Christopher Creek

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While a handful of residents in the lushly wooded mountain hamlet of Christopher Creek bemoan the new bypass that takes Highway 260 around the village, Nanci Olson of Grey Hackle Lodge is singing its praises.

"We've seen an increase in business," she said. "Most of our visitors are from the Valley and they want to escape to a peaceful, quiet retreat which Christopher Creek is now."

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Each summer, Christopher Creek hosts a classic car show that draws crowds from around the state to see the many vintage automobiles on display.

Before the bypass, Olson said, the constant stream of traffic and road noise were all too reminiscent of busy Valley freeways.

"In town, you can actually hear the creek run now," she said. "It is so much more peaceful."

What has made the bypass even more appealing, Olsen said, is the easy access it provides to Christopher Creek's visitors and about 500 full-time families.

"You just take a left turn (off of Highway 260) and it takes you down onto the Christopher Creek loop which is the old highway," Olson said.

"We have our own little town now that is so attractive to visit."

Susan Keown of ERA Realty in Christopher Creek agreed with Olson's glowing assessment of the changed community.

"If now feels more like a village," she said. "It's so quiet without the traffic we can sit on our porch and talk."

When traffic was at full speed on the highway, it tended to divide the community in two.

"The Creekside (Steak House and Tavern) is on the north side and the lodges are on the south," she said. "Some wouldn't want to cross the street to the restaurant because it was so divided."

Also with the bypass, residents are busy planning summer festivals. One of the most popular is an antique car show that was held last May 15 and 16 last year.

Although a date has not been set for the event this summer, Keown anticipated another banner show.

"It should be a good one like last year," she said.

Each January, residents and visitors turn out for the Hashknife Pony Express stop in the middle of town.

The ride, which is a re-enactment of the original Pony Express ride, begins in Holbrook, passes through Christopher Creek and Payson before wrapping up in Scottsdale.

The new highway

The bypass was created when the Arizona Department of Transportation completed a 5.3-mile stretch of highway around Christopher Creek between mileposts 271 and 277. It is part of a project to widen 21 miles of Highway 260 to a four-lane divided highway between Star Valley and Colcord Road.

Couple the peace and tranquility brought by the new bypass with the ample rainfall of late, and Christopher Creek could be in for an unprecedented spring and summer season.

"We have a creek going through our property that has been flowing since January," Olson said. "We've never had a creek there before."

The winter rain, which Olson estimated to be about 15 inches, hasn't officially put an end to the state's prolonged drought, but it will most certainly result in improved forest health.

The past three years were tough economically on Christopher Creek mostly because of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, the onslaught of the bark beetle and forest closures due to fire dangers.
Christopher Creek offers a myriad activities including camping, picnicking, fishing, sightseeing, hiking and mountain biking.

In the area, the lush riparian habitat along the creeks is the home of willow, cottonwood, alder, and sycamore and maple trees and a diversity of animal life.

All of Arizona's big game species, except for bighorn sheep, live in the area. Birdwatchers also will find the riparian areas especially attractive.

Spring and summer temperatures range from 50 degrees at night to the upper 80s during the day, making Christopher Creek the outdoor enthusiast's paradise.

When residents of Christopher Creek staged a festival less than two years ago to celebrate the new bypass, there were those who feared the consequences.

After all, when Interstate 40 replaced Highway 66 and bypassed small towns like Ash Fork, Williams and Seligman, it was the death of those towns.

Alas, that hasn't happened in Christopher Creek. The settlement is thriving.

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