(ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - Lees Ferry has a long history of folks just passing through. But it's place that deserves a closer look.

Lees Ferry, in far northern Arizona, is the only place in hundreds of miles from which one can easily access the Colorado River from both sides.

It has historically served as an important river crossing.

For 60 years, Lees 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 lived here, in a ranch they rightly named "Lonely Dell."

This historic ranch, near the mouth of the Paria River, was home to the families who operated Lees Ferry.

[WATCH: The story behind the Lonely Dell Ranch]

Lonely Dell was so isolated that the families working at the crossing needed to be self-sufficient, growing food for themselves and their animals. 

Two rivers meet here, the Paria and the Colorado. That water made farming possible.

Settlers also had squash and beans and asparagus, and, in the orchard, apricots.

"Dugouts" that date back to the 1870s were used like refrigerators to keep food from spoiling.

A dugout is built halfway into the ground, which allows it to stay cool. That would have been the food storage choice for the families who lived here.

The river 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. That occurred frequently enough at this location that it was a big source of worry.

Those hardscrabble times are long gone, but the National Park Service keeps this lonely treasure alive for visitors, who are willing to slow down and look a little more closely.

It's a hidden gem, with all its greenery, red rocks and wildlife.

Nowadays, it also continues to be a center of activity. Here, river runners launch their boats for trips down the canyon, fishermen enjoy world-class trout fishing, and backpackers finish their hikes through the Paria Canyon Wilderness Area here.  

Lees Ferry Lodge at Vermilion Cliffs provides quiet and comfortable lodging for travelers in scenic northern Arizona. The lodge also has a restaurant that's open all day with service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Arizona Highways television is brought to you by Arizona Public Service and the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Recommended for you