Navajo County is a large county that sits in Northern Arizona. It spans 9960 square feet, 9950 of which is entirely land. The other 10 square feet are rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.
Initially, part of Apache County, Navajo County was founded in 1895 with Commodore Perry Owen serving as its first sheriff. Since its inception, it has experienced a rich history including being the site of the Pleasant Valley War.
This turf war lasted for 10 years from 1882 to 1892. It was fought between two families, the Grahams and the Tewskburys’. Both families were cattle and sheep ranchers and battled over land on which to graze their livestock. In total, the war cost 50 men their lives. Most of the adult men in both families were killed.
Navajo County currently is home to more than 107,000 residents. The people of Navajo County are spread among numerous cities and towns including Holbrook, its county seat. Other cities in the county include Show Low and Winslow. Smaller towns in the county include Pinetop-Lakeside, Snowflake, and Taylor.
Additionally, Navajo County is home to three Native American reservations. These include the Hopi, Navajo, and Fort Apache reservations.
Being one of the largest counties in Arizona, Navajo County has a population of varied ethnicities. Close to 43 percent of the county’s population is Native American. Caucasians account for 49 percent while Asians and African Americans make up 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent of the population respectively.
Further, the population of Navajo County is relatively young. Most residents are younger than 35 years old.
Eleven unified school districts serve the youth of Navajo County. These school districts include:
- Blue Ridge Unified School District
- Cedar Unified School District
- Heber-Overgaard Unified School District
- Holbrook Unified School District
- Joseph City Unified School District
- Kayenta Unified School District
- Pinon Unified School District
- Show Low Unified School District
- Snowflake Unified School District
- Whiteriver Unified School District
- Winslow Unified School District
Additionally, one major interstate along with numerous state and federal highways run through Navajo County. The major interstate is I-40, which runs through cities like Holbrook, Winslow, and Joseph City. It also runs through the Petrified Forest National Park and is the major thoroughfare that tourists use when traveling through the county.
Other major highways that run through Navajo County include:
- U.S. Route 60
- U.S. Route 160
- U.S. Route 163
- U.S. Route 180
Finally, numerous state highways traverse through Navajo County. The state routes include 77, 87, 98, 99, and 260.
The various highways and interstates that run through Navajo County are critical in bringing traffic to and from the county’s eight airports. The eight airports are used primarily for regional and local air traffic. The Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport in Winslow offers service through TWA and Frontier Airlines
Navajo County is home to some of the country’s oldest and most expansive forests and canyons. A number of them have been designated as state or federally protected sites.
The state and national parks found in Navajo County include Monument Valley, Kearns Canyon that is part of the Petrified Forest Petrified Park, and the state’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest. Other federally protected sites in the county are Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Navajo National Monument, and the Petrified Forest National Park.
As the home to numerous state and federally protected forests and parks, Navajo County welcomes thousands of visitors to the area each year. People who are planning a visit to the county are welcome to stay at any of the campgrounds and resorts that are open throughout the year. The county is also home to one casino, the Hon-Dah Casino, which is located in Pinetop-Lakeside.
The town of Pinetop-Lakeside is one of the newer cities in Navajo County, having been created in 1984 when the two towns of Pinetop and Lakeside merged. The original town of Pinetop was named after the owner of a saloon who tended to the soldiers at Fort Apache during the town’s earlier days. Lakeside was originally founded in 1880 by Mormon pioneers who traveled there from Utah.
Today, Pinetop-Lakeside is a small but thriving city of little more than 4200 residents. It is surrounded by expansive forests and mountains, making it a favorite destination for outdoorsmen, hunters, campers, hikers, and others who want to enjoy the area’s natural beauty.
The forests always carry with them the risk of fire as witnessed in 2002 when the town was threatened by the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire. The fire forced the entire town to evacuate to safety. Pinetop-Lakeside was spared total devastation, however.
The town’s population is relatively young with the median age being 41 years. In addition to offering expansive natural forests, Pinetop-Lakeside also offers recreational facilities to residents and visitors alike. They have access to facilities like the Mountain Meadow Recreational Complex, the Jack Barker Memorial Park, White Mountain Nature Center, and Woodland Lake Park.
Winslow is also a town that is close to some of Navajo County’s natural forests and canyons. It is 60 miles from the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. People who come to Arizona to visit these sites often pass through and stay in Winslow because of the town’s proximity.
Along with its closeness to these national parks, Winslow also is home to one of the state’s 9-11 memorials. Its memorial to people who lost their lives that day was built from two steel beams recovered from the Twin Towers’ wreckage. This memorial draws visitors from around the country who want to view it up close.
