Arizona’s first state highway, U.S. 89, was mostly complete from Nogales to Flagstaff by 1926. The segment from Flagstaff to the Utah line took much longer. Lee’s Ferry over the Colorado River was shut down after a deadly accident in 1928; the bridge over Marble Canyon, 6 miles downstream, replaced the ferry altogether in 1929. The second bridge (the lower one in this photo) was installed in 1995 and the original was opened to foot traffic for visitors to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area center at the left end of the bridge in this photo
Until the bridge over Glen Canyton opened in 1957, all north-south traffic from Phoenix to Salt Lake City used the Navajo Bridge and passed through Jacob’s Lake. The Glen Canyon Bridge is also a two-lane bridge, but the route through Page avoids the windy mountain climb and descent to cross the Kaibab Plateau. The original section of U.S. 89 from Bitter Springs to Kanab was renumbered US89A when the road through Page was finished as part of the infrastructure to build the Glen Canyon Dam.
The research for the Highway 89 project has been completely enjoyable, like a huge jigsaw puzzle with pieces scattered in libraries and museums along the highway’s 1,600 miles. Winnowing the data into a story that can fit into a book, and making the accompanying images is yet another kind of puzzle. Of my numerous photos of the Navajo Bridges, this aerial I made last weekend with Maria Langer gives the best sense of how fundamental a barrier the Colorado River presented to interstate travel. I am having so much fun assembling the story of this scenic route through the American West.