Armijo Route, 1829-1830
One of the Old Spanish Trail’s alternative routes, the Armijo Route, was pioneered by 31 New Mexico traders, under the leadership of Antonio Armijo between 1829 and 1830. This group left Abiquiu, New Mexico, in November of 1829 with a horse and mule pack train loaded with woven goods to sell in California. They followed a route that took them through the Four Corners area to the Colorado River where the Dominquez-Escalante party had crossed in 1776. From this crossing, the route headed across northeastern Arizona to the Virgin River in Utah. The party then followed the Virgin River to the Colorado River, diverted southwesterly across the Mojave Desert of Nevada, arriving in Santa Barbara, California three months later. Their return trip to New Mexico, driving horses and mules purchased in California, took only 40 days, as they were now traveling a known route. Armijo’s party pioneered a new trail and demonstrated the feasibility of commercial trade between New Mexico and California.
In Washington County, the Northern and Armijo Routes cross public lands managed by the St. George Field Office. The Northern Route entered the county near New Castle, traversing the Dixie National Forest to Mountain Meadows. Mountain Meadows was an important resting spot for the traders and their stock, as water and forage were predictably available there. The route then followed the Santa Clara River to Camp Spring, on the Shivwits Indian Reservation, and then left the river to go overland in a southwesterly direction to the Virgin River, near Beaver Dam, Arizona. The exact route of the trail probably varied somewhat by season and the availability of water and feed. Some traders may have followed the Santa Clara River south to its intersection with the Virgin River near St. George, Utah, rather than taking the overland route. Few traces of the OST remain, although the travel corridor and the rugged landscape through which the pack mule trains and New Mexico traders passed can still be experienced and appreciated by modern visitors.
The Armijo Route followed Fort Pearce Wash in Washington County, bearing northwesterly to intercept the Virgin River, just west of Hurricane, Utah. The party continued south along the Virgin River to a campsite near Littlefield Arizona, ultimately traveling along the Virgin River to its confluence with the Colorado River, east of Las Vegas, Nevada.