In a barren expanse of desert outside the remote Navajo town of Leupp stands the ruins of a large unmarked structure. Despite its advanced state of decay, the old building is still quite beautiful.
After exploring Ella’s Trading Post and the neighboring abandoned campground and cattle ranch, I got back out on the road. Barely eleven a.m. and already I’d explored four interesting sites, it was going to be an outstanding day. I had one more site to check out before heading south to Phoenix, where I wouldn’t have to worry about freezing my ass off at night.
I stopped in Winslow for gas and a quick bite to eat. I happened by a massive abandoned Senor D’s travel center. I would’ve loved to see the inside, but it was tightly boarded up. Next to the abandoned gas station stood an old Denny’s, also abandoned.
I grabbed lunch at a pizza joint called Captain Tony’s. I’m not sure why a captain would open a pizzeria, but the food was pretty tasty.
After lunch I followed AZ-99 through rolling hills to the Navajo town of Leupp (pronounced LOOP). With a population just shy of a thousand people, Leupp is quite small, but has an interesting history. It was once home to a boarding school run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During World War II, the school was transformed into the Leupp Isolation Center, a special internment camp for Japanese Americans who were transferred from other camps after being labeled as “troublemakers”.
I pulled up to the rectangular piece of land, which was totally empty except for fading dirt roads and the stone ruins of what I assumed to be the Leupp Isolation Center. It turns out I was wrong and it was actually the site of the Sunrise Trading Post.
Sunrise was built in 1920 by H.W. “Nebby” Smith, an employee of the Babbitt Brothers, who owned a trading post at the nearby settlement of Tolchaco. Smith is said to have dismantled the stone walls of the Tolchaco building, carried the stones south, and used them to build Sunrise Trading Post, all without the Babbitts’ knowledge.
The story sounds pretty far-fetched, but I wasn’t able to find any other information about the place. It is unclear when or why Sunrise Trading Post eventually closed.
The main building was in rough shape and looked like it had already had a run-in with a wrecking ball. A large chunk of wall was reduced to a pile of bricks and most of the roof was gone. Still I found the place beautiful.
I walked along a dirt road to see if I could find remnants of any other buildings. It led to an old bridge that crosses Canyon Diablo where it splits from the Little Colorado River. The canyon, which was dry at the time of my visit, meanders through miles of desert hills, eventually reaching the ruins of the notoriously lawless frontier town of Canyon Diablo. Sadly, I didn’t explore the ghost town because I didn’t learn of its existence until after I had left the area.
On the left is the defunct metal bridge across the canyon. The bridge on the right is part of the highway that crosses Little Colorado River. Diablo Canyon bridge is no longer can no longer be crossed by vehicles.
I wandered around for a while, finding a few overgrown foundations, the only remnants of structures that disappeared long ago. On the way back to the freeway, I stopped at a lonely shop in the middle of nowhere.
Near the freeway is a neat little ranch with a locked gate. The sign reads “No Trespassing. Navajo Nation Property.”
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