|Copper Canyon became the first automobile route into the valley in the valley in 1910 when the territorial legislature funded the construction of the Territorial Highway. The state’s first major road project, it carried automobile traffic from the Douglas on the Mexican border, through Phoenix, Prescott, down copper Canyon and on to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.|
CAMP VERDE - According to historian Jim Byrkit, the trail through Copper Canyon was part of an extensive network of Indian trade routes that had linked the salt deposits in the Camp Verde area to people living to the south and west.
But as far as the white man was concerned, it was King Woolsey, central Arizona's first rancher and a notorious adventurer/Indian fighter, who first discovered the relatively accessible route from the Black Hills to the valley floor and back out.
In February 1864, Woolsey traveled to the Verde Valley as part of newly appointed Territorial Gov.John Goodwin's reconnaissance of the Verde Valley.
Seeking better water and timber for the new state capital, Goodwin believed the valley of the Rio Verde was a likely prospect
According to Byrkit, the main part proceeded southeast from a camp on Ash Creek, just east of what is today the town of Dewey-Humbolt, and soon found themselves mired in a rugged, steep and by all accounts dangerous descent to the river.
Historian John Nicholson has speculated that the governor's party went down either Gap Creek or Chasm Creek, both steep and rugged defiles, neither of which the party would soon forget.
Woolsey, on the other hand, along with a handful of civilians, went directly west to a low gap visible in the mountains.
It proved to be a considerably easier route and, according to Byrkit, was known for a brief time as "Woolsey's Pass."
However, it seems that knowledge of the canyon was not widely passed on, as less than a year later the first group of settlers to come east from Prescott, along with the first contingent of the early military who followed later used what became known as Grief Hill, farther to the north, as their entrance point.
Nevertheless, by the late 1860s Copper Canyon had became the valley's preferred entry point, and shortly after Gen. George Crook assumed command, it was improved to a point where wagons could more easily negotiate the steeper portion near the top.
The Copper Canyon trail remained the main access point to the valley for some time, but it was eventually and for a short period of time, replaced by a more gradual assent and descent down what is today the Cherry Road.
Then in 1910, the legislature located the route of the new Territorial Highway down Copper Canyon, restoring its significance once again.
However, locals continued to use both routes when heading south to Phoenix or west to Prescott, until the arrival of the Black Canyon Highway in the 1950s restored Copper Canyon's designation as valley's most accessible access point