Arizona 85 is a major highway connecting Buckeye to the Mexican Border at Lukeville, via Gila Bend and Ajo. The road is the only access from Phoenix and Tucson to Puerto Penasco, known as Rocky Point, a favorite beach getaway of Phoenix residents.

The original highway was designated in 1936 between Gila Bend and Ajo. In 1956, the road was extended south to Lukeville along a county road (which was constructed in 1942).

In 1977, the road was extended north from Gila Bend to Buckeye and downtown Phoenix to replace U.S. 80, which was decommissioned. The road was truncated back to Buckeye in 1993 with the completion of Interstate 10 through Phoenix.

Arizona 85 is a major truck corridor and part of the CANAMEX corridor, as well as a designated truck bypass of Phoenix. The road is extremely busy, and much of it remained in two-lane configuration (as built in 1956 as U.S. 80) until the past few years. MCDOT and ADOT are working on projects to improve the road by converting it to a full freeway over the next 10 years.


Arizona 85 north
This is the first reassurance marker on Northbound Arizona 85, just north of the Mexican Border at Lukeville. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Why and Gila Bend. Why and Gila Bend are the first two major road junctions along Arizona 85. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Immediately after leaving Lukeville, Arizona 85 enters Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The monument preserves the only natural habitat of the Organ Pipe Cactus in the United States. Photo taken 03/28/08.
In the series of signs, the next is the official Arizona welcome sign. This is the smaller version of the sign. Photo taken 03/28/08.
The National Park Service has also placed a decorative sign for the monument. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn left to reach the visitor center, or turn right to follow the 21 mile dirt Ajo Mountain Road. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn right for the Tillotson Peak Wayside. There are two waysides located within the monument along Arizona 85. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Why and Gila Bend. Arizona 85 between Mexico and Why is a former county road, constructed in 1942 and added to the state highway system in 1956. Photo taken 03/28/08.
The border patrol has stepped up enforcement along the Arizona 85 corridor due to immigration issues. This sign warns of a high intensity enforcement zone. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn right for the Ajo Mountain Wayside here. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Ajo (17 miles) and Gila Bend (61 miles). Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn right here for a roadside table. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Watch for animals for the next 20 miles, until past Ajo. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Advance signage for Arizona 86, 1/2 mile. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 enters the town of Why here. Why was named for the old Y junction of Arizona 85 and Arizona 86, formed when Arizona 85 was extended to Mexico in 1956. The road junction, however, has been changed to a T-configuration by ADOT. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn right to reach Tucson, or continue ahead to Ajo. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn right for Arizona 86. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Jumping north to Buckeye, Arizona 85 meets Maricopa County 85 here. Turn right for Buckeye, or continue ahead to Interstate 10. Photo taken 03/28/08.
This sign marks where Arizona 85 used to turn right to continue to Phoenix along the route of current Maricopa County Route 85. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 south
Arizona 85 passes under the twin bridges of Interstate 8 here. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn left to enter Interstate 8 eastbound. There is no direct access from Arizona 85 to Interstate 8 westbound, as that connection is handled by Business 8 (former U.S. 80). Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 is well-signed heading south of Interstate 8 towards Ajo. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Ajo (39 miles) and Lukeville (79 miles). Photo taken 03/28/08.
The Lukeville border crossing is not a 24 hour crossing - it is closed between Midnight and 6 AM. This sign warns travellers of the nightly closure. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 passes through the Barry Goldwater Air Force range. Travellers are warned not to leave the highway while passing through the Air Force Gunnery range. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn left for the Gila Bend Auxiliary Air Force landing field. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Reassurance marker for Arizona 85. In the background are the White Hills and Sauceda Mountains. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Ajo and Mexico. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 is gradually increasing in elevation as it climbs away from the Gila River valley at Gila Bend. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Ajo (23 miles) and Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco, Mexico, 126 miles). Photo taken 03/28/08.
The Crater Range is a low mountain range just north of Ajo. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 passes through a low gap in the Crater Range. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Ajo (10 miles) and Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco, Mexico, 114 miles). Photo taken 03/28/08.
Drivers need to be cautious for animals for the remaining distance to Mexico. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 enters the town of Ajo here. Ajo is named after the Ajo lily, native to this area. The name is also Spanish for Garlic, but no garlic plants grow in this area. Photo taken 03/28/08.
The north half of Ajo is the former town of Gibson, now incorporated into Ajo. Ajo is the home of the Ajo mine, worked intermittently since 1855 and inactive since 1985. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 winds through Ajo to follow the street grids. When Phelps Dodge closed the mine, most non-mining properties were sold to local residents. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Traffic heading to Tucson and Rocky Point needs to turn left to stay on Arizona 85. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 has a final turn to leave Ajo. Turn left to reach the Motor Vehicle Division and Ajo airport. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Why (10 miles) and Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco, Mexico, 103 miles). Photo taken 03/28/08.
This sluiceway is part of the Ajo mine works, and carries product above the road. The mine has not been operational since 1985, but Freeport McMoran has looked at reopening the mine. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 now enters the broad Valley of the Ajo. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Lukeville (16 miles) and Puerto Penasco/Rocky Point (82 miles). Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 now enters Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Distance sign to Lukeville (8 miles) and Puerto Penasco/Rocky Point (74 miles). Photo taken 03/28/08.
The National Monument preserves some dense stands of cactus, as seen in this photo. Photo taken 03/28/08.
The area around Organ Pipe is higher in elevation, supporting a wider variety of vegetation. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Turn right for the visitor center, and turn left to take the 21 mile dirt Ajo Mountain Road. Photo taken 03/28/08.
This is one of the last reassurance markers along southbound Arizona 85. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Advance warning for the International Border, one mile. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 enters Lukeville. Lukeville is a border town, which basically consists of a gas station. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Travellers are warned to declare all items being carried into Mexico. Photo taken 03/28/08.
This sign states the same message as the previous sign, but in Spanish. Photo taken 03/28/08.
Arizona 85 ends here, at the Mexican Border. Photo taken 03/28/08.



Photo Credits:

03/28/08 by Kevin Trinkle

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Interstate 8
Interstate 10

Page Updated 10-08-2007.