Historically Lees Ferry was one of the few places where travelers could cross the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon area. It's 14.5 miles south downstream from Glen Canyon Dam and is now a put-in point for folks floating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. At Lees Ferry you are down at river level. Sandstone cliffs rise on all sides although they're not quite as steep as in other spots in the canyon. For this reason a road could be built down to water level and this was a ferry crossing from 1898 to 1928. There are two boat launching areas, one for power boats headed upstream and the other for rafts headed downstream. Before the Glen Canyon Dam was built, the free-flowing, muddy Colorado River ran cold in the winter, warm in the summer with high flows during snowmelt and flash-flood seasons. People used to say that the river was too thick to drink and too thin to plow. Since the dam was built, the river flows cold and clear, a chilly 47 degrees year round. Today all river trips through the Grand Canyon begin at Lees Ferry. Trips last from 3 to 18 days, depending on destination and type of craft. Close to 1000 trips (about 22,000 people) leave Lees Ferry each year.
The Lees Ferry campground, part of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, sits up on bluff overlooking the Colorado River. We had lovely sites right on the end of the bluff with a good view. We had been told about the gourmet beer collection at the Lees Ferry Lodge so a field trip there was in order. The beer list was very impressive. We all had lunch there on our second day.
We also explored the remains of the Lees Ferry station near the launch ramp and took pictures of the very impressive rock formations all around us. In 1873 Mormon settlers opened a wagon road from Kanab UT and built a ferry boat here. John D. Lee was the first ferryman. Pioneers, sent to settle the Little Colorado River in northern AZ, used the ferry services. Lees Ferry grew to include a post office and a trading post. Because of conflict between the settlers and the Navajo Indians, a fort was built but never attacked. In 1911 Charles Spenser unsuccessfully tried to mine gold from the clay hills behind Lees Ferry Fort.
It soared to 97 degrees the second day there and there are no hookups at the campground. So we decided to do a field trip to Page and see Antelope Canyon, purportedly the most beautiful canyon on Lake Powell. The canyon is on Navajo land so the only way to see the canyon is on a Navajo-run tour, either by jeep or boat. There were two problems in this plan. First route 89 to Page is closed due to a landslide. There is an alternate route but we had no idea just how far out of the way we had to detour. And since we didn't decide to do this until after lunch by the time we got to Antelope Canyon the last tours had left. So we went to view Glen Canyon Dam and then made the long ride back, basically an almost 200 mile round trip. Fortunately we talked to Murray and Shelle on the way back so they held dinner and we had a lovely meal of fresh trout and potatoes. Next time we need to plan better.