Joseph City is in Navajo County on Interstate 40 about 80
miles east of Flagstaff and approximately 200 miles northeast of
As early as 1854, Mormons had tried to establish communities
in the Little Colorado River territory, but they were driven out by the
Navajos. Between 1858 and the early 1870s, Mormon pioneers
made several reconnaissance missions to locate river crossings,
water holes and suitable trails.
In 1876, Mormon settlers again came from Utah to colonize the
area. St. Joseph, Arizona, was founded along with three other communities.
In 1923, since St. Joseph, Missouri, was also on the Santa
Fe Railway line, St. Joseph, Arizona, was changed to Joseph City.
Today the community is the oldest Mormon settlement in Arizona.
Joseph City, at an elevation of 5,083 feet, is unincorporated.
Joseph City's location on I-40 has contributed to the development
of a sizable retail trade and service sector in the local economy.
Commercial activity in Navajo County has been increasing significantly
around I-40 in recent years.
The four power plants of Arizona Public Service, with a kilowatt
capacity totaling 946,000, are also significant to the Joseph City
economy. The Cholla power plant is the largest APS-owned generating
station in Arizona.
Joseph City is surrounded by a variety of natural scenic attractions.
The Petrified Forest, declared a national monument in 1906,
and Painted Desert, added to the national park in 1932, are east of
the city within a half hour drive. The historic Painted Desert Inn is
located at Kachina Point. It was built in 1924 and is on the National
Register of Historic Places. In 1985, the fossil remains of one of the
earliest-known dinosaurs was found in the Petrified Forest.
Cholla Lake, a reservoir formed to hold cooling water for the
Cholla Power Plant, has been developed into a splendid recreational
area, with excellent boating, fishing and swimming.
South of Joseph City lies the Mogollon Rim country with its tall
pines and quiet mountain lakes where visitors and residents alike
can enjoy hunting, fishing and the spectacular panoramas.
The ancient villages of the Hopi Indians and prehistoric ruins
and cliff dwellings of the Navajo Reservation reveal an authentic picture
of the history of these colorful Indian tribes and the rich folklore
of the early West.
On the reservation are found Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly,
Little Colorado River Gorge, Grand Falls, Rainbow Bridge, Betatakin
and Window Rock-the “seven wonders of the Navajo Nation.”