It’s hard to go wrong when you choose among Hatch’s Grand Canyon River Trips. Motorized, oar-powered, short, long, upper canyon, or lower—we love them all. Throughout the canyon you’ll find geologic wonders, roaring rapids, and places that have been occupied or visited by travelers for hundreds of years. But, if you want to find yourself immersed in Grand Canyon history (and pre-history!), we definitely recommend the Upper Canyon.

From your launch at Lee’s Ferry all the way through Marble Canyon to your trip’s completion near Phantom Ranch, you’ll be traveling in a place that was first occupied 4,000 years ago and that’s been actively explored by westerners since the 1500s. There’s something incredible about standing in a place, in awe of its beauty or magnitude, and knowing that hundreds or even thousands of years before you, others were doing the exact same thing.

Here’s just a sampling of the historical points of interest you’ll encounter on an Upper Canyon trip.

Lonely Dell Ranch, Lee's Ferry, Grand Canyon

John D. Lee’s Lonely Dell Ranch, near Lee’s Ferry

Lee’s Ferry
Even the site of your trip’s launch has some stories to tell. In the 1870s, Brigham Young decided to expand existing Mormon settlements into Northeastern Arizona when he learned that there was an area shallow enough to allow crossing. John Doyle Lee was chosen to establish the ferry and operated it until 1874 when he was capture, tried, and eventually found guilty of murder for the role he played in the Mountain Meadow Massacre in 1857. Lee’s widow took over operation of the ferry until the Mormon Church bought it from her in 1879 and continued to run it until the construction of the Navajo Bridge in 1928.

The ferry and the trail leading across it and up into Utah (dubbed the "Honeymoon Trail") was heavily used by Mormon couples traveling to Salt Lake City to be sealed in the temple there. Couples using the Honeymoon Trail would fire a pistol into the air to signal to Lee that they needed to cross and wait, some passing time by marking the rocks in ways that are still visible today.

Stanton’s Cave
In 1889, Robert Brewster Stanton, a railroad engineer, ran the third river trip down the Grand Canyon to survey it. He believed the Grand Canyon was a suitable place for a railroad, though none was ever built. On his first attempt at this trip, three men died, (including F.M. Brown whose name is inscribed in a wall at river mile 12, downstream from Soap Creek rapid across from where he drowned), and Stanton decided to hike out of the canyon, returning in 1890 with better equipment.

Thirty two miles down the river from Lee’s Ferry, (about one mile before Redwall Cavern) a large cave is named for Stanton. Stanton’s Cave housed his tools during the break between his 1889 and 1890 expeditions. It is also home to the remains of ancient horses, 4,000 year old split twig figurines made by early Native American inhabitants of the canyon, and a large colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats. Today, the cave is gated off to prevent disruption of the archeological site and the delicate bats’ maternity roost.

Hopi Salt Mines

Just past the confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado itself, guides will point out an area to which visitation is prohibited. One can see, beyond the trees growing on the river bank, white salt deposits on the Redwall Limestone. These are the Hopi Salt Mines, a site still sacred to the tribe. For centuries, these salt deposits were utilized by the Hopi people in a number of ceremonies.

Among these, was the pilgrimage undertaken by Third Mesa boys being as they become men. Boys spent a week walking down the Salt Trail, visiting shrines along the way. They traveled down along the Little Colorado River and into the Grand Canyon to the mines. There, they collected salt from the rock and carried it home for use among the people in their village.

This is just a small sampling of the canyon history you’ll get to learn about and the sites you’ll get to visit on an Upper Canyon river trip. We still have 4-day Upper Canyon trips available in 2016! Visit our website or call our office to learn more.

Historical Sites Abound on Upper Grand Canyon River Trips was last modified: October 1st, 2015 by Jessica Clark

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