Thursday, October 17, 2019
Thursday’s outing was to drive along Desert View Drive, a road that follows the canyon rim, stop at the various view points to take pictures and to finish up with the Watchtower at Desert View.
Desert View Drive is the section of Arizona Highway 64 that goes from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center area to Desert View.
Grand Canyon National Park NPS Map
Having already spent time on the canyon rim seeing the amazing views, a little bit of canyon viewing fatigue had set in. Instead of stopping at every single stop along the way, the list of stops got whittled down to the following: one of three pullouts, Grandview Point, Buggeln Picnic Area, Tusayan Museum and Ruins, Lipan Point and Desert View Point.
There are pullouts here the road comes close to the canyon rim. In the above map, the pullouts are between Yaki Point and Grandview Point and they are denoted by little bumps in the road. The “Duck On A Rock” formation is the rock sticking up from a small point on the left canyon wall. I didn’t see the resemblance either.
Before 1901, Grandview Point was the most popular Grand Canyon tourist destination. In 1897, Pete Berry built a two story log hotel here. There was a trail leading down into the canyon. Signs of the old hotel aren’t visible anymore. Compared to the other South Rim views, this one seemed so-so. Good, not great.
Buggeln Picnic Area, named after Martin Buggeln, a Williams AZ businessman who in 1901 bought the original Bright Angel Lodge from James Thurber, the lodge’s builder (see post Grand Canyon Village Historic District). The picnic area is another place where visitors can clearly see the Colorado River in the canyon below.
Humans have been living around the Grand Canyon for at least 12,000 years. So much so that even though only 3% of the Grand Canyon has been intensively surveyed, 4,800 archaeological sites have already been identified.
The Tusayan Museum tells the ancients’ story.
The museum, built in 1928, tells the story of the peoples (the Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, and Paiute) who inhabited the area before the arrival of European descendants.
The Tusayan Ruins are the remains of an Ancestral Puebloan settlement dating around 1200 AD. The settlement included a central plaza, storage rooms, living quarters and kivas. For more information, see the National Park Service Tusayan Ruin brochure.
Lipan Point is another place where the Colorado River can be seen from the Canyon rim. Hance Rapid, one of the many dangerous rapids along the Colorado River, can be seen in the above picture. The rapids are toward the top middle of the picture.
The Desert View Watchtower is not just where the best views are found. The Watchtower is by far architect Mary Colter‘s best work. Visitors might not fully appreciate this work of art until they walk around and inside it.
Walking around the structure reveals subtle architectural and design features.
Entering the Watchtower brings a whole new level of appreciation for the structure. The inside was unexpected.
The first floor has a Park Ranger, gift shop, artwork, fireplace, large windows and stairs to the upper levels.
The ceiling above the Park Ranger’s desk is constructed out of local logs woven together.
Native American themed artwork is on the walls between the windows. Each piece is unique.
The smallish gift shop is unremarkable.
The fireplace seems unusually simple and small for a Mary Colter designed structure. No telling when the last fire blazed away in there.
The stairs are narrow and steep. Not as narrow as a European medieval castle but narrow enough that two people can’t easily pass without touching.
Handrails in the stairwells are sturdy. Windows are scattered along the stairs and provide stunning ever changing views.
The second level is the base of the tower part of the structure. There is a door to an outside round viewing deck. Stairs lead up to two more levels.
From the second level, the ceiling of the fourth level can be seen through large round openings in the levels above.
Outside, on the round viewing deck, the views are good.
Desert View Point is just below the rooftop viewing area.
The door to the left of the stairway is the second floor door leading to this rooftop viewing area. In the right of the picture, the chimney is for the first floor fireplace.
The third level was different and awesome and cool in a completely different way than the other levels. Standing in there felt like being inside an inside out pottery bowl.
Looking down from the third floor to the second floor shows the second floor layout.
The fourth floor is different still. Primarily in the wall paintings and the texture of the walls. These walls don’t look glazed like the third floor walls did.
Leaning out from the fourth floor and looking above and below shows the four tower levels – floors two through five. While the picture doesn’t capture the fifth floor directly, light from the fifth floor can be seen in the fifth floor stairway.
The fifth floor, the top floor of the Watchtower, has telescopes and large windows. This vantage point provides the best views.
Windows are all the way around the fifth floor. The telescopes are on the canyon side. Looking out the window on the canyon side, the Watchtower rooftop viewing area is in the foreground, then Desert View Point with the canyon behind. The Colorado River can be seen as well.
The Watchtower turned out to be one of those unexpected magical wonders. I can’t get it out of my mind. For the brain, it is a puzzle that can’t easily be solved. Intricate, complex, simple, beautiful, asymmetric, balanced. It seems full of harmoniously conflicting truths.
The Watchtower is in an area of the park called Desert View. Desert View is at the end of Desert View Drive, the section of Arizona Highway 64 that goes from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center area to Desert View.
The Desert View area is a settlement. It includes Desert View Point, Desert View Watchtower, Trading Post, General Store, Gas Station and Campground.
The parking lot was busy even though it was getting to the end of the shoulder season. Parking may be a problem during peak summer holiday travel.
The Desert View General Store is the second building encountered on the way from the parking lot to Desert View Point. Restrooms would be the first stop for most people.
The general store has three sections: groceries, gifts and deli/restaurant.
I couldn’t figure out why the General Store was so nice, why it had so much in the way of groceries. On the way out, we passed the turn for a National Park Service campground (closed for the winter at the time) which explains where all the customers come from.
Then there is the Desert View Trading Post, a coffee shop/snack bar and gift shop with excellent wide outside covered patios.
The coffee shop/snack bar has inside seating around the corner on the right.
For some reason, the gift shop items didn’t seem appealing. The product mix was similar to the other smaller gift shops run by the park concessionaire.
The Trading Post patio area wraps around the building and looked comfortable and inviting. Great place to hang out when the weather is warm. To the left is a road passing the campground entrance.
Desert View Point
Desert View Point juts out from the canyon wall a bit, not as much as some of the other view points.
includes views of the Colorado River in the upper right hand portion of the canyon. The canyon view from the Watchtower is better only because the extra height makes peering into the canyon a little easier.
On the way out of the Desert View parking lot, we passed the Desert View Campground entrance and the gas station. The campground was closed for the winter. The gas station was also a convenience store.
The return trip to our campsite was uneventful.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!