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How A Card Game Founded Show Low

Show Low is located on the east/central side of Arizona, in what is known as the Rim Country within Navajo County and the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. Surrounded by stunning Ponderosa Pine forests, the town boasts an agreeable climate all year long. Those who enjoy high country scenery will want to put this on their list of places to visit. Visitors can expect to take advantage of hiking, fishing, motor sports, wildlife viewing and more.


The earliest history regarding the region surrounding Show Low is thought to date back to 1200. At this time a tribal village was established within the area of present day Show Low, only to later be abandoned.

Spaniard, Francisco Vasquez De Coronado, traveled through the area during his search for the Seven Cities of Gold. Three centuries later, adventurers and bona-fide mountain men, Ewing Young and Kit Carson, led a trapping party in 1829 down the Salt River Canyon.

Show Low’s founder, Corydon Cooley arrived in the New Mexico Territory around the age of 20. He served in the Union Army as a scout and interpreter under the command of General George Crook. During his time spent in the region, he came to have a great deal of respect for the Apache People and married into the tribe.

Cooley founded a ranch with Marion Clark. The virgin ponderosa forests that surrounded the valley had natural creek, allowing irrigation and thus grass for the cattle to graze.

Cooley began to spend more time at Fort Apache instead of the ranch, thus upsetting Clark. They decided to part ways. This begged the question as to who would keep the ranch. Legend has it that a card game of “Seven Up” would determine the lucky winner. As the game wore into the night, Clark stated to Cooley “If you can show low, you win.” Cooley proceeded to turn over the lowest card, and thus the ranch was his, all 100,000 acres. It is said this is where the city of Show Low found its name, with its main street being named the “Deuce of Clubs” as it is the lowest card in the deck.

The city was established in 1870.

In 1876, six Latter Day Saints families settled there. Their diaries mention visiting Cooley’s “Showlow” ranch. In 1880 Cooley would go on to become the city’s first postmaster, establishing itself as a legitimate settlement. By 1888 Cooley sold his holdings to Henry Huning before moving near what is known today as Hon-Dah. In 1903 a new wave of Mormon settlers arrived in the area. Notable men such as William Flake, John Henry Willis, Frank and Abner Ellsworth, Han Hanson, and James C. Owens bought the land. They pooled $13,500 together for the water rights, stocks, buildings, and crops. They then plotted the town and divided it into four and half squares before establishing their residences. As time passed this settlement would become widely known as Show Low.


Show Low certainly exudes the high-country climate. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, visitors can expect winter temperatures of 45F to 55F for highs, and lows that are often below freezing for the months between November and March. The climate during the summer months average around 85F during the day (with the occasional 90F+ day here and there). However, during the evening temperatures can drop dramatically with lows ranging between 50F and 60F. Bring clothing you can layer, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and plenty of water.

Lodging & Dining

There are about 10 lodging options in the Show Low area. Options vary in price range to fit nearly any budget.

If you like “roughing it” so to speak, consider the Fool Hollow Lake Recreation area. Sitting at 6,300 ft elevation, and surrounded by pine trees, this is an opportune spot for camping. During the summer months Fool Hollow offers a children’s program with topics such as bears, bats, and trees. In addition, families can boat, swim, fish, or search for wildlife on a U.S. Forest Service ranger-led tour.

Show Low offers a plethora of cuisine for the self-defined “foodie.” Visit The House for an experience of modern eatery nestled within a small mountain town. The House offers burgers, beer, wine, and other unique dishes. For those partial to the classics, or more old fashioned cuisine, stop by Cattleman’s Steakhouse for your red meat fix, or Show Low Café for the classic dinner experience. Show Low also offers a few Hispanic/Mexican restaurants such as Licano’sLos Corrales, and Mateo’s Mexican Grill.

Things To Do

Show Low has activities for every type of visitor. The Show Low Historical Museum which boasts a collection of unique items from locals such as military memorabilia, quilts, blacksmithing tools, and even barbershop items.

If you appreciate the local flora and fauna, consider visiting Fool Hollow Lake. It is one of three lakes in the town, and it is known for its wildlife spotting. Bobcats, herons, beavers, mountain lions, and raptors call the area home.

If you’re into the outdoor activities, Show Low offers many activities from hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Bring your pole and lure (and your fishing permit), for a day of trout, bass, pike, and walleye fishing.

For an adrenalin fix, take advantage of the 60-mile Maverick Motorized Trail. Consisting of five different trail heads, Maverick Motorized trail can be traversed by dirt bikes, ATVs, and off-highway vehicles and (OHVs).

Fun Facts

  • The city got its name in the late 1800s from a card game.
  • Show Low’s main street is named “Deuce of Clubs” in honor of the card game.
  • Show Low is the largest city located in the White Mountains.
  • Dan Deublein, the American actor from Beverly Hills 90210 was from Show Low.
  • George Takei of Star Trek fame owns a vacation home in Show Low.
  • Doug Mathis, former MLB player attended high school in Show Low.



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