Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rocky - Arizona's Green Frog

     With the arrival of another Arizona spring, weekend outings often come to mind.  A great day trip from Phoenix is to locate Rocky, Arizona favorite green frog.  Here is Rocky's story…

        Frogs are not the most common critters found in our Sonoran Desert and when one is spotted, folks tend to stop, look and take special notice.  That is especially true when the ol’ frog measures 16 feet tall and weights in at 60-tons of metamorphic rock.
This massive Arizona frog is named “Rocky” and he is located along side of Arizona Highway 89 just 25 miles north of downtown Congress, Arizona.
    It was prospector Dennis May who came across a sizeable vein of gold in the foothills of the Date Creek Mountains in 1883 and named his newly discovered mine Congress.  The Congress Mine soon had over 400 employees with an upper and lower section of town.  A United States Post Office was established there in January 1889.  The Congress mine operated until the mid-1930s producing well over $400 million dollars of gold by current gold prices.
    In 1893 the all-important Santa Fe Railroad laid its steel ribbon through this part of Arizona, but the tracks missed the mining camp by some three miles. Yet the railroad was king in those days and folks started building homes and businesses near where the steam locomotives ran. 
     This new settlement was called Congress Junction and it thrived with both the nearby mine and railroad serving as the town’s economic engines.  When the post office and mine closed in the 1930s, Congress Junction transferred the name and became simply Congress.
     It was 1926 when the good people of Congress saw US Highway 89 built right on the edge of their small town.  This road, known as the West’s Most Western Highway, was the main highway connection between Phoenix, Prescott and Flagstaff.  If you wanted to travel to northern Arizona from the Valley of the Sun, this was the road you traveled. 
     Eli Perkins and his wife, Sara, saw an opportunity to make a good living from all the cars and trucks now moving north and south along U.S. 89.  In 1927 they built and opened the Arrowhead Gas Station & Café just 1 mile north of Congress.
     Sara had noticed that one rock formation on the west side of U.S. 89 looked to her to have the shape of a frog.  So, to gather a little attention for the family business and add a little color to the desert brown environment, she and her boys climbed that 16-foot tall boulder in 1928 with some green, white and black paint and overnight, a rock became a frog.
     Rocky, the Congress Frog has been an important landmark in this part of Arizona since it was first painted during Arizona’s Roaring Twenties!    Over the 82 years since he was first painted, many a citizen has given their time, effort and paint to keep this Arizona rock art project a part of our state’s unique history.    
     The Perkin’s gas station and café have changed owners and names several times over the years but many of their original buildings are still there in the same high desert spot.  The Frog Rock Café and the Arrowhead Saloon are just waiting for you to get out and come looking yourself for that old green frog named Rocky right along the west side Highway 89 – the West’s Most Western Highway.  

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