Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Navajo Bridge Across The Colorado River

The North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon are about 10 miles apart, for a bird, for a hiking person the distance is about 21 miles. In a car, the closest route is around 220 miles, crossing over the Colorado River at Marble Canyon on Navajo Bridge, via Highway 89A, near the site of Lee's Ferry, which at one time was the way to get across the river.

Marble Canyon is a boundary on the west end of the Navajo Nation. When the bridge was first operational, in 1929, it opened with great fanfare and a surprising number of people for an isolated area, as in about 7,000 people in over 1,200 vehicles showed up for the celebration that included the governors of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, with bands, choirs and Navajo dancers, for the dedication of what was then called Grand Canyon Bridge. Five years later the Arizona legislature, after prolonged debate, changed the name to Navajo Bridge.

I have only driven across Navajo Bridge once, on the way to a log cabin at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. That day had started out in Mexican Hat, traveled through Monument Valley, detoured to Page, Arizona to see Glen Canyon Dam, it being the structure that caused Lake Powell, which had allowed us to float in a Houseboat for 4 days before we got to Mexican Hat.

By the 1980s it was apparent that Navajo Bridge was not built to handle the wider, heavier, larger modern trucks and cars. There were many accidents, some involving pedestrians who were not supposed to walk on the bridge, but for many the temptation was too great.

After 2 years of construction, in May of 1995, the second Navajo Bridge was ready to handle traffic. I crossed the new bridge shortly after it opened. The original Navajo Bridge now only carries pedestrians.

Because the original Navajo Bridge opened during Prohibition it was christened with a bottle of ginger ale. In 1995 the new Navajo Bridge was christened with a bucket of Colorado River water.

The old rest area on the west side of the original bridge was re-born and enlarged as an interpretive center. On the Navajo Nation side of the bridge, that being the east side, there is an area set aside for Navajo Nation vendors. The Navajo Nation Trading Posts are one of my favorite things in this part of the country.

The original Navajo Bridge cost $390,000. The new Navajo Bridge cost $14,700,000.

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