However, Winslow is more famously known for being the town mentioned in the rock band Eagles’ song “Take It Easy.” It pays homage to its claim to fame every September with its own Standin’ on the Corner festival, which is held in Standin’ on the Corner Park.
People who visit Winslow during the festival or for any other reason are welcome to stay at the local La Posada Hotel, which was the last original Harvey Hotel in the country. After it was no longer used as a Harvey Hotel, it became the site for offices for the local railroad. The railroad discontinued its use of the building in 1994 after which it stood abandoned. It was recently purchased by a real estate developer and transformed into the La Posada.
Winslow has a population of 9100 residents. It is about 75 miles from Flagstaff.
Show Low, Arizona is also located in Navajo County and has a population of little more than 10,000 residents. This city got is an unusual name from a poker game that was played in 1876.
The game went on for hours with neither player seeming to win with each hand dealt. To bring the game to an end, both men decided that whoever showed the lowest hand of cars would be the winner.
The term “Show Low” became the name for the town in which the game was played. Incidentally, the winning hand was a deuce of clubs. Deuce of Clubs is now the name of the main street that runs through Show Low.
Aside from its unusual name, Show Low has other interesting sites that draw visitors to the area. In particular, it is surrounded by forests and lakes that make the city a popular draw for tourists who want to enjoy the Great Outdoors. Some of the most popular activities that tourists and local residents alike can enjoy in Show Low include:
- Scenic Drives
- Horseback riding
The sites in Show Low where these outdoor activities can be enjoyed are Fool Hollow Recreation Area and Show Low Lake.
Show Low came close to being leveled in 2002 when the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire approached it. The town was evacuated. However, the fire was extinguished before it could reach the town’s city limits.
Snowflake is another town in Navajo County with an unusual name. The town did not get its name because of any precipitation, however. Instead, it was named after two of its founding citizens, Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake. These two gentlemen were Mormon pioneers who emigrated from Utah to settle the area. They are honored through the town’s name.
Regardless, Snowflake consistently makes lists of U.S places with unusual names. Despite its quirky name, Snowflake attracts scores of visitors each year because of its proximity to the White Mountains, which surround this town of 5500. People come to Snowflake to enjoy outdoor recreation like skiing, camping, hunting, and fishing.
The town is also part of the county that is undergoing steady expansion and growth. It now has its own 18-hole golf course, for example. It also hosts events that are popular with locals and tourists alike.
Some of these events include the annual Ground Hog Day breakfast, the Easter Egg hunt, Fourth of July Celebrations, Pioneer Day Celebrations, and the 12 Days of Christmas. The town also has its own symphony that puts on performances each year.
Snowflake provides numerous vital services to the town of Taylor, which is situated nearby along Silver Creek in the White Mountains of Navajo County. Taylor was founded in 1878 by Mormon pioneers. It was named after John Taylor, the third president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The town was incorporated in 1966.
The city is so small and has such a remote location that it does not receive home mail delivery service. Instead, city residents must use a post office box in nearby Snowflake to receive their mail. The two towns also combine school services with one unified school district.
The town’s logo depicts an anvil and a bass drum, which refers to two family traditions in Taylor. The anvil refers to the sounding of the anvil that inaugurates the town’s annual Fourth of July celebrations each year. The bass drum refers to the marching band that plays every year during those festivities.
These are a few of the smaller towns in Navajo County. The primary city, Holbrook, serves as the county’s seat and the site of the local government.
Navajo County Seat and Overview
The county seat of Navajo County is Holbrook. The city got its name from the first engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, Henry R. Holbrook. It was founded in 1881 and now has a population of over 500 residents.
Long before it was settled, Holbrook was the site of Native American civilizations including the Anasazi, Puebloans, Navajo, and Apache. When Coronado passed through the area in 1540 in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, he discovered what would later be named the Painted Desert.
Holbrook officially became settled in 1848 after the Mexican-American War when the U.S. Army sent soldiers to explore and found the region. The soldiers were soon joined by Mormon settlers emigrating from Utah into Arizona Territory.
Even with the Mormon settlers, however, the new city of Holbrook became one of the infamous cities of the Wild West. It was dubbed a place that was fit for neither women nor church. Numerous crimes befell the city including cattle and horse rustling. Moreover, continuous battles broke out among landowners who fought for available land on which to graze their livestock.
The fighting reached a culmination in 1887 in an incident that is still known to this day as the Holbrook Shooting. Prior to the shooting, the sheriff Commodore Perry Owens was dispatched to arrest notorious cattle thieve Andy Blevins.
