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Havasu Canyon
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Havasu Canyon

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Havasu Canyon

Page Type: Canyon

Location: Arizona, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 36.23700°N / 113.91°W

Object Title: Havasu Canyon

Activities: Hiking

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall

 

Page By: mrwsierra

Created/Edited: Jan 17, 2008 / Oct 27, 2008

Object ID: 373465

Hits: 7038 

Page Score: 96.71%  - 62 Votes 

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Overview

NOTE: A Havasupai route page has been created and was originally attached to the Grand Canyon page but was recently detached. My wish was to classify this as a canyon - which it is - and make the information more available to members and complement the existing route page. Check out the route page for more details, as I have no desire to reinvent the wheel.
Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls by Cornvallis
Tucked away in a remote corner of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is the land of the blue green water - the ancestral land of the Havasu'Baaja (Havasupai), a small tribe that has succeeded in maintaining its own language, culture, and distinctive genetic identity, despite long odds and numerous challenges.

UPDATE: A summer thunderstorm in 2008 sent a wall of water down the canyon, destroying much of the trail. The reservation is closed to visitors until at least spring 2009.

The tribe lives primarily in the village of Supai, located on a trail about 8 miles from the road's end. Those interested in the rich and interesting history of the Havasupai should read "I Am The Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People" by Steven Hirst. Reading this book ahead of time will make the trip to Supai more enjoyable.


Havasu Canyon is a very popular destination for the hiker - everyone should visit this magical place at least once. The many tourists are primarily drawn to the waterfalls - Navajo, Havasu, and Mooney. The beauty of the canyon is astonishing. Beaver Falls is just as spectacular as the other three but only a small percentage of visitors to the reservation make it that far.

The spring fed waters of Havasu Creek originate in the Arizona's loftiest mountains, the San Franscisco Peaks. The blue/green color of the waters of Havasu Creek are present as a result of high mineral content, including but not limited to calcium carbonate. The calcium carbonate precipitates out of the water over time and creates lovely travertine "terraces", which
create amazingly beautiful blue pools and innumerable smaller little mini-waterfalls.

Havasu Canyon is not entirely within the jurisdiction of the tribe. The final 3 or so miles of the canyon below Beaver Falls is managed by the National Park Service. Just above the village of Supai, upstream of Havasu Creek, is Cataract Canyon, closed to all but the Havasupai. What fun exploration that would be.

There was a well-publicized homicide of a Japanese tourist in 2006 within the bounds of the Havasu Canyon, but this appears to be an isolated incident. Some of you may have read an article in "Backpacker" about the murder, for which a member of the tribe has been convicted. Having read the article and taken a 4 day, 3-night trip to Havasu Canyon (along with a zillion other people), I think that the author loaded up the melodrama to make good copy.

The murders of three people by Cary Stayner near Yosemite National Park several years ago hasn't kept the millions away from Yosemite Valley.
Don't let it stop you from seeing one of the Earth's most magnificently beautiful places! The members of the tribe rely on tourism to make a living and staying home doesn't make their lives better.

Supai does have its problems but many thousands of people makes the trip and have great fun each year. In my opinion, a greater threat to one's health on a trip to Havasupai is dehydration - drink and bring lots of water and avoid hiking during the heat of the day where possible. Summer hiking in the Grand Canyon can be dangerous, and shade is often non-existent precisely at the moment you need it most, so take care.



Getting There

Descending into Hualapai Canyon
Hilltop - Vladislav
There are two ways into the Havasu Canyon. The first is from the roadhead/giant parking lot at the Hualapai Hilltop, which is reached via a 50 mile drive from Highway 66, near the town of Peach Springs. The ample signage on Highway 66 and Interstate 40 pointing the driver to Supai makes it difficult to get lost.

From the Hualapai Hilltop (elevation 4848'), one has the choice of helicopter, horse, or walking in to the town of Supai. Supplies to the village are transported by mule and less frequently by helicopter. If hiking, bring ample water as there is no reliable supply at the Hilltop.

From the Hilltop hike down the trail into the Hualapai Canyon, a dry canyon except in times of flash flood. Forget about taking the trip if flash floods threaten. Hike straight down the canyon for several miles, eventually following the trail into Havasu Creek, the barren red desert replaced by a flowing stream and overwhelming greenery.

A short time later, a small bridge is crossed and the trail empties into the village of Supai. For the tourist, there are a few little stores, a cafe, and a small motel. My advice would be to camp instead. The cottonwood-shaded campground is located 1 1/2 miles downstream of the village, right below the exquisite Havasu Falls.

The second, and more ambitious way of getting to Havasu Canyon is via a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. Havasu Canyon is a common side canyon hike for rafters, kayakers, and other watercraft. I ran into a few dories and rafts on my hike down to the Colorado River. The 3-mile hike to Beaver Falls from the river is well worth the trip, as this is where Havasu Canyon is at its wildest and narrowest, with towering walls of orange/red rock in every direction.

Red Tape

Mooney Falls
Mooney Falls - Zac Finley
The hotel in the village is reserved many months in advance. I'm not sure if there is a quota for the campground, but even on a spring weekend when there are tons of people there was ample room to camp. Call the tribal tourist office - relevant information can be found at www.havasupaitribe.com.

If hiring a mule to carry gear down to the campground, this will need to be arranged well in advance. The helicopter does not operate every day either.

I recommend backpacking in to enjoy the journey into the canyon.

The tribe's website at www.havasupaitribe.com has all of the latest information. Fees and other restrictions change over time.

Visitors need to check in at the tribal office to get a hiking or camping permit - you can't miss it.

Camping

Havasu Creek
Havasu Creek at the Campground - by lisae
The campground is located 1 1/2 miles downstream from the village. Campground sites along the river stretch from just below Havasu Falls down to Mooney Falls. Campground fees, assessed on a per person basis, are pretty steep but worth it.

Remember to check out Navajo Falls along the way.

External Links

The tribe's website, the best resource, can be found at www.havasupaitribe.com

National Park Service - www.nps.gov/grca

A number of outfitters lead trips into the canyon. I can't vouch for one over the other so I will leave it to the creative web browser to figure it out.

Images