This is the view looking west, i.e., what is behind us at our campsite. A high plateau which is now a national monument called Vermilion Cliffs.
Since it was our first morning here, we decided to hike down to the raft launch area and check out some historical buildings and a couple of short trails. Enroute on the asphalt road, I snapped this water tower. To me, it makes a strange statement, situated against the towering cliffs behind it. The tower looks so much like a military water tower on a base. For some reason, it also reminds me of the first nuclear detonation in New Mexico.
Before reaching the Colorado, you cross a bridge over the Paria River, which drains into the Colorado a quarter mile downstream. The river is that full of silt and probably only one to two feet deep. The Colorado was like the Paria before the Glen Canyon Dam was built in the early 60s.
The launch area for rafters into the Marble and Grand Canyons of the Colorado. This is considered river mile zero. Once you leave here, you are committed. About 22,000 people a year travel down river. Hence, scheduling of launches is strictly enforced.
Here is a great shot in my opinion of Lee's Ferry. The Vermilion Cliffs in the background with the launch area in the mid foreground. This is the ONLY place where a person could access the river within a 700 mile radius in the late 1800s. Hence it became a very strategic point in the expansion of the Mormons into Arizona, and for anybody who needed to get across the river to the west or north for that matter. The ferry was operated in three locations along this stretch during its operation for nearly 60 years, until the Navajo Bridge was built in 1929. In your investigation of Lee’s Ferry, how did he die, and how many wives did he have?
Other adventurous souls tried to make a go at Lee’s Ferry as well. Mr. Spencer tried it and failed.
…and this what his steam engine looks like today!
Mr. Spencer needed coal to drive his steam engine, so he had a small steamer travel up river to fetch his coal. The steamer made three trips and was abandoned.
This shot was taken on the Spencer Trail which climbs up the left cliff wall. This picture is upstream. See that trail on the right bank? That is where the wagons approached the ferry from the east. They still had to climb the plateau to the east from here, which was supposedly quite an ordeal.
This is the Spencer Trail looking west. The river is just to the left and about 400 feet below. Quite a debris field as rocks fall off the cliff face over thousands and millions of years.
Now we begin our afternoon sightseeing trip to Page, which is about 35 miles away. Immediately before turning right into Lee’s Ferry off Highway 89A, you cross the Navajo Bridge. There are two, the original which opened to traffic in January 1929, and the new bridge which opened in May 1995. The old bridge was only 18 feet wide and load limited to 40 tons. The opening of the original bridge was so historic that 7000 people in 1217 automobiles arrived for the celebration. Remember those rafters earlier? Well, here they are 467 feet below.
This is the new bridge…looking downstream.
A view from the old bridge, looking upstream. This is only about four or five river miles below Lee’s Ferry. See how tall the cliff faces are already!
Getting to Page, you have to drive south for about 14 miles, slowly pulling out of the lower portion of this flat plan you see here. Then you climb the Echo Mountains heading north to another high plateau. This view is partially up that climb looking west to the Vermilion Cliffs. That big crack in the ground is Marble Canyon and the Colorado River. Downstream, it becomes the Grand Canyon, but its already pretty grand here. The other interesting thing is that there are many smaller canyons that feed into Marble Canyon, which you can see here in the foreground. You can hike into these canyons on the other side of the river, making your way to the Colorado. They are extremely dangerous during the summer time due to flash floods, and since many become narrow slot canyons with large pour-offs. The land on this side of Marble Canyon belongs to the Navajo Nation.
We stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center which has huge wrap-around windows looking at the dam and into the Glen Canyon itself, which I believe is about 600 feet below. You see Lake Powell in the background which extends well into southern Utah for over 150 miles. You can also see that is about 50 feet below its normal level, due to the prolonged drought in the west. This dam was completed in 1964 and the lake did not fill until 1980. It overflowed into the emergency spillways in 1982 for several months. Since the late 90s it has been going down, but is has produced about $2.5 billion dollars worth of electricity. Not bad, since it cost $314 million to build. There are many who would like to see the dam removed.
Immediately to the right of the dam is the bridge. Built before the dam, using the same methods as the Navajo Bridge.