At mile 62 we came to a side canyon on river left, and that’s where we pulled over and anchored, running the bow of each big raft up onto the soft sand, so that pampered passengers wouldn’t have to get their feet wet stepping out.
The Little Colorado River is one of just two major tributaries to the (big) Colorado River within the State of Arizona, and it travels some 300 miles from the forested mountains of Eastern Arizona to this spot on the Navajo Reservation. The confluence, where the two streams come together, marks the true beginning of the Grand Canyon proper, and the entire area is sacred to the Indians, both the Navajo and the Hopi tribes, as well as the Zuni, the Havasupai, and the Hualapai. As we hiked upstream from the big river, following a well-worn trail, it was immediately apparent why this place was considered so special. The waters of the Little Colorado are a turquoise blue that is so startlingly bright it doesn’t even look real—the result of an unusually high concentration of calcium carbonate, refracting the light in a peculiar way. There’s a well-defined spot where that warm, turquoise blue water from the small river collides with the cold, deep green water flowing upstream from the big river.
”Little Colorado River, allow me to introduce the Big Colorado River.”
The two dramatically different colors mix, forming a shifting, swirling line of chartreuse, with dark green water downstream, and bright turquoise upstream. That spot is the confluence, and it’s magical, unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
The Confluence. Worth every penny of the price of admission.
A project has been proposed, backed by some of the less traditional elements on the Navajo Tribal Council, to partner with a developer and build a tramway that would ferry paying passengers from the rim to this spot. Having been there, and seen that place, the very notion of such a thing is horrifying to me. The confluence is special mainly BECAUSE it’s so isolated, a rare vision, seen only by those who have earned the privilege, by running those rapids, or by hiking the steep trails that follow the small river down—the route that’s taken by the Navajo and the Hopi when they travel there for ceremonial purpose. It’s a place that simply isn’t meant for the masses. I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail, and that this beauty will be preserved intact. Click here
for information about the effort to stop this project.