Aware of AZ’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument?

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geologic structure between two monoclines rising 1,500 feet with many colored layers of shale and sandstone in northern Arizona. John Wesley Powell first named these cliffs in 1869 while he was on the Colorado River exploring the Grand Canyon. It was not till November 9, 2000 though when the monument was established with the National Landscape Conservation System mission: “to conserve, protect, and restore our nation’s natural treasures for present and future generations”.

Vermilion Cliffs

We drove a dirt road, House Rock, to the condor viewing site. The condor breeding facility is in California with the condors being released here each year. There was no condor activity during our visit at this site. Condors were sighted at Navajo Bridge. We fortunately discovered there are more places to explore down this road the next time we visit here. See the map below with the West Bench Pueblo stop, Maze Rock Art site, and various trailheads … one of them being where the 800 mile Arizona Trail (from Mexico to Utah through Arizona) ends.

Places to visit in the area.

I loved this sign showing the size of the condor wingspan: 9.5 feet compared with other birds of prey. The following photo shows how the range of condors has diminished.

Condor wingspan, wow!
Condor range had diminished.

As you drive the road between Navajo Bridge and Jacob’s Lake in northern Arizona, it is the only paved road across 2.8 million acres of public land. There are 4,000 miles of unpaved roads that necessitate use of a high-clearance vehicle. Take time to plan your adventure as this is remote backcountry terrain with no services or cell phone signals. Be prepared!

A personal experience:

Years ago, I experienced this wilderness area while on a 3 night backpacking trip through the Paria Canyon. We started our hike a day later than our original departure plan due to heavy rains in Cedar City, Utah. Those rain waters would have flooded the deep slot canyon the next day and we would have had no escape. A couple of important points: have a permit to enter this area and know what weather is predicted for a couple of days before and also during your hike in the canyon. Do not get caught in a deep slot canyon with water roaring through and at you! Please do your homework and understand what you are planning to accomplish … be prepared … this is a wilderness area! 

Rocky Mountain Beeplant in Vermilion Cliff area

Arizona’s Navajo Bridge & Condor Sighting!

As you drive from Page or Flagstaff, Arizona, to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, you will drive across the wider, modern 1995 dedicated Navajo Bridge spanning the Colorado River. It’s the only crossing of the Colorado River for about 600 miles! The original 834 foot long, 18 foot wide, Navajo Bridge was constructed in 1929 with its arch of 616 feet at a height of 467 feet. Today it is used as a pedestrian bridge; a place to view condors when they are in the area and view the Colorado River below. The modern bridge is slightly larger, but more importantly, it can handle the weight of the various-sized motorized vehicles now traveling across it these days. In 1997 the Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center opened. On the other side of the bridge are Native American craft vendors.

Modern bridge on left, historic bridge on right.

The historic bridge was originally called the Grand Canyon Bridge for 5 years after its dedication. The Arizona legislature debated in 1934 and made a final decision to have the official name changed to Navajo Bridge. Interesting!

We were fortunate to see a couple of juvenile condors on our first trip across the bridge. On this day we were on our way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We would return across the bridge some days later. Juveniles have dusky black heads and one was tagged. I love being sure other visitors on the bridge will see these magnificent birds. I’ll point the birds out to any interested person. Watching the one condor walk the bridge’s beam was fascinating!

Juvenile, untagged, condor.
Tagged, juvenile condor walking the beam.
Still walking!
Really fascinating seeing this bird on the move!