Saturday, October 27, 2012

Just what, exactly is Lee's Ferry ? In 1871, John Lee and his wife Emma, at the request of the Latter Day Saints church, built a ferry across the Colorado River. This site was chosen as there was a natural slope from the cliffs to the river. It was the only safe crossing of the Colorado between Moab, Utah and Needles, California, and was heavily used by travelers to Utah, Arizona and California. It was operated by Emma until 1879 when she traded it to the LDS Church for 100 milk cows. The church operated it until 1910 when the State of Arizona assumed control. The ferry was finally dismantled upon the completion of the Navajo Bridge, just south of the ferry's location. Today, the site is used mainly by fishermen and a launching site for river trips. It is the start of most of the river boat trips that tour the Grand Canyon.

Heading south on US 89 from Page, Arizona, we stopped at an overlook. If you look closely, you can see the canyon on the floor below on the left side of the picture. This is the canyon formed by the Colorado River as it moves through this area.

Imagine yourself as a pioneer and pulling a wagon train over this land. While it looks relatively flat, you can see the gorge that lies ahead. From the desert floor below, you cannot tell that this massive canyon is there until you encounter it.

This is the same canyon pictured above but viewed from the safety of the Navajo Bridge.

Pioneers used ropes and pulleys to lower their wagons, families and animals to the bottom of the canyon. Once on the canyon floor they encountered the fast moving Colorado River.

Lee's Ferry provided safe access across the Colorado River. Also, with natural slopes from the cliffs above, access to the river was easier and faster.

The ferry was dismantled upon the construction of the Navajo Bridge in 1928. This is the bridge on the left which is now closed to vehicular traffic. The bridge on the right is part of US 89A and allows traffic to cross the canyon.

This is the original 1928 Navajo Bridge as seen from ground level. The picture of the Colorado River above, was taken from this bridge. Today it's only traffic is foot traffic. There is a gift shop, restrooms and picnic area adjacent to the bridge.

The next few pictures are of the area surrounding Lee's Ferry. Towering cliffs, large boulders and endless desert area await today's travelers.

Today's travelers are treated to air conditioned cars, cold refreshing water from a fountain and flush toilets. The pioneer's had none of those things. We should take a moment and ponder the sacrifices they suffered while trying to forge a better life.

We encountered several of these large boulders along the roadway. Because of the makeup of the soils in this area, these large boulders broke loose from the cliffs above and tumbled down to the valley floor below. Here they sat for hundreds of years while the wind and rain whittled away at the soils surrounding them. Now they appear perched on a pedestal waiting until the pedestal can no longer hold their weight when, once again, gravity will move them to lower ground.

So what do you do when you encounter these massive rocks. Why, you climb them, of course. Actually, I climbed the one you see above to put it's size in perspective. (Well, it was kinda fun too :))
Here is a picture of the two Navajo Bridges taken from a vantage point south of the bridges. Lee's Ferry is just around the bend at the top of the photo behind the bridges. The bridges are 640' above the Colorado River at this point.

1 comment:

  1. Just stumbled on this. Great blog and pictures! Thank you!