The Grand Canyon & the Colorado River, Arizona
June 17 & 18: Colorado River Rapids
All images are the property of Rhett Butler, copyright 2003.
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Rafting the Colorado is a fun and exciting way to see one the world's most spectacular natural formations, the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage Site, encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins. [National Park Service Excerpt]
Recommended travel guides on the Grand Canyon:
Grand Canyon [Wikitravel]:
A group photo of passengers who rode on the first run of the Grand Canyon Railway.A rail line to the largest city in the area, Flagstaff, was completed in 1882 by the Santa Fe Railroad. Stage coaches started to bring tourists from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon the next year—an eleven-hour journey. Tourism greatly increased in 1901 when a spur of the Santa Fe Railroad to Grand Canyon Village was completed. The first scheduled train with paying passengers of the Grand Canyon Railway arrived from Williams, Arizona, on September 17th that year. The 64 mile (103 km) long trip cost $3.95, and naturalist John Muir later commended the railroad for its limited environmental impact.
Competition with the automobile (see below) forced the Santa Fe Railroad to cease operation of the Grand Canyon Railway in 1968 (only three passengers were on the last run). The railway was restored and reintroduced service in 1989, and has since carried hundreds of passengers a day.
The first automobile was driven to the Grand Canyon in 1902. Oliver Lippincott from Los Angeles, California, drove his Toledo Automobile Company-built car to the South Rim from Flagstaff. Lippincott, a guide and two writers set out on the afternoon of January 4 that year anticipating a seven-hour journey. Two days later, the hungry and dehydrated party arrived at their destination; the countryside was just too rough for the 10 horsepower (7 kW) auto. A three day drive from Utah in 1907 was required to reach the North Rim for the first time.
Trains, however, remained the preferred way to travel to the canyon until they were surpassed by the auto in the 1930s. By the early 1990s more than a million automobiles per year visited the park. Air pollution from those vehicles and wind-blown pollution from Flagstaff and even the Las Vegas area has reduced visibility in the Grand Canyon and vicinity.
West Rim Drive was completed in 1912. In the late 1920s the first rim to rim access was established by the North Kaibab suspension bridge over the Colorado River. Paved roads did not reach the less popular and more remote North Rim until 1926, and that area, being higher in elevation, is closed due to winter weather from November to April. Construction of a road along part of the South Rim was completed in 1935.
John D. Lee was the first person who catered to travelers to the canyon. In 1872 he established a ferry service at the confluence of the Colorado and Paria rivers. Lee was in hiding, having been accused of leading the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857. He was tried and executed for this crime in 1877. During his trial he played host to members of the Powell Expedition who were waiting for their photographer, Major James Fennemore, to arrive (Fennemore took the last photo of Lee sitting on his own coffin). Emma, one of Lee's nineteen wives, continued the ferry business after her husband's death. In 1876 a man named Harrison Pearce established another ferry service at the western end of the canyon.
The two-room Farlee Hotel opened in 1884 near Diamond Creek and was in operation until 1889. That year Louis Boucher opened a larger hotel at Dripping Springs. John Hance opened his ranch near Grandview to tourists in 1886 only to sell it nine years later in order to start a long career as a Grand Canyon guide (in 1896 he also became local postmaster).
William Wallace Bass opened a tent house campground in 1890. Bass Camp had a small central building with common facilities such as a kitchen, dining room, and sitting room inside. Rates were $2.50 a day, and the complex was 20 miles (30 km) west of the Grand Canyon Railway's Bass Station (Ash Fort). Bass also built the stage coach road that he used to carry his patrons from the train station to his hotel. A second Bass Camp was built along the Shinumo Creek drainage.
The Grand Canyon Hotel Company was incorporated in 1892 and charged with building services along the stage route to the canyon. In 1896 the same man who bought Hance's Grandview ranch opened Bright Angel Hotel in Grand Canyon Village. Cameron Hotel opened in 1903, and its owner started to charge a toll to use Bright Angel Trail.
Things changed in 1905 when the luxury El Tovar Hotel opened within steps of the the Grand Canyon Railway's terminus. El Tovar was named for Don Pedro de Tovar who tradition says is the Spaniard who learned about the canyon from Hopis and told Coronado (see above). Charles Whittlesey designed the arts and crafts-styled rustic hotel complex, which was built with logs from Oregon and local stone at a cost of $250,000 for the hotel and another $50,000 for the stables (a huge sum in 1905). El Tovar was owned by Santa Fe Railroad and operated by its chief concessionaire, the Fred Harvey Company.
Fred Harvey hired Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter in 1902 as company architect. She was responsible for more than a half dozen buildings in the Grand Canyon, including Hopi House (1905), The Lookout (1914), Hermits Rest (1914), Watchtower (1932), and Bright Angel Lodge (1935). She stayed with the company until her retirement in 1948.
A cable car system spanning the Colorado went into operation at Rust's Camp, located near the mouth of Bright Angel Creek, in 1907. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the camp in 1913. That, along with the fact that while president he declared Grand Canyon a U.S. National Monument in 1908, led to the camp being renamed Roosevelt's Camp. In 1922 the National Park Service gave the facility its current name, Phantom Ranch.
In 1917 on the North Rim, W.W. Wylie built accommodations at Bright Angel Point. The Grand Canyon Lodge opened on the North Rim in 1928. Built by a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad called the Utah Parks Company, the lodge was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood who was also the architect for the Ahwahnee Hotel in California's Yosemite Valley. Much of the lodge was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1932, and a rebuilt lodge did not open until 1937. The facility is managed by TW Recreation Services. Bright Angel Lodge and the Auto Camp Lodge opened in 1935 on the South Rim.
New hiking trails, along old Indian trails, were established during this time as well. The world famous mule rides down Bright Angel Trail were mass-marketed by the El Tovar Hotel. By the early 1990s, 20,000 people per year made the journey into the canyon by mule, 800,000 by hiking, 22,000 passed through the canyon by raft, and another 700,000 tourists fly over it in air tours (airplane and helicopter). Overflights were limited to a narrow corridor in 1956 after two planes crashed, killing all on board. In 1991 nearly 400 search and rescues were performed, mostly for unprepared hikers who suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydrated while ascending from the canyon (normal exhaustion and injured ankles are also common in rescuees). An IMAX theater just outside the park shows a reenactment of the Powell Expedition.
The Kolob Brothers, Emery and Ellsworth, built a photographic studio on the South Rim at the trailhead of Bright Angel Trail in 1904. Hikers and mule caravans intent on descending down the canyon would stop at the Kolob Studio to have their photos taken. The Kolob Brothers processed the prints before their customers returned to the rim. Using the newly-invented Pathé Bray camera in 1911–12, they became the first to make a motion picture of a river trip through the canyon that itself was only the eighth such successful journey. From 1915 to 1975 the film they produced was shown twice a day to tourists with Emery Kolob at first narrating in person and later through tape (a feud with Fred Harvey prevented pre-1915 showings).
The Havasupai Indian Reservation is in a large tributary canyon on the south side of the Colorado River; it is administered by the Havasupai Indian Tribe.