Where is Navajo Bridge (and what does it have to do with the Grand Canyon?)

Marble Canyon from the air
Navajo Bridges

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.

Navajo _ Twin_ Bridges
The wider Navajo Bridge on the right replaced the historic Navajo Bridge       NPS Photo

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.

16 Responses

  1. I had the good fortune to live and work at the North Rim Lodge, back during the 1977 season. A special time in a very special place. I could write pages about it, but I think I can best serve people viewing this by saying, “You must go to the North Rim, sooner than later!”

    1. Hawkeye,

      I more than agree with you! The South Rim is the view that we’ve all been shown over time. The North Rim is where you must go to have a more genuine, timeless experience. Most of my hiking is done from the Trails on the North Side…I know I need to do all those South Rim trails (and I’ve hiked many of them), but I always figure I can do them later in life. The North Rim demands what youth I have left to experience the Canyon!

      Thank you for your comment,

      Karlyn

  2. I went across this bridge several time going from Texas to Hurricane, Utah on my way back to Texas I stopped and walked across the old bridge and I took several pictures it’s beautiful. I didn’t even know it was part of the Grand Canyon. I was just looking up info. on the North Rim that’s where I seen and read about this bridge. I’m going to visit the North Rim in the next couple of weeks.

  3. My Niece, Grand Niece and I were fortunate to stop off at Navajo Nation on our detination. The Colorado River below us looked a turquoise bluish green. The ride from the South to the North Rim was probably the most scenic I’ve ever done! The rock ledges and formations were as bright as I seen between both rims, which made the sky more blue than normal. In the way to the Northern Rim in the middle of nowhere is an intricate Stone carved Indian monument, fascinating!

    The Northern Rim is less colorful than her Sister to the South. What she lacks in vibrant hues, she makes up for in tranquility! Her rugged formations look like something out of a cowboy western.

    I look forward to return soon to spend extra time on all the Rims this time.

  4. when we went ,my wife and I were very fortunate to see the release of a condor ,that was raised from the egg. a pickup stopped and two rangers got out , and carried a stretcher like frame with a large covered cage on it. uncovering the cage reveled an almost adult condor , bristling with sensors and tiny antennas to monitor its life. watching it take its first flight , after leaving the bridge rail ,diving deep into the gorge and stopping on a canyon ledge , in this incredible silence and beauty was unforgettable. time and time again the national parks make you feel very insignificant , truly magical places.

  5. Gotta do it! Gotta visit the North rim! Just hiked the Mt. Baldy loop in Cali and it renewed my interest in the GC, where my daughter and I did the Kaibab down and Bright Angel up in 11 1/2 hours in 2011. Both were extreme and extremely satisfying.

    Must do!

  6. We stopped here too, such a scenic spot! We were hoping to see Condors too, and fortunately I asked at a nearby store if there were any good spots to see them. They suggested checking under the bridge as they sometimes roost there. This was close to sunset so we went back to the south side and sure enough, we found 2 condors roosting under the bridge beside each other, close enough that we could see their numbered tags!

  7. I”m 73 years old and still in very good shape. I’m planning a trip to the North Rim to start my long time wish to cross the Grand Canyon. I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time when I got home from Vietnam and wanted to see this good old USA. I took at road trip the summer of 1978 that took me from Los Angeles (my home) north to Utah – east to Chicago and New York south to Miami then back through New Orleans – and on to see the Alamo and then the Awesome Grand Canyon. It was there and then I proclaimed that some day I would walk across that beautiful Canyon. Little did I know that it would be more than 50 years later before I would actually do it. I am going with two younger friends (newlyweds) that are avid hikers and outdoor lovers. I ran my first of 4 Marathons when I was 45. I absolutely do not want to run this trip. I want to take my time and enjoy every mile.

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