Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Grand Falls

On Saturday evening, a storm like a percussion band with a fire works display marched across the eastern sky above the Painted Desert and the Little Colorado River. The rain was flowing down washes, drains, and small canyons into the river and finding its way to Grand Falls, about 10 miles away. We’ve been to Grand Falls on the Navajo Reservation but never after the spring thaw or after a summer storm when the river is full. We watched the fireworks and made plans for an early morning trip.

<br />Grand Falls satellite image
Satellite photo of Merriam Crater, the lava flow and Grand Falls. (Larger version)

Grand Falls was formed thousands of years ago by lava that flowed from Merriam Crater. The lava dropped into the sandstone canyon and dammed the river which fought back and cut a channel around the lava flow. The falls is about 190 feet high and over 300 feet wide. The water carries part of the Painted Desert and is a coffee with cream color.

The trip is over almost ten miles of wash boarded road. One adventurous spirit who made the trip wrote “After driving over the worst surface imaginable the canyon opens up out of nowhere.”. I’ve driven worse and found that 20 miles per hour was brutal but 30 to 40 smoothed out the trip and made it tolerable.

<br />Julie sitting beside the falls
Julie sitting beside the falls (Larger version)

The last time we visited the falls it was possible to drive across the river a short distance above the falls but that would have been suicidal on this morning. We walked around the rim of the falls above the mist and the debris that was endlessly circling in the pool below. Julie sat on a boulder as I took a photo in futile effort to give perspective to the height and width of the river.

<br />The river below the falls
The river below the falls. Black lava on the left and red sandstone on the right. (Larger version)

A trail from the rim that leads to the river below tempted us and we succumbed. As we made our way to the foot of the falls, we covered the camera and binoculars to protect them from the mist carrying fine brown silt. Things grew slightly darker as our glasses were specked and coated.

<br />Mist rising from the falls
Mist rising from the falls. (Larger version)

As we climbed out of the canyon, we met a group of young adults with two bold dogs and one timid mutt that had to be carried over steep drops. For some reason, I’m always encouraged to see young people out enjoying the world. Perhaps it’s because they give me hope that they will help preserve wilderness, beauty and wildlife.

<br />Julie standing by a lava monolith below the falls
Julie standing by a lava monolith below the falls. (Larger version)

Having packed water, fruit and nuts, we sat in the shade, ate and watched the water flow and enjoyed the peace and beauty. Food, beauty and companionship – what more could one need or want?


Blogger Buffalo said...

That is so incredibly freakin' beautiful it takes the breath away.
A hard land, but so fine to look at.

8/01/2007 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...

If only you were not so far mate I could show you things that would make you want to die and wish you were in heaven.
Thse are friggin brilliant!

8/02/2007 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Nimbue said...

Incredibly moving images. Just beautiful... =)

8/02/2007 07:02:00 AM  

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