National Parks Tour: Desert View Tower – Grand Canyon

Thursday, September 2, 2021 (continued)

When we did board the bus, I noticed that we were all there. We should have been missing about 6 or 8 people who were supposed to be waiting for us at the helicopter landing area. And they would have been there except that the rides had been cancelled due to fog in the canyon. Fog – helicopters – steep canyon walls: good call just to cancel.

We are now making our way to the Desert View section of the South Rim. We found our assigned seats – door side of the bus in the middle. Yesterday, we were on the driver side and missed the animals spotted on the door side. This morning, Al announces “on the driver side you will see some spectacular Canyon views.” Okay. I understand how this trip is going to go. Sigh.

At the Desert View section, the feature is the Watchtower built very close to the Rim edge. It was designed by, and the build supervised by architect and interior designer Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter in 1932. She is often referred to as the architect of the southwest for her inspirational buildings.

Before her retirement at the age of 79, she designed and over saw the building of five other buildings on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Watchtower was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1987.

Al said from the top of the Watchtower you can see for 100 miles on a clear day. I will have to take his word for it. Because of COVID precautions, the Tower is closed, and you can’t climb the stairs in it. It was an impressive structure though. You go Mary C!

We had an hour in this area so Chuck and I strolled to different spots along the Rim. There were several benches available all along the rim to sit and take in the view which we took full advantage. I really liked that you could see the Colorado River so clearly from this area. With the binoculars, we could even see rafters on the river.

Sadly, this spot is also the area of the 1956 TWA – United Airlines crash. In the 1950s, commercial airplanes often took detours over the park to give passengers a look at the Canyon. These two planes were doing just that and collided. It was the worst commercial airline disaster up to that time and killed all 128 people onboard. The disaster led to the creation of the Federal Aviation Association.

Once our time was up here, we boarded the bus for our next location – Monument Valley, part of the Navajo Nation on the Utah/Arizona border.

As we were leaving it gave me time to reflect on my first visit here – 1972. According to my Sunday, August 6, 1972, trip report, we spent the night in Kingman, AZ and arrived at the Grand Canyon at 12:35 Rocky Mountain Time. About the Grand Canyon I wrote – “The Grand Canyon is a gorgeous sight to see. The temperature is 92 degrees. We drove around the east and west rims of the South Grand Canyon and looked at the Canyon from various sight seeing areas. It is so huge and deep and pretty.”

What I remember is that after four different stops my sister and I were tired of looking at it and told my parents that we wanted to go. They were furious and rightly so. We were showing no real appreciation for the grandeur of the place or their efforts to share it with us. Shame on us.

Given this second chance to see it, I was appropriately awed, grateful for the opportunity, and embarrassed for my 12-year-old self. Mom and Dad, sorry we were brats. Thank you for taking us.

Travel Trivia Grand Canyon

Designated a national park in 1919

Total acreage: 1,215,375

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and the only one located within the United States.

Total miles of trails and of those trail miles that are maintained: 30 to 7

From the rim of the canyon to its lowest point, the temperature can change by more than 25 degrees.

There are an estimated 1,000 caves within the canyon, but only 335 have been recorded. Only one cave is open to the public. 

In 1909, The Arizona Gazette reported that archaeologists had discovered traces of an ancient Tibetan or Egyptian civilization in an underground tunnel in the canyon. The Smithsonian denied this entire story, claiming that they had no knowledge of the archaeologists. To this day, conspiracy theorists still believe this may have been a government cover-up. 

Though none of the fossils are from dinosaurs, since the canyon layers were formed long before dinosaurs walked the earth, the canyon is home to fossils of ancient marine animals that date back 1.2 billion years.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia and Al from Globus

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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