Navajo Bridge is actually located on Navajo Tribal Lands at the northeast portion of the Grand Canyon that we generally recognize as the East Rim. The Colorado River, flowing through Marble Canyon, flows under Navajo Bridge. Marble Canyon is considered by many to be the beginning of the Grand Canyon and Lee’s Ferry, not far from the Bridge, is the starting point for many of the Colorado River White Water Trips.
Navajo Bridge: A South/North Rim Connection
If you drive from the South Rim to the North Rim you will cross the Navajo Bridge en route. This drive will take about 4.5 hours if you drive straight through but you shouldn’t! You should stop at the Navajo Interpretive Center and explore the area. Why? Because you will get to meet the twins!
The Navajo Bridge Twins
The original Navajo Bridge was completed and opened to traffic in January 1929. Prior to the building of the bridge, the only way to cross the Colorado River and its formidable gorge was at Lee’s Ferry a short distance upstream. Here the cliffs were almost non-existent, allowing travelers of all kinds to cross in relative safety. However, the automobile had come into favor as the best way to travel and the ferry wasn’t the safest way to cross. The bridge, which was at first called Grand Canyon Bridge, would create a much safer method of crossing the river.
The plan was to continue to operate the ferry at Lee’s Ferry until the bridge was completed but in mid-summer 1928 there was a tragic accident that sank the ferry with its cargo and cost the lives of three men. Since the bridge was so near completion a decision was made to not replace the ferry. That meant that the closest crossing of the Colorado River was about 260 miles away!
The original Navajo Bridge was more than adequate for the needs of travelers for over sixty years but during that time automobiles changed. Vehicles became wider and truck loads got longer until the narrow bridge was deemed unsafe for travel. Also, even though pedestrians were prohibited on the bridge, the temptation was sometimes too great and as a result there were several fatalities.
A decision was made to keep the original bridge and build an almost identical bridge just downstream. The historic bridge would be a walking bridge – the new bridge would be built wider to allow modern traffic to flow safely. That is why you need to cross the bridge and park at the Navajo Interpretive Center – so you can walk across the old bridge and take pictures of the two bridges side by side.
When you take the Scenic Canyon River Adventure Tour or the Canyon Smooth Water Bus Trip you will return to the South Rim over the “new” Navajo Bridge. When you take the Colorado River Discovery half-day float trip from Page, AZ you will also return to Page over the “new” bridge.
If you are an avid fisherman and want to fish the world class trout fishery between Glen Canyon Dam and Lee’s Ferry, guess what? That’s right! You will also get to the entry point at Lee’s Ferry by crossing Navajo Bridge!
And if you just want to take a drive in the area, you can view some amazing balanced rocks near Lee’s Ferry or a crazy house built as part of a rock near Cliff Dwellers by crossing Navajo Bridge from the east on your way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.