You still sometimes see them; bumper stickers asking the question "Where the H---- is Tortilla Flats?"
Being it's now 106 years old and one of the most popular attractions along the Historic Apache Trail, the answer isn't as obscure as it used to be. Yet one thing hasn't changed. Tortilla Flat remains one of the most unusual and curious way stations around and a "must visit" hallmark of any Arizona vacation.
Tortilla Flat began as a Stage Station and rest stop for the freighters hauling materials for the building of the Roosevelt Dam in 1904. Previously, because it was situated near reliable water and reasonably protected for the setting up of camps, it had been a popular site for prospectors and cattlemen working their respective trades along the Superstitions.
In fact, that's how it got its name. Trapped by a flash flood in the late 1800's, a group of miners had no provisions other than a bag of flour. They lived on tortillas until the water went down and it has been Tortilla Flat ever since.
After the Dam was completed Tortilla Flat remained an all but forgotten flyspeck of civilization with a post office and a welcome for trail dusty packers and prospectors still poking around looking for gold. It was well on its way to becoming another ghost town.
Then came the 1920's and 1930's with Arizona's tourist boom and organized motor tours of the Apache Trail. Tortilla Flat was perfectly situated once again as a rest station before the hair raising climb up Fish Creek Mountain and the heart in mouth, 1500 ' descent down Fish Creek Canyon.
Today it serves the same purpose. With a permanent population of six it is the smallest community with its own registered post office in Arizona.
Purchased by Pam and Alan Ross in 1998, Tortilla Flat has survived time, fire and flood - recreated to stand much as it was with stores, a saloon, restaurant, gift shop and museum.
Inside the board walls are papered with autographed dollar bills, floor to ceiling, from visitors from all over the world leaving a mark they had been there. Tortilla Flats reputation for good burgers and chili has spread across both oceans and their trademark slogan can be read on T-shirts all over the planet. It is in fact an Arizona institution!
To get to Tortilla Flat from the Mesa-Phoenix area, take #60 east to Apache Junction and the Idaho exit, taking a left and following Idaho (and the signs leading towards Canyon Lake) to #88 (the Historic Apache Trail) Tortilla Flat is approx. 18 miles down #88 - past The Lost Dutchman Museum, Goldfield Ghost Town and only a few miles past Canyon Lake itself.