Posted by & filed under Travel Post Monthly.

By Julia Drake
High, dry, and lonesome, the valley stretches north into endlessness. East and west, sun-burnt sandstone cliffs and red-rock canyons rise into the crisp blue sky as the deserted two-lane highway meanders through a landscape of golden sagebrush, willows, and cottonwoods.

Once called “a portion of Earth’s original paradise,” here at Lees Ferry, you’ll find yourself in a place rooted in the spirit of the last frontier—in tales of adventure, tragedy, and the triumph of the first settlers.

Located on the Arizona Strip and isolated from the rest of the state by the Colorado River and impassible canyons, Lees Ferry received its name from the ferry established by the Mormon settler John D. Lee in 1871.

Once an important crossing point for thousands of settlers bound west to Arizona, it’s hard to believe that Lees Ferry has retained the feel of a “nowhere place.” And as such, it’s the perfect getaway from the daily grind and bustle of city life.

Outdoor activities such as scenic hikes around the Grand Canyon’s Northern Rim, prime fishing, and white-water rafting on the Colorado River abound year-around.

But if you really want to tap into your frontier spirit, float the calm stretch of emerald green waters from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry. This stretch of river has been left untouched by the wheel of time. You can arrange for a floating trip with Colorado River Discovery or bring or rent your own raft or kayak.

Back on the lonesome highway, you will arrive at Lees Ferry Lodge. A small oasis nudged against Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, the lodge offers affordable, cozy rooms and the staff makes you feel at home the moment you arrive.

At sunset, you can enjoy a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres on the veranda while watching the surrounding canyons burst into flaming color. Make sure to save room for the restaurant’s special baby back ribs with homemade barbecue sauce, and the exotic beer selection from all over the world.

In the morning, treat yourself to a hearty breakfast. The staff will gladly prepare sandwiches, beverages, and snacks for you to take on your floating trip. And don’t forget your camera!

All float trips launch south of Glen Canyon Dam. The second highest dam in the United States, it rises up to 710 feet, competing with the natural canyon walls. As you drift down calm, gentle waters, you’ll pass starkly carved red walls, royal arches, grottos and alcoves set against the abundant green of cottonwoods, tamarisks, and Russian olives. Fish jump from the water, and wildlife teems.

At Horseshoe Bend, a famous bow-shaped meander of the river, stop for lunch at the sandy beach to explore the Petroglyph Panels. Depicting bighorn sheep, birds, animal tracks, human figures and handprints, these drawings date back to prehistoric Indian cultures that once inhabited the canyons.

Later that day, back at the lodge after your adventure, as you watch the sunset on the veranda, you will indeed feel like you have explored a portion of Earth’s original paradise.

Helpful information:

Lees Ferry Lodge is located 120 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, at the edge of the Vermilion Cliffs National Wilderness Area, on Hwy. 89A, 3.5 miles west of the Navajo Bridge, which spans the Colorado River (Lees Ferry Lodge, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036; 928-355-2231 or 800-451-2231) 

Colorado River Discovery offers a variety of floating trips, as well as backhauling services from Lees Ferry upriver to just south of Glen Canyon Dam. For more information, call: 888-522-6644

Kayak rentals in the area:
Flagstaff: Four Season Outfitters
107 W. Phoenix Ave.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Page: Cañon Outfitters LLC
2020 Border St., Page, AZ 86040
(888) 452-2666; Fax (928) 645-2381

For more information on the Arizona Strip/Lees Ferry/Glen Canyon National Park, visit: 
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