The good news is that the books are done, bound and in a shipping container somewhere on the high Pacific. The bad news is that I am attempting to update four websites all at once to get ready for the launch. Sagebrush Press needs a press kit, US89.com needs content, and I am putting my images on Photoshelter. This one is showing the neglect. Today’s entry is a cross-post from US89.com. I’ve shown these bridges from the air; I made this picture in April 2009 on a Colorado River raft trip. This is the image that made it into the book.
(excerpted from U.S. Highway 89: the Scenic Route to Seven Western National Parks)
The Navajo Bridge, opened to traffic in 1929, eliminated the worst danger on the highway: the Lee’s Ferry crossing. Sandwiched between sheer vertical cliffs, it was barely possible to construct dugways down to the river from the surrounding plateaus. Sharlot Hall* wrote, “The road looked as if it had been cut out of the red clay mountains with a pocket knife; sometimes it hung out over the river so we seemed sliding into the muddy current and again the cliffs above hung over till one grew dizzy to look.”
No one could cross the Colorado River at the height of spring runoff when 100,000 cubic feet of water blasted by each second. In drought years, the river could be waded; some travelers would risk a crossing on foot if the winter ice was thick. Eleven people lost their lives in the nearly 60 years of ferry service, which closed for good in 1928 when the boat capsized, washing away a Model T and drowning three passengers.
Six miles downstream, Navajo Bridge rises 67 feet above the river, the world’s highest highway span when it was built. The bridge formed an essential link for the residents of the Arizona Strip, isolated from the rest of the state, including their county seat in Flagstaff. In 1995, vehicular traffic shifted to a wider bridge installed a few yards to the south. The old structure remains open to foot traffic, serving visitors from an interpretive center hosted by the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
* Sharlot Hall wrote one of the earliest travel guides to the Colorado Plateau region. Hall never married, but ran her aging parents’ ranch near Prescott while working as a contributor and editor for a Los Angeles magazine. A political appointee as Arizona’s territorial historian, Hall wrote about her remarkable trip to the Kaibab Plateau and Arizona Strip in 1911, in which she and a hired guide traveled more than 1,000 miles by wagon to collect first-person pioneer histories.