Upon reaching the place where Blevins and several others were hiding out, the sheriff engaged in gunfire with those holed up inside of the building. Owens managed to wound Blevins as well as two of his brothers, a friend, and one of the men’s horses. The friend died of his injuries. Nonetheless, Owens garnered fame for his ability to take on and beat four armed men. He became a Wild West legend at the time on par with the likes of Wyatt Earp of Tombstone, Arizona.
The city’s Wild West days officially came to an end by 1902 when most of the cattle ranchers sold their land to developers. The outlaw factions of the area lost money with having no cattle or horses to rustle and steal. Large parts of the county also came under federal protection with the designation of national parks like the Petrified Forest National Park. President Theodore Roosevelt is credited for preserving much of the county’s natural beauty and landscapes.
Today, Holbrook is a major tourist attraction in the state of Arizona as well as Navajo County. Along with being the site of the Petrified Forest National Park, the city is also home to novelty attractions like the Wigwam Motel. This motel is on the National Register of Historic Places and offers individual wigwams that tourists can stay in for the night.
Holbrook also hosts numerous special events throughout the year. Some of the more memorable events that bring tourists from across the state and country to Holbrook include the Bucket of Blood Races, which is held in July each year. This event features a 20 mile marathon and a 40 mile bike marathon. The marathons are open to people who live in Holbrook as well as people visiting from across the state and country.
Further, the county hosts a Route 66 festival every year in June. The event includes a tour of the Petrified Forest as well as a dance festival and car show. Car show enthusiasts who want to join in the fun can register their cars on the city of Holbrook’s website.
Finally, the city hosts the Happy Holbrook festivities every April each year. These festivities include a challenge called the Almost Amazing Race. It is also a time for the city’s vendors and businesses to showcase their products and services. Many businesses decorate their windows with large yellow smiley faces during the Happy Holbrook event.
County Courthouse – Overview and History
The original courthouse in Navajo County was built in 1898 in Holbrook and was used all the way through 1976. During that time, it served as the jail and sometimes execution site for some of the Wild West’s most notorious figures. Once a new courthouse complex was built and opened in 1976, the old courthouse became the site for the city’s Chamber of Commerce as well as the county’s visitor’s center and museum.
As a building that is over 100 years, it is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of people who were imprisoned or hanged there. In fact, two staff members who worked for the Chamber of Commerce brought an Ouija board into the building late on Halloween night. They reported that the game spelled out the name George. George is believed to be the very first prisoner who was hung at the courthouse’s jail. His ghost is said to haunt the building at nighttime.
Another ghost said to haunt the old courthouse is Mary, a female prisoner who died while incarcerated there. She was looking out of the cell’s window when she died. One night recently an employee and his wife noticed that some lights were on in the courthouse after hours. The employee went back in to turn off the lights. While he was in there, the wife noticed the figure of a woman looking out of the window. This figure is reported to be Mary.
While the old and possibly haunted courthouse is used by the Chamber of Commerce, visitor’s center, and county museum, the new courthouse is located in a complex located at 100 Code Talkers Drive in Holbrook. The complex houses what is now the county’s superior court, which is presided over by Judge Robert J. Higgins.
He is joined in his municipal duties by four other elected judges as well as a full-time county clerk and part-time family commissioner. The courthouse has offices for the clerk of the court, the adult and juvenile probation services, and services like CASA and pre-trial services. Because of the influx of legal cases handled at the courthouse in Holbrook, the county recently built a new superior court office in Show Low to share the workload.
Both courthouses in Show Low and Holbrook handle a wide variety of legal cases include those that pertain to:
- Civil matters
- Criminal trials and hearings
- Mental health hearings
- Probate cases
- Family court cases
- Paternity matters
- Child support and visitation cases
- Severance cases
- Parenting time matters
The Navajo County courthouse also is the site for limited jurisdiction court appeals.
The goal of the Navajo County courthouse is to provide residents of the county with timely and just resolutions of their conflicts and disputes. The staff of the courthouse wants it to be easy for county residents to access all court-related information as well as have it offered to them in a dignified, courteous, and professional manner.
The courthouse is dedicated to serving everyone in Navajo County who has a business in the courthouse while providing the best service possible to them. The current Clerk of the Court is Deanne Romo, who serves as the county’s official record keeper and fiduciary agent for the superior court.
People who have business with the courthouse but may not know where or how to get information for their cases can start by visiting the website of the Navajo County Courthouse. The courthouse’s website has links on it for the county’s drug court. The website also has a link to the courthouse’s juvenile detention department, which houses juvenile offenders younger than 18 years old.
