|Air Trips||Mule Trips||Places to See||Plants and Animals|
|River Trip Guide||Train Trip||Tuweep / Toroweap||Yavapai Station|
Places to See
There are a number of things to do while enjoying Grand Canyon National park. These activities include but are not limited to backpacking, birding, camping, ferry and raft trips, fishing, hiking, mule rides, photography, ranger led activities, star gazing and wildlife watching.
Join a National Park Service ranger to explore Grand Canyon's natural and cultural history. Join a ranger to learn about the forces that once shaped this landscape - and continue to do so, see the Calendar Page. Ranger programs include scheduled hikes, talks and walks. These are just some of the ways to discover the diversity of the scenic, natural and historic wonders that comprise Grand Canyon National Park.
Nearly five million people see Grand Canyon each year. Most of them see it from overlooks along the South Rim, including Grand Canyon Village, Hermits Rest Road, and Desert View Drive. The South Rim, 60 miles / 97 km north of Williams and 80 miles / 129 km northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona, is the most accessible part of the park and is open all year.
A much smaller number of people see the canyon from the North Rim, which lies just 10 miles / 16 km (as the raven flies) directly across from the South Rim. The North Rim rises 1,000 feet / 305 m higher than the South Rim and is much less accessible. Heavy snows close the North Rim from mid October to mid May each year. Even in good weather the North Rim is harder to get to. It lies 220 miles / 354 km by car from the South Rim, or 21 miles / 34 km by foot across the canyon by way of the North and South Kaibab Trails.
The Inner Canyon includes everything below the rim and is seen mainly by hikers, mule riders, and river rafters. Many opportunities exist here for adventurous and hardy persons who want to backpack, ride a mule to Phantom Ranch, or take a river trip down the Colorado River.
How do people get across the Colorado River within Grand Canyon? The South Kaibab Trail crosses the river on a narrow suspension bridge 70 feet / 21 m above the water. Only one way across the canyon is accessible by automobile - the Navajo Bridge, located downstream from Lees Ferry, where the canyon is only 400 feet / 122 m wide.
There are many overlooks accessible by car which offer spectacular views of the canyon.
The East Rim Drive (Highway 64) follows the canyon rim for 26 miles east of Grand Canyon Village to Desert View (the east entrance to the park). The East Rim Drive east of Yaki Point is open to private vehicles throughout the year.
The West Rim Drive follows the rim for eight miles west from Grand Canyon Village to Hermits Rest. The West Rim Drive is closed to private automobiles from 11 Apr through 12 Oct. At that time of year the park runs a free shuttle bus to provide transportation to overlooks on the West Rim Drive.
Historic Lodges and Buildings
Take the time to visit the historic buildings and information centers of the South Rim including Hermits Rest, Kolb Studio, Lookout Studio, Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Train Depot, Hopi House, Verkamp's and the Watchtower.
Once the home and business of the Kolb Brothers, pioneering photographers at Grand Canyon, this building has been restored. The book store and auditorium are open to the public. Art exhibits are frequently on display in the auditorium with free admission. Kolb Studio is located in the Village Historic District, at Bright Angel Trailhead.
Classic, Dazzling Textiles At Kolb Studio Exhibit
One of the Fred Harvey Company's most prized collections of Native American Art will be on display in Classics and Dazzlers: Textiles from the Fred Harvey Company Collection, a new exhibit that will conclude 31 Mar at Kolb Studio. The collection represents three Southwest weaving traditions -- Navajo, Pueblo, and Hispanic -- and features exquisite textiles dating from the mid 1800s.
"Arts for the Parks Top 100 Competition" is a national art competition created by the National Park Academy of the Arts in cooperation with National Park Foundation. Each year, artists submit thousands of entries depicting subjects from over 370 national parks and monuments throughout the country.
The top 100 paintings of each contest go on nationwide tour each year. The Arts for the Parks exhibit has become one of the outstanding displays of American representational painting in the country. On display at Kolb Studio beginning 03 May. Admission is free. Grand Canyon Association has dedicated this year's Grand Canyon visit of the traveling exhibit to the memory of John (Jack) Dudley.
A visit to Tusayan Ruin and Museum will provide a glimpse of Pueblo Indian life at Grand Canyon some 800 years ago. The museum, located three miles west of Desert View, is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm with free admission.
A self guided trail leads through the adjacent 800 year old ruin. Ranger led ruin tours are offered.
