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Grand Canyon North Rim Grand Canyon South Rim

11th July 2010

Views of the Colorado from the South Rim and a Touch of History

Panorama from Desert View      (please use scroll bar)

Panorama from Lipan Point - Spot the Colorado River One Mile Down      (please use scroll bar)

Panorama from Moran Point - Like a 3D-Contoured Map      (please use scroll bar)

Colorado River from Navajo Bridge
    A cloudless morning at 6am deserved a wee stroll in the forest before a long drive. I enjoyed the walk, and didn't waste time on breakfast, but got underway; I would eat when I refueled.
    Jackson Lake was my turning off point along the old Route 89. There I refueled and had breakfast. I sat next to a couple who were heading to the North Rim for the day. They were from St George, so it would have been a 300 mile round trip for them. They had been to Zion the day before and done a couple of hikes, but the chap did not have a head for heights, so he needed a bit of hand holding on the way down. He didn't look very wimpish, but there you go. He also advised me on good hikes over in Yosemite, where I intend to spend a few days hiking in early August. He was trying to fight the bulge, so he had a good cholesterol loaded breakfast. I mentioned a couple of good hikes on the North Rim, and wished them a safe trip.
    The drive across to Marble Canyon went along a gorgeous valley with long straight roads skirting the south side of the Vermilion Cliffs. These cliffs were truly blood red in colour, and seemed to stretch forever. Indeed they stretched across to the Colorado River, and on the other side of the river lay the Echo Cliffs.
    Whilst driving past the Vermilion Cliffs, I kept my eyes peeled for the California condor. The California condor was a natural part of the northern Arizona landscape. Though it disappeared from the canyon country in 1920s, efforts by several government and private entities were bringing condors home. The Vermilion Cliffs release programme began in 1996 with the release of six condors.
The Watchtower
    My route across the Colorado River was via the Navajo Bridge. When the bridge opened on January 2nd 1929, it was the only bridge across the Colorado for 600 miles, and was a vital link in the first direct highway route between Arizona and Utah. The bridge had a length of 834', and was 467' above the river. With the advent of heavy trucks, a second, stronger bridge was built alongside it in the 1990s, the original bridge now being a walkway for tourists. I stopped off and walked across the bridge. Far, far below the deep, green Colorado seemed to glide along, however tell-tale eddies and currents gave indication of the huge volume of water moving below my feet. The next bridge upstream was at Glen Canyon dam, and the next bridge downstream was at Hoover dam, around 300 miles away!
    The Journey south along the 89A skirted the Echo Cliffs for quite a way, before heading east at Cameron along the 64. I turned off to see the start of the Little Colorado River, a deep canyon in its own right with cliff faces over 1,000' deep.
Storm Cloud Burst Over the Rim
    I quickly got myself a pitch for the night at the Desert View campsite, and then took the rest of the day exploring the 25 mile route along the South Rim up to Grand Canyon village. Being at Desert View, I took in the magnificent panorama, and then walked down to the Watchtower. "Build a structure that provided the widest possible view of Grand Canyon, yet harmonised with its setting". This was architect Mary Colter's goal when the Fred Harvey Company hired her in 1930 to design a gift shop and rest area at Desert View. Colter's answer was the Watchtower.
    I headed down to Navajo Point and Lipan Point for the overlooks, and then visited the Tusayan Ruins and museum. Cohonina and ancestral Pueblo (Kayenta Anasazi) people lived in this area in prehistoric times. The ancestral Puebloans built Tusayan around 1185. The site represented the westernmost extension of the Kayenta Anasazi. The ruin was a remnant of a small village of about 30 people who lived for 25-30 years in the late 1100s.
Tusayan Living Quarters
Tusayan Storage Area
Tusayan Kiva
    Moran Point was my next port of call along the rim. Near here in the late summer of 1540, soldiers from the Spanish expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado became the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon. After journeying for six months, searching for fabled cities of gold, Coronado's army arrived at the Hopi mesas, east of the Grand Canyon. From there Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, guided by Hopi Indians, led a small party of men to find a reported "great river". After 20 days they reached the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, emerging from the forest to stand on the edge of this vast chasm.
    Cardesas's party spent three days trying to reach the bottom of the canyon, in vain, then returned to Coronado to report their discovery.
    From Moran Point, I next called at the Grandview Point. Prospectors had discovered copper half a mile down the cliff edge (don't ask how), and started mining into the cliff side. The ore was rich, but having to cart it to the mesa surface by mule, and then ship it for smelting, proved uneconomical. One enterprising miner decided to build a cabin and arrange for 'tourists' to travel by stagecoach all the way from Flagstaff. They would be put up in the cabin, and transported down the cliff by mule. Business was good, and soon he had moved up from a cabin to a hotel, The Grandview, on the cliff edge. However, when the railroad arrived to the Grand Canyon, terminating at Grand Canyon village, the tourists shunned the long stagecoach trip, and the Grandview went into rapid decline. Nothing remained of this grand building.
    After Grandview Point, I headed to Grand Canyon village to pick up provisions and visit the stunning visitor centre there. A lot of thought had been put into the design and the information they wanted to impart. I was impressed. To travel further east along the rim, I would need to use shuttle busses, similar to Zion. However, most of the day had gone, and the long drive in the heat had left me flagging, so I called it a day.
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Grand Canyon North Rim Grand Canyon South Rim

Uploaded from Market Plazza, Grand Canyon South Rim AZ on 12/07/10 at 18:10

Last updated 13.7.2010