Other links found on the courthouse website include those for the pre-trial services and court calendars. You can see what trials and hearings are scheduled throughout the month. The courthouse also has a link for probation services, which can be useful for people who are on probation or have loved ones on probation in the county.
Because the judges and some of the staff are elected into their positions, people of the county might want to know who the current administration is in the county. They can access this information on the website for the courthouse. The information is updated after elections as well as whenever staff quit or are added to the superior court.
Finally, residents of the county may need to know what fees are associated with doing business at the courthouse. For example, it costs money to file for divorce or petition for child support. They can find out what those fees are on the courthouse website.
Navajo County Sheriff
The first county sheriff of Navajo County was Commodore Perry Owen. Owen was nominated for and elected to the sheriff’s position in 1886. At the time, Navajo County was still a part of Apache County. However, it broke off from Apache County in 1895 and became its own county during a time when Owen was still in office.
During his time in office, Owen earned a reputation for being quiet, firm, and even-tempered. Later in his tenure, he also became famous for his role in the shooting and killing of Ike Clanton of the Clanton Boys. Clanton also was a member of the Cowboys who were infamous vigilantes in the city of Tombstone.
Clanton had a warrant out for his arrest, and Owens was tasked with bringing him into the county jail. He sent two of his deputies to arrest Clanton. However, Clanton fired on the deputies who returned fire. One of the deputies mortally wounded Clanton during the gunfight. Owens, although not directly responsible for killing Clanton, became appreciated for halting the threat from this dangerous criminal.
The current Navajo County sheriff is Kelly “KC” Clark. He was hired as a part-time patrol deputy in 1987 and worked his way up the ranks until he was elected sheriff of the county. He has been a resident of the county for more than 28 years. He lives there with his children and wife.
The sheriff’s office has numerous divisions within it. These divisions include:
- Criminal Investigations
- Adult detention or the county jail
- Search and Rescue
The Navajo County Sheriff’s office also sponsors a unit for auxiliary volunteers who help the sheriffs deputies and other law enforcement in the community as needed. The program helps save the taxpayers of Navajo County money each year.
The website for the Navajo County Sheriff’s office also has links on it that serve the community. Some of the links to the services offered by the office include:
- Sex offenders registration
- Property and evidence
- Victim notification registration
- Crime reports for the county
Community members can also find agendas for past county meetings and links to the local court system on the sheriff’s web page.
The Navajo County sheriff has the primary goal of providing everyone who lives in or visits the county with a safe environment. He and his staff accomplish this by using innovative methods and resources while still being sensitive to the needs and wants of the community.
They also aim to respond to all calls made by county residents and visitors in a timely and professional manner. They make it a priority to serve with dignity, respect, and compassion. They also base all of their decision while serving on the highest of ethics and the most stringent of moral codes. The sheriff, deputies, and others who work there accept all responsibility for the department’s actions.
The Navajo County Sheriff office also works proactively with people who live in the county and its cities to provide effective leadership while providing quality services. The staff in the department view the responsibilities they have as a promise of maintaining the public’s trust.
Navajo County City/Town Police Department
Each of the towns and cities in Navajo County has their own police departments. These departments operate in conjunction with but also independently of the Navajo County sheriff office. They all have their own heads or chiefs of police and serve the individual populations of their respective cities or town.
Like the sheriff department of Navajo County, the city and town police departments have their own divisions for facets like jail, juvenile detention, administration, and patrol. Some of the police departments have been in operation longer than others. They sometimes coordinate their efforts and join forces to assist the sheriff of Navajo County or adjacent counties to carry out justice and apprehend offenders.
The city of Holbrook as the county seat and with a population of more than 5000 has its own police department. The department was founded on June 30, 1939. Its first police chief was Lafe Natch who made $150 a month.
He was joined in his efforts to carry out justice by two deputies, Walter Martin, and Tony Ortega, who made $125 a month apiece. The current police chief for the Holbrook Police Department is Nathan Christensen.
The police department in Holbrook currently offers services for the community like fingerprinting. People who need to be fingerprinted can access this service on Tuesday and Thursdays each week from 8:00 in the morning until noon and then 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon.
Likewise, people in need of property pickup services can also access them on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 in the morning until noon and also from 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon. The police department also has a lost and found service that they can check anytime during business hours if they have lost something.
Like the sheriff department of Navajo County, the Holbrook Police Department also offers links to services for the community on its website. For example, the city maintains an active list of registered sex offenders that is updated on a regular basis. Community members can also find numbers for the city jail and its booking department.