Yavapai Observation Station, located .75 mile east of the Visitor Center, provides a panoramic view of the Canyon through the building's large windows. Open daily.
A fossil exhibit, The Changing Tides of Time, is on display in this historic building. Travel back in time when trilobites swam in ancient seas and prehistoric lizards walked on giant sand dunes.
The Visitor Center, located six miles north of the park's south entrance station, is open daily. Information about the park, maps, and brochures may be obtained at the information desk. Exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the Grand Canyon may be viewed in the Visitor Center exhibit hall. Audio visual presentations are shown in the Visitor Center auditorium throughout the day. Topics and times are posted at the auditorium entrance.
Tuweep / Toroweap
This area, known as both Tuweep and Toroweap, is on the northwest rim of the Grand Canyon in the remote Arizona Strip. The Kanab Plateau rises sharply to the east, while the volcanic Pine / Uinkaret Mountains form the western margin of Toroweap Valley.
The view from Toroweap Overlook, 3,000 vertical feet above the Colorado River, is breathtaking; the sheer drop, dramatic! Equally impressive are the volcanic features, cinder cones and lava flows, which make this viewpoint unique in Grand Canyon National Park. Renowned Lava Falls Rapid is just downriver and can easily be seen and heard from the overlook.
Toroweap, a Paiute term meaning "dry or barren valley," refers to many local features, including the geologic formation and fault, the valley, and the overlook. Tuweep came into use to describe the local white settlement and later the park district. Tuweep in Paiute refers to "the earth," but this place name may be derived from a longer Paiute word meaning "long valley."
A visit to this area can be challenging, but rewarding. Since the National Park Service manages the area for its primitive values, improvements and services are minimal.
Getting to Tuweep
Maps are available at the Bureau of Land Management office in St. George, Utah, at nearby Pipe Springs National Monument, and at the U.S. Forest Service office in Fredonia, Arizona.
The area can be reached from Arizona Highway 389 near Fredonia or Colorado City, Arizona, or from St. George, Utah.
Sunshine Route (BLM road #109), the primary access route, leaves Highway 389 about seven miles / 12km west of Fredonia. It is 61 miles / 100 km long and is the most reliable route, but is subject to washboarding and dust. Clayhole Route (BLM Road #5) leaves Highway 389 at Colorado City. It is also about 60 miles / 100 km long, but may be impassable when wet.
Main Street Route (BLM Roads #1069 and #5) from St. George is about 90 miles / 145 km long and is the most scenic route. It may be impassable in winter due to snow on the slopes of Mt. Trumbull.
All routes are secondary county roads, graded occasionally and generally in good condition. The last three miles across the slickrock are the roughest. Allow 2 - 3 hours travel time from the highway to the overlook. RVs, trailers, or low clearance vehicles are not recommended. All routes may be impassable after heavy rains and are subject to flash flooding. Tire damage from sharp rocks is common. Dangerous curves are often unmarked, and posted mileages may be inaccurate. Since there are few, if any, year round residents, assistance is not guaranteed on any route.
For these reasons, no one should attempt the trip without ample preparation and knowledge of the hazards associated with remote desert travel. Travelers should carry extra WATER, FOOD, and GASOLINE; GOOD TIRES including at least one USABLE SPARE; and PARTS and TOOLS to handle vehicle and tire repairs.
Recreation: Tuweep, accessible year round, is managed for its undeveloped recreational experiences: solitude, natural history exploration, photography, camping, and limited hiking. Trails in the campground area are relatively easy. The Lava Falls Route down to the river is extremely rough, steep, and exposed to the sun. The Tuckup Trail is mostly flat to Tuckup Canyon, but has few water sources.
Fees: There is no charge for campground or day use. A permit and fee are required for backcountry camping.
Campground: Eleven primitive, first come, first served sites are available near the rim, including one group site. The group site may be reserved by calling: 928-638-7870. Sites may fill during spring months, especially on weekends. Picnic tables, fire grates, and composting toilets are provided, but no electricity or water is available. Bring your own firewood.
Services: No gas, food, water, lodging, garbage collection, or other services are provided. A National Park Service ranger is stationed here year round, but may not always be available. An emergency phone is located at the Tuweep Ranger Station.
