When the railroad reached this site in 1881, Eastern investors recognized the surrounding rangelands as prime cattle country and wasted no time in seeking grazing rights. Within two years, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company based near Joseph City ran 60,000 head of cattle. The Aztec, better known as the Hashknife outfit after the shape of its brand, became the third-largest cattle empire in the United States. Its cowboys worked the longhorns across one million acres. On holidays, the cowpokes, looking for a good time, rode into Holbrook with guns blazing. Rustling and poor management troubled the Hashknife operation until it shut down about 1900, but Holbrook (pop. about 5,000) remains a ranching center. Travelers often use Holbrook as a base for visiting the nearby Petrified Forest National Park and the Navajo and Hopi lands.
Navajo County Museum
You can relive some of the area's Wild West history in the 1898 former county courthouse downtown (100 E. Arizona St. and Navajo Blvd., 928/524-6558 or 800/524-2459, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri. and 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun., donations welcome). The Holbrook Chamber of Commerce office is here too, with the same telephone numbers, but it closes on weekends. Period rooms and artifacts trace the changes from the prehistoric era to lawless frontier days to modern times. Head upstairs to see the courtroom, with its decorative metal ceiling, and some restored offices. Don't miss the dungeon-like jail downstairs.
International Petrified Forest and the Museum of the Americas
Several attractions invite a stop at this private museum (3 miles east at I-40 Exit 292, 928/524-9178 or 888/830-6682, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $5/vehicle). The large museum shows the artistry of both regional and Meso-American prehistoric cultures. A two-room reconstructed pueblo from Four-Mile Ruin (1100–1375), located southwest of Snowflake, stands in the middle of the museum. You'll see superb figurines and pottery, along with jewelry, tools, and other finds. A fossil display has some huge dinosaur bones, eggs, and dung. The unusual green petrified wood gets its color from chromium. Life-size dinosaurs will interest the kids. A large gift shop offers petrified wood and other souvenirs. A four-mile loop drive leads past a small herd of buffalo and colorful hills covered with large petrified logs.
On to Holbrook Practicalities
On to Petrified Forest National Park