NRHP: Cameron Suspension Bridge

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Cameron Suspension Bridge was built over the Little Colorado River in 1911 to provide better access to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Indian Reservation. The bridge originally carried highway 89, nearly collapsed under the weight of too many sheep in 1937 and was replaced by a more modern bridge in 1959.

 

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Five years after the suspension bridge was erected, the Richardson Brothers established the Cameron Trading post where the Navajo and Hopi came to barter for dry goods. As the town grew up around the bridge and trading post, it became a hotel for the area’s tourists.

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Today, it is a Southwestern version of the Cracker Barrel, with a restaurant and large gift shop and an adjoining motel. We stopped there on our way to the Grand Canyon to use the restroom. We perused the native crafts available in the gift shop, walked through the motel’s courtyard garden and took some photos of the historic bridge and canyon from the back of their property.

Location: US Highway 8954 Miles North of FlagstaffCameron, AZ 86020

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designation declared: 6/5/1986

Date of my visit: 8/19/2014

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Navajo Tribal Park: Lower Antelope Canyon

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon outside Page, Arizona. The Navajo name for Lower Antelope Canyon is Hazdistazí, or ‘spiral rock arches.’ It was designated a Navajo Tribal Park in 1997.

Entry is by guided tour only since a slot canyon is a dangerous place to be if there is rain anywhere along the course of the canyon (and thunderstorms are surprisingly frequent in the desert.) Several tourists have died in flash floods in this canyon.

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It was a cloudless sunny morning the day we set out to visit Antelope Canyon. We chose Lower Antelope because it is less crowded and less expensive than Upper Antelope.

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The only tour operator here for years was Ken’s. The year we went, his sister had also set up shop, next to Ken’s in the parking lot. Hers had no line, so we went there.

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Our tour guide was great, told interesting stories, gave tips on shooting photos, played the flute along the way and took family photos for us at several places.

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The slot canyon itself is amazing. It was formed by the erosion of Navajo Sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding. During monsoon season, rainwater collects in the basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it scours through the narrow passageways.

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It is quite an arduous climb down steep stairs and ladders to the floor and then there are more stairs and ladders up and down along the way and places where you have to squeeze through narrow passages. The first multi-story, metal staircase by which we descended into the canyon was heart-stoppingly steep. I almost couldn’t bring myself to climb down until the guide told me there was no shame in climbing down backwards, as if it were a ladder (really, it almost was one!)

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We went early in the morning and the canyon was cool at the bottom, but by the time we ascended, we were sweating and tired. The guides gave us a free water at the end of the tour…be sure to bring your own for the tour. I did see small children and elderly people make the trek just fine with some help from the guides and their families.

 

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To see my other Glen Canyon National Recreation Area posts, please click on the links:

Location: Navajo Nation near Page, AZ

Designation: Navajo Tribal Park

Date designated or established: 1997

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014

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Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Hanging Garden Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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After touring the Glen Canyon Dam, we asked a ranger in the visitor’s center for a short hike we could fit into the end of our day. He gave us directions to the Hanging Garden hike. The turn-off is 1/4 mile from the opposite side of the Glen Canyon Bridge from Carl Hayden Visitor Center on Highway 89.

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There aren’t great signs for the turn off, so we initially parked at the wrong trail-head.

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Our ‘wrong turn’ was an interesting hike meandering around the cool sandstone formations on the shore of Lake Powell.

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Then we went a little further down the road and found the right turn-off. Trail-head parking is 500 yards off of Highway 89 on a dirt road.

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This short, 1-mile round trip trail was created by the park service and leads to a startling green oasis beneath the rim of a butte. The route is easy to follow with a path marked by rocks along the entire route. There was no shade on this trail, but that was the only difficult part of the hike.

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There is a seep spring hidden beneath the sandstone. This spring captures rainwater and then slowly releases it, causing vegetation to grow vertically on the sheltered wall. It was pretty cool to see this in the midst of the barren landscape.

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To see my other Glen Canyon National Recreation Area posts, please click on the links:

Location: Scenic View Drive and Hwy 89, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014

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Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Glen Canyon Dam

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Having taken a morning raft tour of the Colorado River, we chose to explore the Glen Canyon Dam after lunch.
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First, we stopped at the Dam Overlook on the east side of the river. If heading from Page to the Carl Hayden Visitors center, the overlook is before you cross the river, tucked behind the Glen Canyon NPS Headquarters. We walked down the short, steep path and stairs to amazing views of the Dam and the Colorado River.
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Then we crossed the River and signed up for the next Dam tour. We had to pass through security screening and pay a nominal fee. As a federal power plant facility, security measures are in place. While no bags, purses, knives, weapons (duh!) or food are allowed on the tour, wallets, cameras, and clear water bottles are welcome.

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On the tour, we got to walk out on top of the dam with a knowledgeable guide. There are some artifacts on display.

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The tour took us from the top of the dam, and down into it to see the workings of the power plant.

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The Dam was completed in 1966 and forms Lake Powell. Though touted as a vital source of renewable energy and regulated water flow, environmental groups criticized its impact on the Grand Canyon’s ecosystem. Because of the controversy, it was one of the last dams of its size to be built in the USA.

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To see my other Glen Canyon National Recreation Area posts, please click on the links:

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Location: Hwy 89, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014

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The water level was pretty low when we visited. Our guide said this was the result of over a decade of severe drought.

