Tortilla Flat, Arizona

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Tortilla Flat, Arizona
Unincorporated community
Tortilla Flat, 2007
Tortilla Flat, 2007
Location in Maricopa County and the state of Arizona
Location in Maricopa County and the state of Arizona
Coordinates: 33°31′35″N 111°23′23″W / 33.52639°N 111.38972°W / 33.52639; -111.38972Coordinates: 33°31′35″N 111°23′23″W / 33.52639°N 111.38972°W / 33.52639; -111.38972
Country United States
State Arizona
County Maricopa
Time zone Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)

Tortilla Flat is a small unincorporated community in far eastern Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. It is located in the central part of the state, northeast of Apache Junction. It is the last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail. According to the Gross Management Department of Arizona's main U.S. Post Office in Phoenix, Tortilla Flat is presumed to be Arizona's smallest official "community" having a U.S. Post Office and voter's precinct. The town has a population of 6. Tortilla Flat can be reached by vehicles on State Route 88, via Apache Junction.

Originally a camping ground for the prospectors who searched for gold in the Superstition Mountains in the mid-to-late 19th century, Tortilla Flat was later a freight camp for the construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam. From this time (1904) on, Tortilla Flat has had a small (<100 people) but continuous population. A flood in 1942 badly damaged the town, resulting in many residents moving away. Today Tortilla Flat is made up primarily of a small store and restaurant, which were constructed in the late 1980s after a fire consumed the existing store and restaurant on the same site. Several hiking trails into the Superstition Mountains begin near Tortilla Flat.

Restaurant at Tortilla Flat

History[edit]

Based on available records Tortilla Flat got its start because of the road construction to Roosevelt Dam in 1904. There was a need for a stagecoach stop for freight haulers on their way to the construction site at Roosevelt Dam and Tortilla Flat served that purpose. Shortly following the construction of the road, Roosevelt Dam became a big tourist attraction. At that point Tortilla Flat was a stage stop for tourists and mail carriers through the 1930s.

The name "Tortilla Flat" originated from the cowboys who used to drive cattle from Globe to Phoenix. While in Phoenix, rancher Mr. Cline and his fellow cowboys celebrated their sale, and, having a little too much to drink, forgot to get supplies while they were in town. They ended up with only flour to make tortillas when they camped at the flat and were stranded.

Forest Service records show Tonto National Forest being established in 1905 as kind of a "package deal" with the Salt River Reclamation Project. The Forest Service was needed to manage the land and protect watershed for the dams because cattle grazing had denuded the land. The freight camp at Tortilla Flat, as well as the other camps along the road to the dam, were, therefore, on U.S. Forest Service land. Folks who decided to make Tortilla Flat their permanent residence kept up the lease on the land in later years whenever it came due.

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