So many couples were using the Utah-Arizona road , also known as the Old Arizona Road/Mormon Wagon Road, that the road was referred to as the “Honeymoon Trail,” according to W. L. Rusho and C. Gregory Crampton, authors of Lee’s Ferry; Desert River Crossing.
“It has been reported that many couples, having visited the temple, were seen heading back to Arizona, apparently in no hurry whatsoever,” reports Will C. Barnes, in an article he wrote, entitled “The Honeymoon Trail,” published in Arizona Highway’s on December 1934 (Page 10) and quoted by Rusho and Crampton.
According to a National Register of Historic Places Inventory nomination form prepared by Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip District Archeologist Richard D. Malcomson in June 1980, it was during the 1860s and 1870s, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints “engaged in extensive colonization activities in what is now Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.”
With the St. George Temple’s completion, Malcomson stated that faithful LDS members in those regions came “to participate in the highest ordinances and rites of the church.”
“However, considering that travel took 4 to 6 weeks at 2 ½ miles per hour, by horse or ox-drawn wagon over some extremely difficult terrain, in mud, snow and rain – it was anything but a ‘honeymoon.’ For over 50 years, the St. George Temple served the religious requirements of the southern edge of Mormon colonization. With the advent of the railroads into Northern Arizona (Flagstaff) in the early 1880s, the religious use of the Old Arizona Road declined and when the Temple in Mesa, Arizona was dedicated in 1928, it ceased,” Malcomson stated.
The Honeymoon Trail begins at the St. George Temple, then heads east through town to the Washington Fields and into Warner Valley and Ft. Pearce, named for Captain John D.L. Pearce, a member of the local militia. About three and a half miles east of Fort Pearce is the junction of the Dominguez-Escalante Trail, the original Temple Trail, and the “Honeymoon Trail,” according to Malcomson.
The Dominguez-Escalante Trail is named for Catholic Fathers Dominguez and Escalante who passed through this area on Oct. 15, 1776. The Temple Trail was established in April 1874, and was used by the LDS Church to haul lumber by ox-drawn wagons from Mt. Trumbull to St. George for construction of the Temple, Malcomson adds.
The trail then heads to a dugway over the Hurricane Rim, which involves a series of switchbacks and grades that drop a thousand feet in about two and a half miles, Malcomson states. The trail then heads southeast into Arizona to Antelope Springs. From here, it heads east, “north of Cottonwood Springs, to Atkin Well, down Sandridge Wash, below Point of Rock, over Cedar Ridge on into Pipe Springs National Monument,” he said.
From Pipe Springs, the trail heads northeast, passing through Moccasin Springs and Wolf Springs, while staying west of Kanab Creek, and enters Kanab, Utah. “Honeymoon Trail” then proceeds west for about 9 miles along current Highway 89 to the junction of Johnson, Utah, where Honeymooners had the option of going into Johnson or proceeding west to Navajo Wells and Pioneer Gap, Malcomson states.
At Pioneer Gap, the route heads south, crosses White Sage Wash and starts over the Buckskin Mountains. The route then enters Coyote Valley and then heads south into House Rock Valley and then to Lee’s Ferry National Monument, Malcomson adds.
Along the route, “the fort at Pipe Spring became a popular stop” of the Honeymoon Trail, according to Nicky Leach, author of Pipe Spring National Monument; An Ancient Oasis on a Storied Frontier.
“So many traveled the road leading to Dixie (especially polygamists, for the records of temple sealings were not available to federal authorities) that the way became known as the Honeymoon Trail,” states David Lavender, author of The History of Arizona’s Pipe Spring National Monument.
At Pipe Spring, Winsor Castle was in full operation by 1872, and it was a “natural stopping place for natives and other travelers due to the abundance of water and grass,” according to a June 16, 1993 news article written by Debbie Dangerfield in the Red Desert Digest newspaper, published in St. George, Utah.
Here, people could buy food and restock their horses.
“They could also enjoy a Saturday night dance in the castle’s courtyard or attend one of the many parties assembled there,” Dangerfield writes.
Winsor Castle was first believed to be located in the state of Utah. However, it was later determined to be located in Arizona. So when the federal government began enforcing anti-polygamy laws, federal raids were conducted only in Utah, she states.
These “anti-polygamy laws forced polygamous wives to take refuge at Pipe Spring. The fort became part of the Mormon Underground, a network of safe houses beyond the jurisdiction of Utah officials and geographically cut off from the rest of Arizona by the Colorado River,” Leach states in her Pipe Springs book.
Beginning in 1976, Mel Heaton and Dennis Judd honored the original Mormon pioneers who used the Honeymoon Trail, “starting from as far away as Thatcher, Arizona,” according to a news article written by Carolyn H. Grygla of the Southern Utah News in Kanab, Utah. “Mel made it an annual event until 1990, when he began to focus on trail rides. Beginning at Pipe Spring, the wagons and outriders took the five day trip to St. George, delivering cheese and produce to the LDS Temple in token of the dairy products made at Pipe Spring, and the beef cattle sent regularly from the Kanab area to support the construction crews during the building of the Temple from 1871 to 1877.”
The Pipe Spring Wagon Trek, organized by Mel Heaton and Dennis Judd, was planned to coincide with the Dixie Rodeo Roundup Parade in St. George, according to an article written by Constance Brown in Americana magazine.