Interpretive Information

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City of Page, Arizona

An agreement was made between the Federal government and the Navajo Tribe to transfer more than 17 sq. miles of tribal land to the Bureau of Reclamation in exchange for certain desirable lands (now the Aneth Oil Fields) in southeastern Utah. The mesa on which the City of Page now stands was part of a Navajo Tribal grazing allotment belonging to the Manson Yazzie family, hence the name Manson Mesa. Page, Arizona began as a construction camp for the Glen Canyon Dam and Power plant.

By 1974 the Bureau removed itself from governing Page. After a popular vote of the residents, the town of Page was created on Dec. 17, 1974. By formal resolution of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors on March 1, 1975, Page became the second largest town incorporated in Coconino County.

Today, Page is a thriving city of nearly 8, 000 year round residents and is considered the hub of the Grand Circle which includes several national parks, monuments, and scenic areas.

The Tunnel

Preparations for the construction of Glen Canyon Dam began in October, 1956. One of the first tasks was to begin blasting the side walls of the canyon to allow for the design of the Dam and the river diversions tunnels. The tunnel is two miles long and drops through the canyon at a steep 8% grade. The side tunnels (adits) that you may have noticed on your ride down the access tunnel are visible from the river as we head downstream. There are 19 of them, and they were cut during the construction of the tunnel in order to push debris back into the canyon, rather than transport it up to the top or down to the bottom for removal. During certain periods of the Cold War, the adits were used as emergency supply storage and as a possible bomb shelter for the citizens of Page. Today, they serve to ventilate the tunnel from vehicle emissions.

Glen Canyon Dam

The first bucket of concrete was poured on June 17, 1960. For almost 3 years and 3 months, workers poured concrete, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week regardless of weather or circumstance. And the final bucket of concrete was poured on September 13, 1963.

The Dam sits 710 feet (216.4 m) above bedrock. There are 4, 901, 000 cubic yards (3, 747, 083 cubic meters) of concrete in the Dam—or maybe think of it this way: there is enough concrete in the Dam to build a highway from Phoenix, Arizona to Chicago, Illinois!

The Power Plant has 8 kinetic turbines, which have the capability of producing some 1, 288 to 1, 320 megawatts of hydroelectric power, enough to supply electricity to a city of 1.7 million people.

Lake Powell, the reservoir behind the Dam, is 186 miles long and has almost 2, 000 miles of shoreline. Lake Powell generates electricity that is distributed throughout the Southwest, but more importantly provides water allotments to needs throughout the region. At full pool, the reservoir can hold about 26 million acre feet; 1 acre foot can sustain a family of four for a year.

Glen Canyon Bridge was built in 1957 in Emeryville, California. It was shipped to Flagstaff, Arizona by railroad and then brought by truck in pieces to Page. Each half of the bridge was begun on opposite sides of the Canyon, and it’s been said that when the two halves met in the middle over the river, the sections were only a quarter of an inch off. The bridge is 1, 271 feet long (387 m), or about a quarter mile, with the arch itself being 1, 028 feet. The bridge stands about 700 feet (213.3 m) above the old Colorado River channel, and towers 117 feet above the completed Dam. The width of the bridge is only 40 feet (about 13 m).

Native Americans

For thousands of years, the ancestors of present day Native Americans inhabited all of North America. Those who inhabited the Southwest United States created rock art, which were designs etched into or painted onto caves, canyon walls, and boulders. What do these images and symbols mean? How can we use them to learn more about the history, cultures, and spiritual lives of the various people who created them? Rock Art is the term usually used to encompass both petroglyphs and pictographs.

The petroglyph panel we visit today is one of thousands found throughout the Four Corners Region. It is thought that these symbols are attributed to the desert archaic peoples who inhabited Glen Canyon from approximately 9000 years ago until about 2000 years ago, and to the later people, the Ancestral Puebloans (or Ancient Ones), who were here from about 2000 years until about 1300 A.D. Some images seem lighter than others implying return of desert varnish over time. But the only way to really date the various images is to understand the stylistic changes in imagery through time. Archaeologists have established stylistic chronologies based on observed associations with material culture which has been “absolutely” dated, through such means as carbon dating, among others, in the course of countless excavations.

It is crucial to understand that absolute knowledge of the meanings and reasons behind these markings is impossible. Interpretation of the carvings is difficult. It is generally thought that rock images relate to hunting, religious ceremonies, or resource locations. Images have been found to be stylistically consistent over large geographical areas. Many of the symbols on this and other rivers remain mysteries.

Expeditions on the Green and Colorado Rivers

Major John Wesley Powell was a one-armed Civil War veteran and a professor of geology from Illinois. Powell lost his arm in the Battle of Shiloh, but that did not stop him from believing he could lead an expedition to map and record the remaining unexplored regions of the western U.S. With little in the way of financial backing, in 1869 Powell put together a team of ten men to explore the entire length of the Colorado River (almost 1000 miles), including Grand Canyon. With no context whatsoever, the men set off from Green River, Wyoming on May 24, and spent the next 3 months on the river. Without maps, modern equipment, and any idea of what awaited them, these men made it their mission to map the last blank area found on maps of the United States. These explorers experienced hardships including lost boats and supplies, exposure to the elements, and some of the wildest whitewater ever seen. A subsequent trip followed in 1871. The result of both trips was Powell’s The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons, a compilation of journal entries. The records from the first trip brought Powell fame, and therefore the second journey brought much more in the way of financial support. This monumental expedition would change how the west was viewed forever.

Lees Ferry

In the interest of expanding the faith and colonizing points south, the Mormons began moving into Northern Arizona. At the time, the Colorado River had only real crossings established at Green River, Wyoming and Needles, California. The Mormons knew the natives used a ford located near the Paria River, and decided to use this location to establish a safe river crossing. The Church sent John Doyle Lee and two of his wives to establish this new river crossing and a homestead (called Lonely Dell Ranch). From 1871 to 1898, the ferry operation was simply a free-floating barge rowed across the river just above the present-day launch ramp near the old fort seen on river right. In low water, the ferry was operated at the Paria confluence. Later, in 1899, Jim Emett, one of the later ferry operators installed a cable to secure the barge across the river. If you look closely at river left, you might be able to see three sticks planted in the bank, and a large coiled cable. This was the crossing point. Lee actually only operated the ferry for two years, after which he relocated south into Arizona, leaving his wife Emma, to run the operation. But the name stuck. Emma ran the ferry until 1874, when the church sent another family, the Warren Johnsons, to take over. They ran it until 1928, when the Navajo Bridge downstream was nearly complete.

The road you may see leading up from the ferry crossing is the access road to Lees Ferry from the south. After 1877, the trail began to be called the “Honeymoon Trail” because of the number of traveling Mormon couples who crossed back into Utah to have their marriages sanctified by the Church in temples up north. The upper part of the trail is called “Lees Backbone”, as it is considered one of the roughest, rockiest, and hardest to pass trails found in the West.