St. Johns is a community of 3,300 people in eastern Arizona, 18 miles west of the New Mexico border, 29 miles north of Springerville and 50 miles south of Interstate 40. Its elevation is 5,730 feet.
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Originally named El Vadito (“little river crossing”) by Spanish
explorers, St. Johns was a thriving Spanish-American agricultural
community in 1873 when Solomon Barth acquired land
and cattle and settled nearby. Mormon pioneers from Utah settled
in St. Johns in 1879. The name El Vadito was changed to
San Juan (Spanish for St. John) and to St. Johns when the town
was established in 1880. St. Johns incorporated in 1946.
Once a traditional agricultural community, St. Johns has
become a location where traditional values and new technology
meet at the crossroads. Two fossil-fueled electric-generating
plants employ more than 500 people. On the cutting edge
of technology, a data communications earth station is also
located near St. Johns. St. Johns serves as the Apache County
seat and center of governmental activities, providing employment
for more than 300 people. The Arizona Department of
Corrections completed a new facility near St. Johns in 1994.
The facility employs about 115 people. With a high quality of
life and among the lowest property tax rates in the state, the
city’s economic future is indeed bright. All of Apache County is
a part of the state’s Enterprise Zone program.
The shortest and most scenic route from Phoenix to
Albuquerque is through St. Johns, which is surrounded by
tourist and visitor destinations. Within an hour’s drive are the
Apache, Zuni and Navajo reservations, archeological sites, the
Petrified Forest National Park, and recreational activities at
Lyman Lake State Park including boating, water skiing, fishing, and camping. Less than an hour’s drive south of St. Johns is the
Apache Sitgreaves National Forest which contains primitive
areas, rivers, lakes, and streams. It is ideal for backpacking and
hiking and is popular for hunting and fishing.
Of particular interest in the area are the prehistoric dwellings,
petroglyphs trails and archaeological programs for excavation
opportunities. The area also boasts numerous prehistoric sites
open to the public; self-guided and/or guided tours are available
at Rattlesnake Ruins, Raven Site and Casa Malpais.
The Petrified Forest National Park, about 43 miles northwest of
St. Johns, contains the largest and most spectacular forest of
petrified logs on earth. Adjacent to the Petrified Forest is the
famous Painted Desert. The Blue Hills, about three miles north of
St. Johns, has interesting formations (or layers) of blue, red and
white painted desert clay. Agate beds and dinosaur teeth have
been found in the vicinity.