So much to see and do in and around Page
PAGE, AZ (Arizona Highways TV) - Arizona is full of stunning sights, including Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. While some are natural formations that catch your eye and make you look up, some of the state’s scenery works the other way. Breathtaking? Yes! Even terrifying to look down.
Dusty Brown is a helicopter pilot with Papillon Airways in Page. His job is to show off the beauty of the lake, Tower Butte, and Horseshoe Bend. Brown has loved helicopters since he was 12; he decided early on to make flying his life.
“I’ve been around the world flying, and this is the most beautiful country that I have ever been flying in,” he said. His “office” has a stunning view of the canyon country’s natural beauty.
“Horseshoe Bend is located in the beautiful Glen Canyon,” he explained. “It’s a meander in the river where it almost doubles back on itself. It does a 270-degree turnaround and it leaves this beautiful horseshoe shape in the river itself. You can see the Colorado River down at the bottom - the beautiful, clear Colorado River with the red bluffs of those canyon walls. It’s just an amazing spectacle. If you look up a picture of the Southwest, you’re gonna see a picture of Horseshoe Bend in there somewhere.”
The Arizona desert even has its own sandstone skyscraper. It’s twice as big as the world’s largest manmade tower.
“It looks kind of scary; it’s a little intimidating,” Brown said. “A lot of people do think it looks really small …, [smaller] than it actually is. So, by the time we get up there, you realize it’s actually quite large up there. You could fit two football fields on top. But from a ways, it looks pretty intimidating.”
Tower Butte is a feat only Mother Nature could engineer.
“We took off and we flew over to the Horseshoe Bend, went over the top of that,” Australian tourist Laura Phillips said. “Then we flew over to Tower Butte, landed on top, had a walk around, which was pretty cool. [We] tried not to get too close to the edge.”
From down under to way, way up.
“It’s pretty exciting, even hovering over close to the edge and sort of free-falling down a little bit, just a really good experience, kind of something you’d see on a simulator,” Reece Moore, also an Australian tourist, said. “Just really exciting to be able to get a bird’s-eye view.”
“So, a helicopter flight is kind of unnatural for humans,” Brown said. “When you pick up to a hover, it’s a weird feeling. And then when you start moving forward, it’s a little unnatural for people. So, that’s part of the excitement of it, the different feeling.”
Helicopters fly much lower than airplanes. While planes are at 500 feet and above, Brown flies at about 300 feet. “You get to see a lot more of the lake with the helicopter than you do in an airplane,” he said. “The lake is immense; there are so many things to do here. It’s nice to see it from above, and we can point out things like the marinas and where they’re located and what kind of things you can do there.”
“It looks really good; the water was clear,” Moore said. “I felt like going for a swim but apparently it’s only 10 degrees down there, so [we] might put that off. But it’s a lot bigger than you think. You don’t realize how big it is down there until you see something like a boat or a person.:
Reece and Laura are even taking home their own postcard from the edge.
“I got pretty close,” Moore said. “I wanted to get a bit closer but it looked a bit crumbly, so I thought I’d better not push it. But yeah, it was really good looking down.”
“The most memorable part of this for me will be conquering my fear of heights and landing on top of the butte,” Phillips said.
It was a high point for Moore, too. “Just walking around, checking it all out, just realizing how big it is and how high up you are. It feels really good here, kind of like another country. Well, it is. But, yeah, it’s really good. Nice being out here in the desert.”
On the waters of Lake Powell
“This is one of my most favorite spots to come,” said Capt. Tom Pryor of Best of the West Guide Service said. “I’ll bring people to this place nine months out of the year; I’ll come here and catch fish. Some days you’ll catch 100. Some days you’ll catch 25.”
He knows his business and is great at explaining it. He says it’s important to watch the river or lake. The bends are great places to catch fish. You also have to pay attention to the fish. “The fish will tell you exactly what they want if you’ll listen to ‘em,” he explained.
After a few casts, he showed off a striped bass that weighed up to 4 pounds. “That would lay out 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of meat when you filet him out … That’s a nice fish, real nice fish,” Pryor said as he put the fish back in the water.
You can catch as many stripers as you want. But there are different limits each year for large and smallmouth bass, and some are bigger than others.”
The record striper at Lake Powell is a whopping 48 pounds.
You can fish here year-round, and your best is in March, April, and May. And the fall is boiling season.
“If you just go to the store and buy a piece of meat, you can do that every day,” one young fisherman said. “But if you go and catch a fish, and then you cook it up and you eat it, you went through the whole process yourself.
Petroglyphs tell the stories of Arizona’s history
Most Native American art is filled with images of animals, mythical beings, and human figures. But the most powerful images are not found on pots, baskets, or rugs. They are petroglyphs - rock art. While much of this rock art is protected and hard to get to, it’s well worth the journey to see.
Experts say Lake Powell has something like 3,000 miles of shoreline. You might think the awe and splendor end at the Glen Canyon Dam, which created Lake Powell.
