From San Francisco to Phoenix in 1870 via the Gulf of California
From there a smaller ship had to navigate up the Colorado River to Arizona City (now called Yuma), and then it was overland along the Gila River. Along the Gila River there was water and grazing for the animals (horses and mules). If you look carefully at the map you can see that it's a fairly straight journey along the Gila River towards Phoenix until it takes a sharp bend.
After leaving Gila Bend, the route was due east towards Maricopa Wells, which was just north of where the town of Maricopa is nowadays. If you were driving it today, in air-conditioned comfort, you would be on Arizona State Route 238, then you would turn north towards Phoenix, effortlessly crossing two rivers that you might not even notice.
In 1870 there were no bridges over the rivers. And even though the rivers were riparian, they did flow in the cooler months (which would be the only time of the year that travel would have been possible), and they needed to be crossed.
Just north of Maricopa Wells was Morgan's Ferry, which would get you over the Gila River, taking you through the Pima Villages (the Gila River Indian Community nowadays). You would still need to cross the Salt River, which you would do at the Maricopa Crossing, at about where 7th Avenue is nowadays, on the edge of Noah Broadway's farm.
Of course, if you could have just waited until 1887, a train would have taken you directly from San Francisco to Phoenix. And for the people who lived then, it must have seemed like a miracle.
Posted by Brad Hall