Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Grand Canyon Skywalk

UPDATE: Grand Canyon West (location of the Skywalk) has moved up to #10 ranking for New 7 Wonders of Nature contest. Click the link to find Grand Canyon Skywalk special offers.

I want to return to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to stay in the Grand Canyon Lodge's log cabins for several days and do some serious hiking and then drive the 220 miles to the South Rim via Navajo Bridge to do the 8 mile hike to Supai, Arizona to see Havasu Falls.

Havasu Falls has been a longtime Hualapai Indian natural Grand Canyon attraction. On March 20, 2007 the Hualapai unveiled an unnatural attraction known as the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

The Skywalk cost the Hualapai tribe $31 million. It is considered an engineering marvel. Shaped like a horseshoe the Skywalk sticks out 66 feet from the edge of the canyon, 3,600 feet above the canyon floor.

The walls and floor of the horseshoe are built of 2 inch thick glass. The Skywalk can support 70 tons of weight, or 800 176 pound people. However, only 200 people at a time are allowed on the Skywalk. The structure is built to handle 100 mph winds and an 8.0 earthquake.

The Hualapai plan to add a museum, theater, gift shop, lounge, a gourmet restaurant called the Skywalk Cafe and several other restaurants. The development is called Grand Canyon West, with hotels, a golf course and a cable tram to take visitors down to the Colorado River.

Building the Skywalk was, and continues to be, controversial, both in the tribe and outside the tribe. Some tribe members considered the Skywalk to be desecrating sacred ground. The tribe's Skywalk supporters argued that the tribe needed the money the Skywalk hopefully would generate. Environmental groups and National Park officials have voiced concerns regarding the project. To me this would seem a bit hypocritical, considering all the unnatural development that is part of the National Park on both rims of the Grand Canyon.

It is not an easy task to get to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. From Interstate-10 take exit 48. Head north on US 93 for 29 miles. Turn east at the Dolan Springs/Meadview City sign (near mile marker 42) onto Pierce Ferry Rd/Hwy 25. Follow Pierce Ferry Rd for 29 miles, then make a hard right onto Diamond Bar Rd/Hwy 261 for 21 miles. The first 14 miles are very bad. Do not attempt to drive it if thunderstorms are in the area.

You can drive to the Skywalk, but to walk onto the Skywalk you have to arrive on a Skywalk Shuttle Bus that you board by making a reservation at 702-260-6506. The Skywalk Park & Ride is a mile east after you turn on to Pierce Ferry Rd/Hwy 25 in Dolan Springs.

The cost of the shuttle bus ride is $30. That gets you to the Skywalk and 2 other viewpoints. To walk the Skywalk will cost you another $30. Special shoe covering booties are provided to keep you from slipping and to protect the glass. You are not allowed to bring any personal items on the Skywalk. Including your camera. There are 3 photo stations on the Skywalk. You can buy a photo of yourself on the Skywalk in the gift shop. For $29 each.

Methinks the Hualapai are doing a bit of gouging here. I've no information as to how successful the Grand Canyon Skywalk is. I suspect it may not be attracting the number of visitors that the Hualapai hoped for.

Below is a YouTube video of the media event when the Grand Canyon Skywalk opened...

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