“This is a nice, calm, smooth water float through here, lots of beautiful things you can see,” said Korey Skylar, a guide with a rafting tour company called Colorado River Discovery.
While there isn’t churning whiter, it’s now always mellow. “This canyon is constantly eroding,” Skylar explained. “There’s all kinds of things - rocks falling off here that are eroding this canyon away. A few times a year, we’ve seen some pretty big rock falls down here and they sound like a thunderous boom. … I like to tell people this whole place is falling apart.”
A group of kids recently took a school field trip and hit the beach at a very special spot. A short hike up the beach, you’ll find blackened tallis stone marked with stories and mystery.
“The ages on here are probably from 700 years to about 2,500 years old,” Skylar explained as he interpreted some of the carvings. “The ancestral Puebloans were actually in the region from about 1,000 years ago to 3,000 years ago.”
The petroglyphs are thought to have been made by ancient Native Americans. Periodic floods among the river will dump or remove sand and reveal more of the rock art.
“It just came into view about 17 years ago,” Skylar said. “So, those are fresh and were there stored underground and are incredibly detailed. If you think, it’d be difficult to get down on your belly and actually carve those into the rock there. So, that - when they carved it - was up at about chest level.”
The things you will see on the Upper Colorado River can change depending on the time of day, even the time of year you take this ride. Hot days have some riders eager for a swim. Korey has a warning about the one thing that never changes here.
“The water comes out of the dam at a consistent 48 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s chilly!” he said. “It’ll be the quickest swim you ever take in your life. That’s for sure.”
Finished in 1966, Glen Canyon Dam is the second-largest dam on the main stem of the Colorado River. The largest dam is a five-hour drive west. Hoover Dam sits on the Arizona-Nevada border and it’s massive. When it was built in the ‘30s, it was the tallest dam on the planet. Today, it’s the second-tallest dam in the U.S. (Glen Canyon Dam is No. 4.)
Lee’s Ferry Lodge, where every room has a view
Driving along Highway 89, you will have no trouble finding Lee’s Ferry Lodge at Vermilion Cliffs. That’s because it sits smack dab in the middle of some of the most spectacular scenery in Arizona. The best part? Every room there has a view!
The first thing you want to do when you get to Lee’s Ferry Lodge is to get out of the car and sit in the comfortable, turquoise-colored chairs on the patio. Plenty of good views surround the lodge and its 1929 low sandstone buildings. Those stunning views are what hooked the owner of the lodge in the first place.
“What inspired you to actually come up here and open up a lodge?” Arizona Highways host Robin Sewell asked Maggie Sacher.
“Well, there aren’t a lot of jobs around here; you probably noticed that already So, if you’re going to be waiting on tables, you might as well make the payments and own the place,” she answered. “I love this place. I honestly couldn’t put my finger on one thing, but I love this location.”
The location, of course, is in the shadow of the Vermillion Cliffs. And when you get your fill of big views, you can retire to the lodge’s cozy, rustic rooms, each designed with its own outdoorsy themes.
“So, whatever your favorite part of this area of the country is, we have a room for it,” Sacher said.
And after you’re done gazing out at the mountains, the smell of fresh air and soft beds will lull you to a deep sleep. So you can do it all over again the next day at the Lee’s Ferry Lodge!
Lonely Dell Ranch
Too often, this is the only way visitors ever think of Lee’s Ferry - a stop or start point for river raft rides down the Colorado River. This place has a long history of folks just passing through. For 60 years, Lee’s Ferry was the only place for settlers to get across the river and the Grand Canyon, but none of this would’ve happened if some people didn’t stay put.
The few families that stayed put on a ranch they rightly named Lonely Dell. It was not an easy place to tame.
“The stories that took place here are stories that we can all relate to, as far as just trials and tribulations of life,” explained Michelle Haas of the National Park Service.
Two rivers meet here - the Paria and the Colorado. That water made farming possible. Hass showed us a dugout that dates from the 1870s. It was used the way we use a refrigerator to keep food from spoiling.
“It’s built halfway into the ground, which allows it to stay cool, and would’ve been the food storage facilities for the families who lived here after the Lees. The Johnsons would’ve used it, and the Emmets, as well.”
While the river was the key to successful farming, it could also be a menace.
“The Paria River, just like the Colorado River, prior to Glen Canyon Dam and the other diversions along the rivers, would’ve blown out with major storms, high water years,” Hass said. “That occurred frequently enough at this location that they were a source of worry.”
Those hardscrabble times are long gone, but the National Park Service keeps this lonely treasure alive for visitors to Lee’s Ferry who are willing to slow down and look a little closer.
“It’s a jewel,” Hass said. “I mean if you look around you right now you can see the greenery with the red rock behind you, the shade that’s here. You can hear the birds in the trees. You’ll hear the little rustling on the ground of the lizards. It’s just a peaceful place.”
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