously Route 666). This historic Train Depot was originally built to accommodate what was predicted to be a population growth of 20,000. Although the anticipated growth never came to be the train depot was still busy in the beginning however as the economy worsened and the price of copper fell so did the need of the train depot until it finally shut down in 1932. The depot was used as a restaurant for a number of years, where many locals will tell you love was found. After a number years of being vacant the Arizona and New Mexico Railway deeded the building to the Town of Clifton. Over the years the Town has worked on restoring the damage from the vacancy, floods and vandals. Today it houses our Visitors Center and Community Center.