5/26/2012 11:12:00 AM Historic road goes through Williams, Seligman Get your kicks on Williams Route 66 today
Williams' car shows are not lacking in classic and vintage automobiles. Car shows are popular venues along Route 66 during the summer months. Photo/WGCN
Visitor Center has all the info
Visitors to Williams can be treated to one-stop-shopping when seeking information about Williams and the surrounding Kaibab National Forest.
The city of Williams-Kaibab National Forest Visitor Center is located in the historic Santa Fe Freight Depot on the northwest corner of Grand Canyon Boulevard and Railroad Avenue.
The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
The Visitor Center celebrated its grand opening in 1994. Together, the Williams-Grand-Canyon Chamber of Commerce, the Forest Service and National Parks Service manages the Visitor Center.
The Forest Service provides interpretive displays and information about the forest. Tickets for the Grand Canyon can be purchased from the Visitor Center.
The Public Lands Interpretive Association operates a bookstore and gift shop. It offers a wide selection of books, videos and other materials that provide interpretive and historical information about the Southwest. Books on the Grand Canyon, American Indian tribes and cultures, geology, wildflowers and Route 66 are available. Hiking maps are for sale as well.
The staff at the Visitor Center - an official Arizona Tourist Information Center - can assist you with information about restaurants, motels, camping, hiking, fishing, other places of interest and with general information about the area.
This historic brick structure was built in 1901 as a passenger train depot, replacing an earlier wooden depot that was destroyed by fire. It later became a telegraph and railroad office and then was used as a freight depot.
Abandoned by the early 1970s, it remained sound and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The city of Williams bought it in 1992 and, with the Kaibab National Forest, began restoration in 1993.
With a push of a button on the Route 66 display, strains of Nat King Cole's version of the famous song about the Mother Road emanate. As the music plays, a video screen depicts nostalgic scenes along the highway and a United States map lights up to reveal the highway's route from Chicago west to Los Angeles.
There's a copy of John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath," about Oakies who traveled west along Route 66 during the Depression and a reference to the 1940s movie the book spawned. A TV Guide from 1962 features George Maharis and Martin Milner on its cover, stars of the famous television series about traveling the highway. Mention is made of Williams being the last Route 66 town bypassed in 1984. Several photos catch early local scenes along the highway.
Other exhibits depict the Beale Road, the Bill Williams Mountain Men and Buckskinners, how the town got its name, ecology, fire suppression and natural origins.
For more information, you can call the center during regular business hours at (800) 863-0546 or (928) 635-1418. Visit the chamber online at www.williamschamber.com. The 24-hour chamber fax number is (928) 635-1417.
Formerly the only road west, Route 66 is now more of a memory than a journey. But even though it has been replaced by faster, smoother traveling highways, the route will always remain the most revered two-lane road in America ... especially in Williams.
West of Williams, travelers can get on Route 66 by exiting Interstate 40 at Crookton Road (exit 139). From there, the road leads to and through Seligman, continuing west to Kingman, 88 miles away.
In Seligman, there are all the services a traveler may need, such as lodging, camping, dining, groceries, gas, souvenirs and of course, Route 66 memorabilia.
It was 1978 when Seligman and Route 66 were bypassed by Interstate 40. It looked bleak for the town because much of its economy depended on tourism.
As a result, in 1987, the Seligman Chamber of Commerce, led by barber Angel Delgadillo, lobbied Arizona officials to designate Route 66 as a historical highway.
In 1988, Route 66 gained historical status and since then, "the highway's popularity has skyrocketed, they just keep coming," Delgadillo once said.
The old road leaves Seligman and crosses Aubrey Valley. Then the road becomes straight as far as the eye can see and crosses a large basin.
Grand Canyon Caverns and Peach Springs are a few interesting stops along the way. Motorists with high-clearance vehicles can even drive to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River via Diamond Creek Road.
Further east is Williams, which holds the distinction of being the last town located on Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40. It has become another popular spot for Route 66 enthusiasts.
Visitors will want to begin their tour into the past on Route 66 in Williams. Continue east to I-40 and exit at Garland Prairie Road (167) for a tour on the graveled Old Trails Highway. The paved tour of Route 66 continues on I-40 to Pittman Valley Road (exit 171) and heads north over the interstate. Turn right on Route 66, continuing until you reach the Parks Feed & Mercantile, located to your right. At this point, you can return to I-40 or continue on a gravel road to Brannigan Park (Bellemont, Exit 185), where you'll reach the end of what's left of Route 66.