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Old West town of Tortilla Flat attracts tourists from all over the world

Nestled between Apache Junction and Apache Lake lies Tortilla Flat, an authentic remainder of an old west town....

Posted: Jun 14, 2018 2:50 PM
Updated: Jun 14, 2018 2:50 PM

Nestled between Apache Junction and Apache Lake lies Tortilla Flat, an authentic remainder of an old west town.

With a population of six, the town has transformed from what was once a rest stop, to now a big tourist attraction.

Established as a 19th century cattle stop, the area was used for workers during the construction of the Roosevelt Dam.

Since then, it has grown into an Old West attraction for travelers.

The Tortilla Flat General Manager, Matt Vanslyke, says the town's history draws people in from across the world.

"Just in the last week I have met people from Brazil, Germany and Switzerland," Vanslyke said.

The town has faced fire and flood, but the history of the town still stands firm.

People like Theodore Roosevelt, Barbara Streisand and Don Johnson have traveled through here, and the in-depth history of the town helped mold the unique name it is known by today.

"At one point in time people were coming through, dropped off their cattle, started drinking and got a little inebriated. When they came back through, there were some heavy rains, and the town got flooded," said Vansklye. "Because they were drunk, they forgot to get their provisions. They forgot their food, so the only thing they had left was flour. They would climb up the hill, find a nice rock, take their flour, and they made tortillas to eat so they could survive. Hence, Tortilla Flat."

Today, you can experience some of the history of the town by walking down the boardwalk and grabbing a bite to eat at Superstition Saloon.

The first thing you notice when you walk in is the wallpaper that has been made from thousands of dollar bills taped to the walls.

Julie Snodgrass, the owner of Tortilla Flat, said this is a tradition that has stood the test of time.

"A long time ago miners would go out, and when they came back into town once a week, they would want a beer," Snodgrass said. "A lot of times they would put their dollar on the wall because if they happened to lose their money out in the field, they had their dollar on the wall to buy a beer. From then on, the customers just started doing that over the years."

A fire back in the 1980s forced the restaurant to restart its collection, but there's still a good chunk of change hanging up there.

"Right now there's over 80 countries of currency on our wall worth approximately $350,000, and its double layered, triple layered in places," Snodgrass said.

There is so much money on the walls that it extends down to the country store, where you can find the delicacy that has customers saying it is worth the drive.

"We're known for our prickly pear gelato, it's probably the only place in the state where you can find it," Vanslyke said.

The small store sells over 1,000 pounds of prickly pear gelato every year.

Though only made of a handful of ingredients, the recipe for the family's infamous prickly pear gelato is top-secret.

The small town is also now easier to visit, as the route 88/Apache trail just recieved an improved pavement that extends from milepost 203 to milepost 220.

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