June 30, 2016
With so many choices of amazing landscapes within a few hours drive of the North Rim Grand Canyon we settled on taking our guests to the Colorado River with a bit of history thrown in.
Diane and Nigel live in France and regularly travel to historic sites. So after a full day of touring the North Rim, Bill and I took them off the cool Kaibab Plateau and headed east into the heat. It was Bill’s turn to play tour guide as this is more his neck of the woods desert. First stop at a favorite overlook on SR89A looking down upon the Marble Platform and beyond to Vermilion Cliffs put the landscape into perspective.
After crossing House Rock Valley we stopped at Navajo Bridge where we hoped to show our guests California Condors. No luck. Yet still a pretty view of the river carving through Marble Canyon.
Next we headed to Lees Ferry and the Colorado River where the air was hot and the water cold. Not many easy opportunities to wade in the mighty Colorado what with Glen Canyon dam and the 1000s of foot deep Grand Canyon. Yet I don’t remember any of us getting our feet wet. Thanks Bill for taking a pic of Diane and I.
A couple was fishing. She waded into the river to bring the fish to shore. Not sure what kind of fish, but after a phone photo she put it back in the river to swim free. Even on an almost 100F day that 52F (11C) water is too cold for me.
Then we headed just past the boat launch area with it late enough in the day that no boats were preparing for their downstream adventures. Only saw one small trailer in the campground.
Lees Ferry operated from 1872 until 1928 providing pioneers, miners, Indians, and tourists a way to cross the swift flowing Colorado River. Looking across river to where horse drawn wagons would descend to the river made me think of how brave, determined, or stupid, the early settlers to this part of the country were.
The Lonely Dell Ranch, near the mouth of the Paria River, was home to the Mormon families who operated Lees Ferry. Being so isolated meant they needed to be self-sufficient, growing food for themselves and their animals.
We found a cool respite in the shade of the orchard. The irrigation system was running in one row, the water being drawn off the Colorado River. Diane and Nigel said the apples were not quite ripe and deliciously tart. I found a ripe plumb the critters had missed. We saw peaches, pears, apricots and perhaps quince. When ripe, you’re allowed to gather 5 gallons per day per person for personal consumption only, not resale. I’ve missed harvest before but would like to return in a few weeks to try again.
Bill wandered ahead to the historically preserved buildings while the rest of us got caught up in the orchard and amazing backdrop.
Clouds threatened over the Paria Plateau and the parched landscape below would surely benefit from some life giving rain. A good time to grab some lunch.
Neither Bill or I had been to the Marble Canyon Lodge Restaurant since rebuilt after the 2013 fire. Not sure I’ll be back any time soon. Although the over priced food was OK the service wasn’t great and the ambiance of the old historic building is gone.
One more historic site along SR89A on the return drive offers a nice view of the Vermilion Cliffs. The old Mormon Honeymoon trail follows the cliffs and a ranch stop would be nearby. A deep patch of green tucked into a crack in the walls indicates a spring which would have been very welcome in this dry environment.
Also stopped again at the overlook to the valley below and the Paria Plateau with much better lighting than our morning stop.
And at Nigel’s request Bill found a wide spot along the windy road back up to the Kaibab Plateau where we photographed what I’ve heard called Turtle Rock. Do you see it?
Then back to the North Rim to drop Diane and Nigel off at their room while Bill and I returned to my RV where we both went to bed early after two days of touring.
Bill left the next day and it was back to work for me on their last full day at the North Rim which provided some teasing monsoon skies. Saturday morning Diane and Nigel were whisked away by friends to Bryce National Park overnight, and through Zion National Park on the return to Nevada where they would all too soon fly back to France. Keep watch for Diane’s posts on their adventures in the USA.
Only 85 miles (137 km) drive east from the North Rim Grand Canyon National Park, a 5 mile (8 km) side trip off SR89 from the tiny burg of Marble Canyon, Arizona leads to Lees Ferry where you can wade in the Colorado River.