Rainbow Bridge National Monument – Page, AZ

Comments 24 Standard

A place we missed exploring during our last visit to Page, Arizona was “Nonnezoshe”, meaning “rainbow turned to stone.”  We were lucky to get a boat tour reservation in late March during this visit, as these tours usually start after April 1st.  Access to Rainbow Bridge is made via a 2+ hour boat tour departing from Wahweap Marina to Forbidding Canyon, followed by a 30-minute walk to the bridge.  The only other ways to get there are either to rent your own boat or make a 14+ mile (one way) hike around Navajo Mountain.  Although a bit pricey, the boat tour is a great way to spend a day enjoying a relaxing boat ride as you get a unique perspective of the gorgeous geology along the way.

The morning boat ride was chilly as we left the marina

As the boat cruised along 50 miles of beautiful Lake Powell, we were immediately awestruck with the canyon scenery.  It was a narrated tour that included information about local geology.  We gazed at countless soaring red rock cliffs, solitary buttes, mesas and orange beaches that we had only glimpsed during our hike of the Page Rimview Trail a few days previously.  Although the glens (lush and green growth along the river and side canyons) for which the canyon was named are now deep beneath the lake, the formations that remain above the surface of the water create a truly spectacular scenery.

Cathedral Rock is the formation we had seen from our campsite at a different angle

A fisherman is dwarfed by gigantic cliffs

Gunsight Butte looked like a lighthouse from our campsite

There are limitless photographic opportunities along the shorelines

Padre Bay

A rented boat looks like a toy against a soaring cliff

Petrified sand dunes

As we neared our destination the boat wound back and forth in narrowing Forbidding Canyon:

Anticipation built as we entered Forbidding Canyon

This dock is the end of the line for boat traffic

Look at that!  Oh, look over there! Wow, that’s awesome over there, too!

Once the boat was docked we were the first two off for the 1.5-mile walk up the canyon.  The distance changes as the water level varies, and it took us about 30 minutes on this day.  The natural bridge is tucked back among a rugged, isolated canyon at the base of Navajo Mountain.

We were lucky to be first off the boat!

Filled with anticipation, we finally rounded a bend and saw part of the bridge soaring in a huge arc.  At that moment we understood why it is named Rainbow Bridge. It looked just like a rainbow carved into the Navajo Sandstone, with 10,000’+ snow-dusted Navajo Mountain in the background.

This was a teaser as we rounded one of the last corners – wow!

The immense bridge is 290′ tall and 275′ wide, the largest in the world according to the tour brochure

Two plaques were attached to the canyon wall to commemorate Piutes NasJah Begay and Jim Mike, who first guided white men to Nonnezoshi in August 1909.  President Howard Taft designated Rainbow Bridge and 160 acres around it as a national monument one year later.

A view up the canyon from the “back” (south) side of the bridge

Rainbow Bridge

Another view from the “back” side

Fascinating wind action on the sandstone

A fossilized dinosaur track

It was time to walk back to the boat after only 30 minutes of frantic photography.

The captain and crew wait to welcome us back

The cruise back gave us yet another perspective of the canyon scenery and the amazing erosional features sculpted by wind, water and freezing.  Another round of wows!

Can you spot the campers on the beach?

Tower Butte is a landmark that can be seen from highway 89, and from Betsy’s windows

It was a long trip, but totally worth it.  Visiting Rainbow Bridge was surely one of the highlights of our week-long visit to Page!

Everyone was mellow and satisfied on the return trip

Our stay at Wahweap RV and Campground was a blast, with friends staying all around us.  In the campground were Dave and Sue at site C24, and Dave and Faye at C10 (we were in D41).  The ever-adventurous Al and Ingrid were boondocking at nearby Lone Rock and joined in the festivities.  It was a fun gathering as we swapped stories about our time here and discussed where our paths will cross again as we fan out across the country.  Parting is such sweet sorrow!

This may be our third visit to Page, but certainly not the last!


Next up:  Into the heart of  Monument Valley


Ancient Ruins and Happy Hikes – Verde Valley, AZ

Comments 28 Standard

With the Sonoran Desert in our rearview mirror, we settled in for a week in the Verde Valley at Cottonwood, midway between the cold high country and the desert floor of Arizona.  Several small towns (Jerome, Sedona, Clarkdale and Cottonwood, to name a few) in the valley have a quaint character and richness in history.  The valley is named after the Verde River, which winds its way through those communities and provides all sorts of recreational opportunities including fishing, birding, wine tasting, history and outdoor activities.  This was our second visit here, and this time we focused on three historic sites containing ancient ruins.

Like others we’ve visited, these ruins gave us a rare glimpse into the lives of human beings who lived in the valley under far different circumstances than those we enjoy today.

Verde Valley

Verde Valley taken from Highway 17

Verde River

The Verde River winds through several valley communities

Ancient ruins can be found throughout Arizona, but some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings are here in Verde Valley.  These ruins were left by Hohokam and Sinaguan natives, followed by Apaches and Yavapai Tribes, and finally by early European settlers.  It’s believed that they flourished in the valley hundreds of years ago.  Three of these ancient ruins are in close enough proximity to each other that they can be visited in one day.

