6 Residents, 100 Years of History, Untold Tales: 3 Things You May Not Know About Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat is one Arizona’s most historic sites, boasting a 104-year-history, with the small Western town first serving as a stop along the Apache Trail in the 1900s. Over the years, it’s welcomed famous guests like President Teddy Roosevelt and Barbara Streisand and has been inspiration for books and movies.

Today, families can enjoy the history of Tortilla Flat by visiting the town’s schoolhouse-turned-museum or seeing the relics on the walls of the famed saloon. The town’s new owner, Katie Ellering, is also taking steps to preserve the town’s history and continue its legacy for another 100 years. She shared these three things that visitors may not know about the town.

#1. Est. 1904

Tortilla Flat was built as a settlement for the workers who hand-built the Roosevelt Dam. The town was never large enough to be officially recognized by the state, which is why we have such a hard time finding original town records. Most of what we know about Tortilla Flat has been passed from generation to generation by those who lived here or around the area. We learn new things about the town’s history every day and there’s still more we don’t know. About 20 years ago, a man came to town and started telling stories about how he grew up in Tortilla Flat — he even hand drew a map (on a napkin) of what it looked like when he was a resident. That drawing is now hanging in our museum, which is an exact replica of the Tortilla Flat schoolhouse that once taught the children in town. 

#2. It’s a really small town!

Boasting a population of six, Tortilla Flat offers many unique experiences. The Superstition Saloon and Restaurant has the best killer chili with a recipe that dates back to the 1940s. The Country Store sells more prickly pear gelato than anywhere else in the world and the mercantile offers unique treasures from local artists, handmade pottery, jewelry and toys for all ages!

#3. Colorful tales and hidden histories abound.

The town was originally built on the opposite side of the road but was washed away in a flood. Still to this day the creek holds secrets and some of the original foundation from the old days. Tortilla Flat also had a zoo, complete with a bear and many other animals back in the 1920s. A U.S. Post Office was established in the late 1920s, confirmed by historians and the U.S. Forest Service, and you can still ship your packages and postcards through the current day post office located in the mercantile.

Bonus fact:

The Tonto National Forest covers over 2.9 million acres and there are several recreation sites on and around Canyon Lake, just two miles from Tortilla Flat, that can be enjoyed on your day trip to Tortilla Flat.

Ellering says that the property is so unique and full of history that she and her partners knew it would be an amazing opportunity.

“We get to meet people visiting from all over the world and also build relationships with locals who enjoy all this area has to offer. Some of the various activities in the area include hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, boating, ATV/UTV off-roading and enjoying some of the most beautiful scenic views in all of Arizona.”

Looking ahead, Ellering added, “As caretakers of the property our goal is to keep the authentic feel of the Wild West and make minor upgrades throughout the town so it will still be here for the next 100 years. We did some major kitchen upgrades and are very proud of our new, fresh menu. We’ve also made several other internal changes that help improve efficiency and our guest experience. Tortilla Flat is a genuine, wild west, historic town and our goal is to keep that feeling so that people who visit get that authentic experience.”

For more information on Tortilla Flat, visit tortillaflataz.com or find them on Facebook.

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