Grand Canyon, USA, Part 5 : South Rim


After our sojourn in Page, Arizona and an unimaginable experience of visiting Antelope Canyon we headed for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The drive again from Page to the South Rim was as beautiful as the one from Las Vegas to the North Rim. This time the changing scenario took a reverse. The red and pink mesas started  turning into muddy, tawny lump -like shapes. Vastness soon  gave way to  more closed areas with structures of greater heights. The vegetation also started to lessen. But this soon changed into green undulating hills covered with trees amidst vast  alpine prairies. Coniferous trees stood like sentries on both sides of the roads.

Forest Fire near South RIm

 

We even passed forests ravaged by forest fires, which looked strange and ghost-like with white bones sticking out of the earth-even under the sunny sky. The drive to the Desert View Centre -the first point on the way- was pleasant  and sunny . On one side we could actually see  flashes of sun through the trees. This is Grand Canyon, USA, Part 5 : South Rim

This is part of a Travelogue on our Road Trip through California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. We had started this leg from Las Vegas and had already covered the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and had reached Page the day before. You can read this here.




In fact  here is an interesting extract on the vegetation of the region which I found on the internet-‘the entire park area is considered to be semi-arid desert, but distinct habitats are located at different elevations along the 8,000 foot elevation gradient. Near the Colorado River, riparian vegetation and sandy beaches prevail. Just above the river corridor a desert scrub community exists complete with a wide variety of cacti and warm desert scrub species. A pinyon pine and juniper forest grows above the desert scrub up to 6,200 feet, while between 6,200 feet and 8,200 feet ponderosa pine is abundant. On the North Rim at elevations above 8,200 feet, a spruce-fir forest tops out the park.’

So much diversity in so little an area!

Colorado River Grand Canyon

We reached South Rim pretty late. The first viewpoint we went to was the Desert Viewpoint. The sky was bright and sunny and  unlike the North Rim the place was bustling with people .The park was more touristy with smooth, wide  paths and squarish boulders scattered around. There was a lot of vegetation but all trimmed and manicured.

The canyon itself was wider here with more zig- zaggy cuts, almost  2-3 of them merging into each other but less forward- jutting . There was less vegetation on the canyon walls. Even the viewpoints  were less scarier. The barriers were sturdier and everything  was well fenced and everything felt safe.

Here  for the first time,  and that too at only  one corner of  the gorge, we saw the sun’s reflection on the canyon walls. It was heaven to us since we had been deprived of this spectacle at the North Rim!

Though part of the same Grand Canyon National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is strikingly different from the South.  While the South Rim bustles with activity  throughout the year  and specially during peak travel season, the North Rim  is more hushed ,tranquil ,undisturbed  and redolent with the splendor of magnificence. It receives only one tenth of the visitation that the South Rim does.

The Colorado River is visible from several viewpoints at the South Rim, while from the North Rim it is hardly visible.  But those who have seen the canyon from both sides agree that the North Rim is the more remote and seasonal but at the same time the more exquisite side of the Grand Canyon.

Watch Tower South RIm

Visitor services at Grand Canyon North Rim are fewer in number and smaller in scale than at the South Rim.  The Grand Canyon Lodge is the only  lodge inside the park at the North Rim but  the South Rim being far more tourist friendly has quite a few lodges both inside and outside. Still compared to the other viewpoints  on the South Rim the Desert Viewpoint is less crowded.

The Desert Viewpoint  along with its famous Watchtower was built by Mary Colter , one of the few female architects of that time, in 1932.The Watchtower is a stunning, stone  structure based on ancient Pueblo Indian architecture which not only  blends  naturally with its surroundings but also provides fantastic views of the Canyon and the meandering ,muddy Colorado river.Desert View South RIm




Being there with the bustling crowd and the sun on my shoulder made me feel happy. It reminded me of my childhood when I had visited it with my Dad. Though I remember very little of the visit, a quaint feeling of deja vu seeped through me. Some memories you never want to let go. Not only was I fortunate enough to come to this place a second time and make it part of my life but countless other people before me had done the same! So what is it if not a story of human endurance- of multitudes of people bound by one common thread? The archeological study of the Canyon reveals exactly that.

The oldest human artifacts found are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period.

‘Archeological remains from the following culture groups are found in Grand Canyon National Park: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan (Kayenta and Virgin branches), Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Southern Paiute, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, and Euro-American’ -mostly everything unknown to me.

Many museums here exhibit the findings of these cultural groups. The Desert View Watchtower along with buildings like the Shrine of the Ages, a multi-purpose building used by the National Park Service , the Yavapai Observation Station  and Yavapai Museum located at Yavapai Point on the South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park and the Tusayan Point are some such points where many special events  such as  the annual Grand Canyon Music Festival, Celebrate Wildlife Day, and Hiker’s Symposium take place. Topics that park rangers may discuss include geology, human history, wildlife, the night sky, water resources, rock art, canyon hiking, and much more. The museums at the different points exhibit and  explain the deposition of the rock layers, the uplift of the Colorado Plateau, and the carving of the Grand Canyon. Wonderfully  crafted artwork, three-dimensional models, powerful photographs, and interpretive panels which allow park visitors to see and understand the complicated geological story of the area.

Like the North Rim, the South Rim is also abundant with a number of viewpoints. From the East Entrance after the Desert View Point there is the Navajo Point, the  Lipan Point, the Moran Point and the Grand View Point which lead through the scenic Desert View Drive to the Yaki Point and the Grand Canyon Visitor Center near The South Entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park, which was our next destination.

BigHorn

We reached the Grand Canyon Visitor Center late in the afternoon with the sun dipping into the horizon. Visibility was less here because dusk was approaching. Stores and restaurants had started to shut down and like us more and more people were thronging to catch a last glimpse of the canyon. Here in the dying light of the sky, amidst thousands of people we saw the Colorado in all its glory.

Took a few snaps of Titir posing in front of a cute little amphi-theatre cut out from boulders. 🙂

Satisfied with our trip we headed towards Flagstaff , Arizona, the nearest town for rest and to get invigorated for the next day’s destination-   Meteor Crater, Arizona!! You can read our travelogue here

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About Anita Bhattacharya

Anita, a graduate in Education and Library Sciences with a Masters degree in English is a travel freak. She had been associated with academic industry for ten long years, both in India and later at Dubai. Her passions lies in Travel, Art, Music, Movies, and international cuisines. Married to Samit for twenty years, they have a teen daughter Aishani and have been living in Dubai for close to ten years now.