There is some dispute over what this adobe ruin was. Many list it as a station on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line, while others dispute this claim based on there being no historical marker, no protection for the ruin, no “Araz Junction” Station on the stage line maps, and it being too small.
Balanced against those arguments is the fact there was a Pilot Knob Stage Station in the Second Division in California, between Fort Yuma and Los Angeles. The ruins are located north and slightly east of the Pilot Knob formation, which in the mid-nineteenth century would have been one of the few landmarks around.
Pilot Knob seen from the northeast
I know of no other ruin or site in the area identified as the stage station location. Whether it was a stage station, or a storage building for a station or local mine, it remains a haunting reminder of our Western heritage.
In 1877, the Southern Pacific finished building its main line linking Los Angeles and Yuma. In the early 1900s, the Inter-California railway was begun, to branch from the Southern Pacific mainline at Niland (then Imperial Junction) south to Calexico and then west via a loop through Baja California, to rejoin the SP mainline at Araz Junction.
In 1906, during the flood creating the Salton Sea, the SP built a spur line from Araz Junction south to the break in Colorado River (in Mexico), forming part of the ultimate Inter-Cal line. So, whether Araz Junction was the site of the Pilot Knob Stage Station, or not, it did play a significant role in the development of the Southwest. The branch line south was abandoned in the 1960s, but the mainline remains.
Main rail line from Araz Junction ruin, 2017
To get there: Near the California/Arizona border, just west of Winterhaven, take exit 166 from I8 onto CA-186N. The adobe will be on the right side before you enter Winterhaven. All photos in this post are by the author.