Tuzigoot National Monument

Just up the road from our campsite in Cottonwood, the town of Clarkdale holds remnants of a Sinaguan pueblo built 800 years ago, known as Tuzigoot (meaning “crooked water” in Apache).  Archaeologists have discovered the probable order in which Tuzigoot’s rooms were built, beginning as a small cluster lived in by some 50 people.  The Sinagua were peaceful village dwellers who arrived in the valley about 900 AD, with an eventual community of over 200 residing there until about 1400.

The village crowns the summit of a long ridge.  The remains were reconstructed in 1933

We noticed that there were no doors and learned that the inhabitants accessed rooms from a roof opening with a ladder to the floor

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Dating back to 1150, the “Castle A” dwellings hug a cliff 100′ above the ground and consist of an imposing five-story apartment-like building with about 45 rooms.  A little bit further along the cliff is another five story 20-room dwelling dating to between 1100 and 1300.  Historians believe Sinaguan farmers chose this spot due to the reliable water supply in nearby Beaver Creek.

A high rise condominium in ancient times

Close up of a remarkable dwelling – can you imagine yourself living here?

A diorama of how people may have lived in the dwellings

Ancient high rise condominium – balcony views for all!

While strolling along the trail we wondered what life may have been like here.  It must have taken enormous effort just to get water from the creek up to the cliff.  Imagine life with no electricity or running water, but what a view!

Whitebark Arizona Sycamores lined the cliff. The roof of the castle is still supported by sycamore beams, 700 years after construction

Early tourists were allowed to climb to the castle by way of ladders

What we were not prepared for was how busy this monument would be, even at opening time on a Tuesday morning!

Montezuma Well

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the huge and clear waters at Montezuma Well, and its origins and history fascinated us.  It was only recently in 2011 that its origins were confirmed.  It is a naturally occurring spring in the middle of the desert, a result of the trickling of snowmelt water that came from the Mogollon Rim some 10,000 years ago.  It has percolated slowly down through hundreds of feet of rock, draining drop by drop through the path of least resistance all the way to the well.

Montezuma Well

1.5 million gallons of water emerge each day from an underground spring

When the water reached the valley, it was obstructed by a vertical wall of volcanic basalt that forced it to the surface.  As it was pushed upward it eroded an underground cavern which eventually collapsed and created the limestone sinkhole we saw.

See the cliff dwellings?

More dwellings along the waterline of the well and 1891 Ad for photos!

The water is replenished with 5.7 million liters each day.  The water level remains constant, as cracks on the side of the well allow it to flow through the outer wall.

Montezuma Well

A prehistoric canal is evidence of early farmers channeling water from the well to irrigate acres of produce

Actual prehistoric canal diverts water for agriculture

Throughout the valley, pueblos and villages can be seen on cliffs, in caves and along the river.  The land was farmed until about 1400, when all of the tribes vanished.  There have been various reasons postulated as to the reason for the mass exodus, but no one knows for sure.

Below are links to other ancient cliff dwellings in Arizona we have visited:

Cliff dwellers at Canyon de Chelley

Overhang cliff dwellers at Walnut Canyon

Hitting Trails

Our home base was a return to Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, where convenient access to good trails was one of the reasons we returned.  We tackled two hikes, the 8 mile Lime Kiln/Thumper Loop combination and the 8.4 mile Bones Trail Loop.  Both were good moderate treks with lots of scenic views.

The Red Tailed Hawk campground area – Betsy’s ‘hood for a week

Dead Horse Ranch

The lagoon at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

The town of Jerome can be seen up high on the mountain, with Clarkdale in the foothills

The red rocks of Sedona in the distance

The grasses were almost as tall as me!

We were very happy that we crossed paths with Hans and Lisa during our stay, and they invited us on a hike in Sedona. They know a thing or two about scenic hikes in Sedona, and we enjoyed our last hike with them here a couple of years ago.  Also along on this hike was their friend Linda from Portland, OR.  Off we went on an 8.5 mile loop around Cathedral Rock for a fun, scenic and enjoyable hike!

Hipline Trail

Lisa, Hans, Linda and Steve

Hike leaders, Hans and Steve

Short people need a push now and then!

Our lunch perch with a view

We had views of Cathedral Rock from every direction

Lots of company on this trail, and Linda enjoyed taking action shots

Bloggers and photographers – Here’s my pic of Linda taking a pic of Lisa taking a pic of our hike leaders!  The guys just shook their heads…

Thank you Linda for this snap, It was great meeting you!

Looking back down at the trail still warm from our passing

Happy photographer, Linda’s first time in Sedona

Spot the tour helicopter – they were frequent flyers

Arizona Sycamore forest

Just a slice of the red rock county of Sedona

Our thanks to Linda for this capture!



Next up:  A Tale of Two Train Tours