Glen Canyon NRA: Colorado River and Petroglyph Walk

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.
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We opted to explore part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the Half Day Smooth Water Rafting tour with Colorado River DiscoveryThis was the highlight of our stay in Page.
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We checked in early at the Colorado River Discovery store in Page. Next we rode a bus through a two-mile tunnel in the canyon walls to the docks at the base of the Glen Canyon Dam….this tunnel was created for the workers who built the dam. You have to comply with Homeland Security rules to use the Dam Access Tunnel. CRD provided us with clear plastic bags for our belongings.

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At the docks we boarded a pontoon raft capable of holding up to 24 people…we only had 12 on ours so it was a peaceful ride. Our guide Nate told us a little of the area’s history, pointed out some interesting geologic formations, and various wildlife (we saw a few bighorn sheep.)

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Nate kept it fun while we relaxed and enjoyed the ride. Do bring your camera. There is no splashing on the way to Horseshoe Bend and you can use the plastic bag to protect it on the way back when there is some spray.

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We docked at Boater’s Beach at the foot of Horseshoe Bend. We walked a short path to see some petroglyphs…there was a National Park Ranger answering questions about them. Then we dipped our toes in the frigid 47 degree water…some folks had their swim suits and were brave enough to go all the way in.

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Back on the boat,  we went a little further around the bend to see some interesting rock formations and then we motored back to the Dam access tunnel.

 

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To see my other Glen Canyon National Recreation Area posts, please click on the links:

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Location: 130 6th Ave, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014

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Montezuma Castle National Monument

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

We stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monument to break up a long travel day. We’d flown into Phoenix from the New York area, stopped for a quick flight of bacon at the Oink Cafe, and then hit the road for the four hour drive to Page.

After about 90 minutes of driving, we took the exit for the Montezuma Castle visitor center, desperately needing to stretch our legs.

Montezuma Castle National Monument protects a set of well-preserved dwellings in Camp Verde, Arizona which were built and used by the Sinagua people around 1100 AD.

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It cost $5 per adult to get in (this has since doubled)…we didn’t mind paying it to help preserve this treasure. We enjoyed the pleasant 1/3 mile loop where we read some of the interpretive displays. And then we turned the bend and saw the amazing castle high up on the cliff walls.

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This was one of the first National Monuments designated under the antiquities act. Access to the interior of the structure was discontinued in the fifties due to safety issues, but you can still see a virtual tour of the inside on the park website.

Location: Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 12/8/1906

Date of my visit: August 2014

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Grand Canyon National Park: South Kaibab Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

On our third day in the park, we had to rearrange our itinerary a bit. Originally we’d planned to take the Canyon Vistas Mule Ride out of Bright Angel in the morning and then hike a bit in the afternoon. But the previous day, our misguided tour guide had attempted to enthrall our group with spooky tales of mule mishaps in the canyon while driving us from point A to B. Never mind that in the entire history of the mule train, there has been only one related fatality, the 12-year-old was freaked out and hysterical at the thought of us plunging to our untimely deaths on the back of a mule. The concessionary gladly refunded us as there was a long list of people eager to take our places.

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And so we went off to the South Kaibab trailhead first thing in the morning. Private vehicles are not allowed on the road to South Kaibab, so we took the shuttle bus from the visitor center to Yaki point.

When planning our Grand Canyon vacation, we’d agreed that we really wanted to hike into the canyon, at least part of the way. Out of 5 million visitors per year, only 10% venture below the rim. My husband really wanted to hike all the way to the river and back, but I was concerned that my 12-year-old and I might not make it out. Every official website and sign in the park warns against attempting to hike to the river and back in one day. ESPECIALLY in the summer, which is when we visited. The danger of dehydration or heat stroke is real.

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After some research, we’d selected the South Kaibab trail. It is steeper than Bright Angel but has more dramatic vistas. The hike down to Ooh Aah Point (yes, it’s really named that) was an easy one mile descent…we considered going to the next stop, Cedar Ridge. But then I saw how far below Ooh Aah it was and I looked back the way we’d come and saw what looked like an almost vertical cliff that we’d have to climb to get back to the trailhead and decided against continuing on.

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A mule train making its way up the steep switchbacks

The hike back up from Ooh Aah Point was challenging. While it had been cool and comfortable at the top (7k ft elevation), it was considerably hotter inside the canyon. The ascent was so steep, it made our calves burn. We had to rest and drink water frequently, and of course, take pictures. The scenery was fantastic!

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Halfway back up the trail, we had to yield to a mule train. There are signs along the trail reminding you of the proper mule etiquette.

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A little further up, we spotted a large black bird circling and coming in for a landing. I got out the telephoto and saw that it was a rare California Condor with a tag number. Condors had been nearly extinct in the wild in the 80s and the US Fish and Wildlife Service started breeding them and reintroducing them into the wild in the 90s. At the time of our visit, there were approximately 70 living in the Grand Canyon. We showed the photo to a ranger in the visitor center on our return and he identified her as an 8-year-old female who had spent time recovering from lead poisoning.

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A rare California Condor circles overhead
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California Condor #9

Back up at the trailhead, we visited the mule corral. They were beautiful, friendly and not scary at all. Maybe we didn’t get to ride them this trip, but we did make friends with them. And the change in plans turned out for the best as it would have been too hot to hike into the canyon in the afternoon. And we got to explore the Western edge of the park later that day. My post on that Hermit’s Rest trip can be found here. And my post on Bright Angel is here.

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Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/21/2014

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