Sunday, May 1, 2011

Desert View ~ Grand Canyon ~ Colorado River ~ Arizona

Desert View is located in the Grand Canyon, 52 km (32 mi) from the Grand Canyon Village and wherever there was a location to see the canyon from between these two locations, a viewpoint has been built.  We made a stop at every single one of those viewpoints and none were disappointing!  The views were similar yet different, colors and terrain varied and some showed more variety in formation than others but they were all incredible to see.

The Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon, AZ
The Watchtower is visible from some of those viewpoints and is located just before the eastern entrance/exit to the Grand Canyon National Park. The location known as Desert View due to the fact this is the eastern edge of the canyon and the desert spans east from here for miles across the Navajo Indian Reservation.

The desert view thru a portal on a masonry wall
Mary Cotter was hired in 1932 by The Fred Harvey Company to build a view and rest area at Desert View.  She designed the Watchtower as she did many other buildings in the Grand Canyon area, following the parkitecture theme using rocks and wood that blends into the local landscape.  She then used the railway engineers and bridge builders to erect the steel framework for the masonry walls to be built on and then supervised the construction of the entire project.

Paintings of Hopi history cover the walls of the Watchtower
A Hopi artist, Fred Kabotie, painted the first floor with symbols that tell the stories of his heritage.  Another Hopi artist, Chester Dennis created the petroglyphs seen on the wall of the first floor.

Looking up to the top ceiling of the 3 level Watchtower in Desert View, AZ
The round tower with the stairways following the curve at the outside wall of the building add much interest to some of the paintings just due to the location and overall look when we look up……….way up!  Fred Geary, a Fred Harvey Company painter painted the walls and ceilings on the second and third floors.  These symbols were found and adapted copies from original sites in the Southwest and New Mexico.

Looking down over the curved stairs onto the first floor of the Watchtower
These paintings were fascinating and most walls and the ceiling had some native work painted on them. Their story isn’t written in word here but if the time is taken to study these paintings and a little imagination is used, there are definitely some stories there.  The gift shop adjoining the tower has many symbol-like crafts to enjoy for souvenirs.

One of many built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
Much of the work and construction of trails, rock walls, roads and buildings at Desert View was done from 1935 to 1942 by the men of Civilian Conservation Corps who lived here during that time.  They completed over twenty projects taking great pride in their work and many of these buildings are still being used, although have gone through some changes.

The Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon, AZ
The Colorado River is 2330 km (1450mi) long, beginning in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado flowing to the Gulf of California between Baja and mainland Mexico creating some gorges and canyons as it passed through the Grand Canyon.  It is one of the most important river systems in the U.S. with over 20 dams built on it.

Rocks tell the story with layers of color
It is amazing to see, then try to realize that some of these rocks are nearly two billion years old!  The Vashnu Basement Rocks can be dated back that far and each level, which show as different colors are all dated as to when they were formed with the top layer, called the Kaibab Formation being only 270 million years old! The elevation of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is 2100 M (7000 ft) but doesn’t appear that high as it is a plateau.

The Grand Canyon National Park, a gift from past generations
John Wesley Powell took the first team of explorers down 1000 miles of the Colorado River in 1869 for a geological exploration and although not all stayed with the team, there were five that completed the trip with Powell, going through many of the 120 sets of rapids on the river. Mr. Powell named the Grand Canyon.

Congress established the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919 and it is very impressive to see all that is being done to maintain the beauty of the area through the work done by the park and their volunteers. They consider it a gift from past generations and are doing all they can to preserve it for future generations.

If the opportunity is there for you, I would highly recommend you see the movie at the Grand Canyon Imax in Tusayan, AZ. The 35 minute movie of the Grand Canyon is incredible to see so hold onto your seats, you’re going for a wonderful ride !


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