Another innovative police department that operates in Navajo County is the Winslow Police Department. This police department is headed currently by Dan Brown. It has 22 sworn officers, nine civilian employees, two lieutenants, three sergeants, four corporals, two investigators, and 10 officers working for it.
Some of the community services that the police department in Winslow offers is participation in the city’s drug and gang task force. It also participates in the county’s school resource officer or SRO program.
Another innovative service that it offers to Winslow community members is the Nixle alert system. People who would like to receive text messages during emergencies can sign up for them on the police department’s website. They will receive messages during Amber Alerts, threats to the community, and other crises. Finally, the Winslow Police Department allows residents in the community to report crimes anonymously on its website.
The other police departments in Navajo County all operate in a similar manner and make it a priority to serve their community members. They sometimes coordinate their efforts to keep the peace and administer justice in the county. They also assist the sheriff department as needed whenever crimes have been committed. All of the police departments, as well as the sheriff office, assist law enforcement in adjacent counties to maintain safety and peace in the state.
Navajo County Jail
The Navajo County jail is located at 100 Code Talkers Avenue in Holbrook. It is located in the county courthouse complex and has its own website to which county residents can refer for questions or concerns.
The website for the Navajo County Jail also serves as a source of information for both inmates and their families. Either can go online to the site for information like classification for inmates. The classification for inmates identifies those who are a risk to the public or to the facility. It also identifies inmates with certain medical or security needs.
Inmates who are in the county jail are allowed to shop for the jail’s commissary if they have enough money in their accounts. They have to rely on their friends and loved ones on the outside to fund their accounts. People wanting to know how to do this can find out on the county jail’s website. As they can find out on the website, the money they put in the inmates’ accounts will be used to buy items from the commissary or used to fund prepaid phone calls.
Other details available for inmates and their families include what can and cannot be mailed to the county jail. Some items like homemade goods or items that could be made into weapons cannot be sent to the jail facility. However, handwritten or computer-printed letters are acceptable and can be mailed. The full list of items and examples of what can and cannot be accepted by mail in the jail can be found on the Navajo County jail’s website.
In addition to inmate account and mail information, the website also serves as a source of information for:
- Getting bail bonds
- Community service details
- Inmate information
- Who is being housed there right now
- Visitation hours and days
- Printable inmate manual
Residents of Navajo County or anyone who has questions or concerns about the county jail that cannot be answered on the website are encouraged to call the Navajo County sheriff office directly.
The Distance and General Directions from Navajo County and Phoenix, Arizona
Situated in the northern part of the state, Navajo County is a fair distance from Phoenix, Arizona. Most routes take at least three hours to reach by car. Depending on where you are embarking from in Navajo County, you have several options available to you when you want to reach Phoenix in the most direct and shortest amount of time possible.
For example, if you plan on leaving from Holbrook to journey to Phoenix, you have three routes from which you can choose. The most direct route and the one that takes the least amount of time travel directly through the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.
This route takes three hours and 11 minutes from start to finish. It spans 186 miles. To take this route, you would start out on AZ-77 highway and travel to AZ-377 to Heber-Overgaard. You would then follow AZ-260 west and AZ-87 to Exit 148 on I-10 east. This route would take you through sites like Kohls Ranch, Tonto National Forest, and Tonto Basin before you reached Phoenix.
The next shortest route from Holbrook to Phoenix takes three hours and 24 minutes. It spans 234 miles from start to finish and begins on Interstate 40 west to I-17 south to Phoenix.
During this journey, you would pass through cities like Joseph City, Winslow, Winona, Flagstaff, Camp Verde, and New River. You would also drive through the Coconino National Forest during the trip.
The last route you can take from Holbrook to Phoenix would take you four hours and last for 222 miles. It starts by driving south on AZ-77 to the Maricopa Freeway. You would follow this freeway all the way to Phoenix.
This route takes a southerly direction and bypasses most of the national forests found in Navajo County. However, you do drive through the towns of Snowflake, Show Low, Taylor, Claypool, Globe, and Mesa before you reach Phoenix.
Holbrook is perhaps the best city to gauge how far Navajo County is from Phoenix. Because it is the largest and northernmost city in the county, it is also the farthest away. If you were to embark from towns like Show Low or Pinetop-Lakeside, for example, the drive would be slightly shorter and take less time.
Still, it is fair to accept that most locations in Navajo County are anywhere from three to around three and a half hours from Phoenix. All of the most practical routes to Phoenix from Navajo County involve taking major highways and interstates like I-40 and I-17.
The routes also involve taking state and federal highways like AZ-77. The routes go through at least portions of national forests in Navajo County.