Discovering Kingman: A Desert Oasis with a Rich History and Route 66 Fest Celebration

Published by The Bee News

October 3, 2023

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Even before there was a railroad construction camp on the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad named for survey engineer Lewis Kingman, the site of Kingman, Arizona was an oasis for weary travelers. 

Just one mile from the historic heart of Kingman is Beale Springs, and Atlantic Springs. As a dependable source of water in any season, they were a haven for the Cerbat clan of the Hualapai people, for travelers on a pre-Columbian trade route, for the expedition of Father Garces in 1776, and for American explorers in the mid-19th century. 

Pioneering automobilists in the early 1900s also found that Kingman was a desert oasis. In the era of the National Old Trails Road, a free campground with a shower and ample water was established on South Front Street, now Topeka Street. 

Charles Metcalfe, a Kingman pioneer, knew the importance of the oasis to the traveler.   In 1880 he followed the railroad into the New Mexico Territory where he worked as a publisher and miner. He crossed the Mojave Desert to the west coast, and then he took to prospecting in the Arizona Territory. 

That led him to Kingman where he developed mining claims, a quarry, a hotel at Beale Springs, and a housing development. In 1934, reflecting on his time traversing the desert and the joy of finding an oasis, as a gift to the city, he deeded land for use as a park. 

Located along U.S. 466 and U.S. 93 just one block off Route 66, the park became a popular stop for travelers. Dr. Walter Brazie oversaw its transformation with expansive landscaping that included the stone border walls in 1957. In 1982, Kingman’s centennial year, a commemorative monument was built and dedicated.  

With certification of U.S. 93 that had a southern terminus in Kingman, and U.S. 466 that also had its eastern terminus in the city, and the realignment of U.S. 66 along Front Street past the Desert Power & Water Company powerhouse, now the Powerhouse Visitor Center, the old rodeo grounds and baseball field was bisected. What remained became a dusty roadside park.

In the years that followed the city of Kingman slowly transformed this park into another shaded oasis popular with locals and travelers alike.  Then in 1957 the Santa Fe Railroad donated engine number 3759 to the City of Kingman, and Locomotive Park became a well-known attraction shared by travelers with colorful postcards. 

The Arizona Highway Department dedicated a new oasis for the traveler in 1966. Located at the junction of U.S. 93 and U.S. 66 near the Hobbs Truck Stop complex and Whiting Brothers station, Lewis Kingman Park proved to be a popular stop for travelers.

The third annual Kingman Route 66 Fest in Lewis Kingman Park on October 13 – 14 celebrates the city’s history as an oasis, and as the heart of historic Roue 66. The schedule for the fun filled event celebrating the great American road trip includes live music, a beer garden with craft beers from regional breweries, a diverse array of craft and food vendors, and a display of classic cars. Also on tap is a motorcycle show, a pin up contest, vintage trailer display, a fun photo booth, children’s activities, and a very special surprise – Kingman’s only zipline along Rout 66. 

The Route 66 Fest is free for spectators and there is free public parking in the adjacent lot at the corner of Andy Devine Ave (Route 66) and Fairgrounds Ave. A shuttle will provide transportation along Route 66 downtown to the historic heart of Kingman. 

Come make some memories and celebrate the legend of Route 66 at Kingman 66 Fest this October!


Written by Jim Hinckley

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