Regulations: Please read and follow posted regulations. All park resources are protected by law. Collecting firewood, artifacts, or any natural resource is prohibited. Please sign your name in the overlook register, not in the sandstone. All wheeled vehicles must stay on established roads. Use caution near the edge and do not throw anything over the rim. Practice Leave No Trace principles and take only photographs.
The geologic history of the Tuweep area is similar to the rest of Grand Canyon, but includes a more recent chapter of volcanism. The Toroweap Fault underlies the valley, crosses the Colorado River, and continues south up Prospect Canyon. Volcanic activity began along this fault around seven million years ago. Over time lava issued from more than 60 vents. Beginning about 1.2 million years ago some flowed into Toroweap Valley, forming the flat bottomed valley we see today. Vulcans Throne, Mount Trumbull and the Uinkaret Mountains are other features that are the result of volcanic activity.
More than a dozen times, lava spilled over the canyon rim, damming the Colorado River. Remnants of these flows and dams are easily visible just west of the overlook. Sediments clinging to the canyon walls high above the river indicate the formation of large lakes. The river eroded the lava dams and continued its downward cutting. It is now 50 feet / 15 m deeper than the base of the dams. Despite its name, Lava Falls Rapid was formed from debris washed down Prospect Canyon, not from remains of the lava flows.
It is less than one mile across the canyon to the Hualapai Indian Reservation on the South Rim, making this one of the narrowest and deepest segments of the inner canyon. The colorful redrock of the Hermit Shale and Supai sandstones to the east contrasts with the black, basaltic lava flows to the west, making Toroweap Overlook a memorable, and often photographed, viewpoint in Grand Canyon.
Tuweep sits at an elevation of 4,600 feet / 1,400 m on a landform known as the Esplanade which forms a flat shelf situated about halfway between the coniferous forests of the North Rim and the hot canyon bottom. This is a high desert area with mild winters and light snows. Summers are hot with thunderstorms from July to September.
In Toroweap Valley a chaparral community exists with juniper and pinyon pines, sagebrush and saltbush, Mormon tea and other woody shrubs, and various grasses. Nearer the Esplanade succulent cacti, yucca, and agave predominate. In years of abundant winter moisture, wildflowers may proliferate. Some life forms, like the crusty black "cryptobiotic" soil, are rare and sensitive. Please avoid stepping on these fragile living organisms.
Wildlife includes coyotes, mule deer, jackrabbits, rodents, and numerous species of birds and reptiles. An often overlooked and little understood biotic community exists seasonally in the slickrock water pockets on the Esplanade. Fairy and horseshoe shrimp, tiny frogs, and microscopic organisms emerge from the muddy bottom when moisture fills these pools for sufficient periods of time. The desert is truly a beautiful and amazing place to those who take the time to explore and study it.
The first humans in the Tuweep region were likely ice age hunters who lived a nomadic hunting gathering existence in what was a milder climate. The Ancestral Puebloans farmed in this area, arriving about 2000 years ago and migrating eastward around AD1300. The most recent American Indian group to live here is the Paiute, who have a reservation to the north. Evidence of past human presence in this region includes dwellings, rock art, and numerous lithic / artifact sites.
John Wesley Powell visited Tuweep in 1870 while unsuccessfully searching for missing members of his 1869 river expedition. He mapped and named many of the local features. More recently, European-Americans ranched, mined, and settled in the area. While ranchers used this valley seasonally in the early 1900s, the first year round homestead was the Lower Kent Ranch, built in 1927, located just north of the park. Other pioneers in the region included the Schmutz, Cunningham, Craig, and Bundy families. Henry Covington herded sheep and mined on the Esplanade off and on for over 20 years. There are still many sites that speak of his determination to live and prosper in this arid region.
In 1932 the Tuweep area was protected within Grand Canyon National Monument, despite opposition from local residents. Congress added the area to Grand Canyon National Park in 1975. One of the best known residents of the area was Tuweep ranger John Riffey, who worked here for 38 years. His helpfulness, longevity, and airplane ("Pogo") contributed to his legendary status. Today, the area is managed for preservation of the abundant natural and cultural resources and for the enjoyment of the few who venture to this remote corner of the Grand Canyon.
Yavapai Observation Station
A hiking trail follows the rim from Yavapai Point to Hermits Rest; the Rim Trail is paved from Yavapai Point west only as far as Maricopa Point. Unpaved portions of the trail are narrow and close to the edge.
Yavapai Observation Station (at Yavapai Point, just west of Mather Point on the South Rim) offers panoramic views of the canyon (including the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch) from inside the building and is open all year.
