|Havasu Falls at dusk.|
Me and my nephew Hector had a fantastic trip to Havasu Canyon back in early March.
I have long been intrigued with the Havasu area of the Grand Canyon. Photos of the vibrant turquoise waterfalls along Havasu Creek seemed too good to be true. But negative reports of starving animals, smelly outhouses, mule-urine-soaked trails, and even a brutal murder kept Havasu several rungs below the very top of the to-do list (I now believe most of these reports are way over-blown).
But my recent fascination with and desire to see more of the Grand Canyon and its tributaries quickly escalated Havasu to the top of the list. And when Hector expressed interest in a camping trip during the University of Utah's (where he is finishing up an electrical engineering degree) spring break, I knew it was time to finally visit the "people of the blue-green waters" at Supai Village.
Our plan was to spend a fairly leisurely 4 days and three nights in Supai Campground.
Day one was for backpacking the 7.5 miles to Supai Village, paying our fees (about $100 each [$17/night + $35 entrance fee + environmental fee and tax], hiking the remaining 2 miles to the campground, and photographing all the falls between Supai and the campground. Day two would be a hike to the Colorado River and inner gorge of the Grand Canyon. Day three was for hiking a seldom-visited upper bench trail, exploring a gold mine, and swimming. Day four would be for packing up and hiking back to Hector's car at Hualapai Hilltop.
As the time for our trip approached, it became clear that a large storm sweeping over the Southwest would make our first two days at Havasu a soggy affair. We decided to push the trip back by one day so that the storm would be breaking during our hike in, leaving sunny conditions for the remaining three days.
Here are pics and commentary for day one:
|After sleeping in Hector's car at the Hualapai Hilltop trail head, we woke up to near-blizzard conditions. Snow continued to fall as we prepared to make the plunge into Hualapai Canyon. Hector Photo.|
|Snow falls as Hector descends through the clouds near the top of the Havasupai Trail.|
|With no roads leading to Supai, the tiny Indian village remains the only town in America that still receives daily mail via pony (mule) express.|
|A supply pack train enters the narrows of Hualapai Canyon.|
|Typical scene in Supai Village.|
Another reason I looked forward to our Havasu trip was to see the effects of powerful flash floods that changed the canyon bottom in 2008. The best place to see these effects is about a mile below town where the first waterfalls appear.
Flash floods are perhaps the most important process for canyon development in the arid Southwest, and they have greatly affected Havasu Creek and its waterfalls on a regular basis. The August 2008 flood is just the latest (apparently a major flood also occurred in October 2010 causing additional evacuations) of about a dozen major floods since the late 1800s that have caused significant changes to the canyon. For an exciting narrative on what happened during the flood, check this blog post out by Tyler D'Hulst who was at the campground during the flood. About 500 villagers and tourists had to be evacuated via helicopter. A few were clinging above the torrent on trees for several hours before being rescued.
|Another view of New Navajo Falls.|
|Death of a waterfall. Just five years ago Navajo Falls shown here (now dry) was one of the better attractions along Havasu Creek (flowing left to right at bottom of photo), which now completely bypasses the falls.|
Havasu Falls, arguably the most photogenic of all falls in the area, presents itself a short distance down the trail from Navajo Falls. If you're not afraid of heights, the view from the top is amazing.
Havasu Falls fared better than Navajo Falls during the '08 flood. The main effects were that many of the travertine pools were knocked out, and the water now falls with a slightly different trajectory. Prior to the '08 flood, the waterfall was split into two streams at the fall's crest. Now there is a single stream that shoots out to the left side (looking down canyon). Several decades ago, the stream fanned out and fell over a wide area creating a broad curtain of water. In fact, due to the broad curtain or "vail," the falls were originally known as Bridal Veil Falls. Subsequent floods have blown out the low notch now confining the stream to a narrow chute.
|Taking in the view above the 100-foot Havasu Falls. Hector Photo.|
|On the edge above Havasu Falls. A sight I'll never forget. Not sure what's up with the goat-lip smile. Hector Photo.|
|Havasu Falls with Prospect Canyon in the background.|
|Early photo of Bridal Veil Falls which was later renamed Havasu Falls after floods gouged a deep notch in the cliff, restricting the stream to a narrow pour off. Photo from the Grand Canyon National Park's Museum Collection.|
|Havasu falls during the destructive August 2008 flood. Photo Credit: Jonathan Fairbanks.|
Just below Havasu Falls lies Supai Campground. We selected a nice sight near Fern Spring and set up camp. Having seen so many close calls with rock falls in recent years I couldn't bring myself to set up my tent adjacent to the canyon wall. Hector poked fun at my paranoia, but I'm telling you, next to flooding, rock fall is a real hazard at this campground.
Before dinner, we walked back to Havasu Falls for more picks at sunset.