One Day, Two Incredible Canyons! – Northern Arizona
Leaving Flagstaff at 7,000′ elevation, we knew Betsy would get a good workout on the way to our next destination at Jacob Lake. Following US89, we climbed steadily and then continued onto US89A for a drop to 4,000′. Finally, we climbed back up onto Kaibab Plateau and followed the curvy road to Jacob Lake, at 7,921′. Lots of ups and downs, but what scenery along the way! We were so captivated by the gorgeous views at Marble Canyon that we vowed to go back with the car after getting settled in.
During the drive we received alerts of thunderstorms ahead, and although we saw some dark clouds on the horizon we made it unscathed – yay!
The scenery kept getting better and better as we crossed the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon, and soon the Vermillion Cliffs hugged us all the way to the foot of Kaibab Plateau. We just had to pull over to take in the view and get a pic of Betsy:
When we checked in at Kaibab Camper Village, they mentioned how lucky we were to miss the hail storm that had just passed through. There was so much on the ground that we thought it was patches of snow!
For some reason I had thought Jacob Lake was a “must see” body of water. Imagine my disappointment upon seeing basically a small pond next to the campground! But I learned that it was once an important source of water when there was virtually no freestanding water on the Ponderosa-pine covered Kaibab Plateau.
We took the car to the North Rim via Hwy 67. It’s normally only open June-October, maybe shorter depending on accumulated snow at its 8,238′ elevation. Getting only about 10% of the visitors that the South Rim does, we had lots of elbow room to drink in the views and not be jostled by crowds.
The South Rim has better views of some cliffs and the Colorado River, but the North Rim definitely holds its own and has a more laid-back atmosphere that we really enjoyed. Check it out if you can!
After walking around the immediate area and snapping many photos we retraced our drive on Hwy 67 and headed east on US89A to Marble Canyon. With no impending storms to worry about this time, our drive was enjoyable and we had plenty of opportunities to feast our eyes on the beauty:
We stopped for a look at some quirky stone structures along the highway near Marble Canyon. There were no plaques describing them so we just looked around. After some research I learned that these were not ancient dwellings, but structures actually built by a woman in the 1930’s.
The story goes: “Around 1927, Blanch Russell’s car broke down as she traveled through this area. Forced to camp overnight, she decided she liked the scenery so well that she bought the property and stayed. The stone buildings under these balanced rocks were built shortly after that in the 1930’s.”
Marble Canyon is so called because of its colorful rocks and cliffs, stunning when the sun shines on them brightly. It’s an area along the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam in Page, AZ (here are my pics of our Glen Canyon Dam tour) and the confluence of the Little Colorado River. Along with Lees Ferry, Marble Canyon marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon at its most western point. And the best vantage point to see it is by walking along the historic Navajo bridge.
Before the bridge, people have to travel 800 miles around the canyon to reach the other side of the river. After its construction it made a direct route between Arizona and Utah and by opening day in Jan 1929 it was the highest steel arch bridge in the world!
After walking across the bridge and enjoying breathtaking views of the river 467′ below, we drove down to the shoreline where the silty Paria River meets with the main channel:
Nearby was Lee’s Ferry, where all Grand Canyon river tours begin. The two rafts we had seen floating down the river began their journey right here. Watching them load the supplies gave Steve an idea – why don’t we do that? OK, dear, add it to the bucket list!
It was a long day of driving 182 miles to marvel at two incredible canyons, both carved by the Colorado River and absolutely incredible. Did I say incredible again? Anyhow, it was so worth the drive!
Next up: Back to the red rocks of Southern Utah