For viewing and photographing the canyon, the light is most dramatic early or late in the day; mid day sun tends to flatten the view and soften the colors. Remember that days are short in the winter and long in the summer. Times for sunrise and sunset are listed in THE GUIDE, the park newspaper which you'll receive at the park entrance. If you're planning to see the canyon at sunrise or sunset, remember that most people want to be on the rim at least an hour beforehand.
The Colorado River, which is responsible for the existence of Grand Canyon, lies at the bottom of the canyon, 5,000 feet below the rim. Because of the enormous depth of Grand Canyon, the river is visible only from certain viewpoints. It is a 2 day (round trip) hike to the river from the South Rim for most people; it's a longer trip from the North Rim. It is possible to drive to the Colorado River at Lees Ferry (near Marble Canyon, Arizona) but this is a 2.5 hour drive (one way) from the South Rim. Lees Ferry marks the official beginning of Grand Canyon, and the canyon is only a few hundred feet deep at this point.
Visitors may also hike along the rim on the Rim Trail or below the rim on a number of inner canyon trails. All hiking at Grand Canyon is strenuous, due to altitude (the South Rim is 7,000 feet above sea level) and extreme temperatures (up to 120� F in the inner canyon). A trip from rim to river and back is a two day trip for most; visitors may spend the night at Phantom Ranch (with advance reservations) or camp at Bright Angel Campground, adjacent to Phantom Ranch (with a Backcountry Permit). Phantom Ranch is also accessible by mule (a two day trip). The park offers free programs throughout the year. The concessioner offers a variety of activities (mule trips, bus tours, etc.) throughout the year.
Plants and Animals
At Grand Canyon 75 species of mammals, 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, 25 species of fish, and over 300 species of birds exist.
The South Rim of Grand Canyon lies on the edge of a high plateau whose gray-green forests stand out in sharp contrast to the arid lands below the rim. From here the cliffs drop 5000 feet / 1524 m to the Colorado River, crossing several biotic zones in the process. It is a landscape characterized by abundant sunshine, extremes of temperature, and long periods of drought punctuated by torrential downpours in summer and snow in winter. The soil is thin; bedrock lies just a few inches below the surface. The competition for moisture in this dry land is keen.
On the rim at elevations above 7000 feet / 2134 m, ponderosa pine is the dominant tree in the forest. Below 7000 feet / 2134 m, pinyon pine and Utah juniper are the dominant trees. Gambel oak is another common member of the forest. The trees are interspersed with drought resistant shrubs like cliffrose, fernbush, and serviceberry. Warm, sunny areas along the rim may be home to desert plants like banana yucca and claretcup cactus.
Below the rim, it's another world. The temperature within the inner canyon can be as much as 30�F / 18�C higher than temperatures on the rim. Summertime highs along the Colorado River can reach 120�F / 49�C. Much of the inner canyon is considered desert, excluding the areas along the river and tributary streams which have rich riparian (streamside) habitat. Much of the vegetation in the inner canyon is typical of that found in deserts to the south: cacti and drought resistant shrubs. Riparian plants include thickets of willow and tamarisk.
The park is home to a wide variety of animals. Mule deer are common throughout the park and are the mammals most commonly seen on the rim. Desert bighorn inhabit the remote slopes of the inner canyon but are occasionally seen on established trails. Bobcats and coyotes range from rim to river, and a small population of mountain lions exists in the park. Among the smaller mammals that inhabit Grand Canyon are ringtails (closely related to raccoons), beavers, gophers, chipmunks, several varieties of squirrels, rabbits and bats. Reptiles and amphibians are represented by a wide variety of lizards, snakes (including the unique Grand Canyon "pink" rattlesnake), turtles, frogs, toads and salamanders. Hundreds of species of birds make their home in the park, along with countless insects and arachnids (spiders and scorpions).
Grand Canyon National Park is home to a number of threatened and endangered species. The native Colorado River fish have suffered as a result of the dramatic changes in water volume, temperature and sediment load since the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. These fish include the Colorado squawfish, humpback chub, and bonytail chub. Several species of endangered birds make Grand Canyon home, including the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and willow flycatcher. A number of endangered plants can also be found in the park, including. More and more, protected lands like Grand Canyon National Park provide a refuge for plants and animals that are under increasing pressure elsewhere.
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