The Dam SEAT Ride - Part I
The Dammed Colorado - Coming into Arizona. The Colorado River comes a long way to get to Arizona. Along the way she has created some of the most spectacular scenery one could visit in the good old US of A. Most notably is the Grand Canyon; although Lake Meade and Lake Powell are no slouches. Lake Havasu, another major recreation area, boasts having the original London Bridge. Getting to know the Colorado River and her dams that provide recreation, electricity and water all across Arizona makes for an excellent excuse for a ride. Actually quite a few rides…if planned right.
The banks of the river are populated in some amazing places. If you are into water sports, the Colorado provides some of the best. Taking a pleasure boat trip around Lake Powell created by the Glen Canyon Dam, where the Colorado enters Arizona, is on our list of things to do. You can easily see the dam from Page, though you really can’t see much of the river or Lake Powell until you cross the bridge or you stop at the Glen Canyon Dam Visitors’ Center.
The Visitor’s Center is a good stop. There is a gift shop and clean restrooms in the center, and there is a viewing room where you will get a spectacular view of the dam and part of the spill way. You’ll also see a spaghetti works of giant cables coming and going from the generators. This is one of the dams that was opened up to let a huge amount of water rush down into the Grand Canyon a few years back. Videos of the opening are spectacular as millions of gallons of water per second flowed through the spill way. Awesome sight.
Wanda and I spent the night in Page next to the Colorado and the Glen Canyon Dam quite a few years ago...just yesterday. We were going to camp but the ground at the only campground around was so hard you couldn’t get a stake in it. With winds in the 30s, we elected to spend the night in a local hotel. This was the Fourth of July weekend and we were damn (no pun indented) lucky to get a room. That night we watched the evening’s fireworks, shot from the top of the dam, while we enjoyed the view from the balcony of our hotel. Our meal in the Dam Bar a few hours earlier was excellent, too. A memorable stay in Page.
Farther down the river is the Grand Canyon. If you live in Arizona and haven’t been to the Grand Canyon, shame on you. It is absolute astounding. There are two sides to the Canyon. The south side near Williams and Flagstaff is the touristy side. We were surprised to find out how many rooms there are to rent inside the park when we stayed on the south rim a year or two back. The ride up to the south side isn’t that exciting, though. Coming from the south, I prefer riding up from Flagstaff rather than Williams. A stop in Flag to check out the old city is always good. We stayed in the Monte Vista Hotel right down town Flag…once…near the railroad tracks. All the trains blow their horns when they cross the local street that heads down to the Brewery. I wonder why?
The north side of the Canyon is not as frequented, partially because in the winter it can snow pretty heavily on the north rim. The ride up to Jacob Lake, the entrance to the north rim, is a way better ride than riding to the south rim. You ride for a bit through a part of the Kaibab Plateau and forest. The North Rim is 1,000 plus feet higher than the south rim, so it’s best to check the weather closely before committing to the north rim if traveling in early spring or late fall. Chances are the road in from Jacob Lake is closed between December and April.
Both sides are worth a visit, though the best ride is to the North Rim. Visit the South Rim to enjoy the tourists and the spectacular views, then come out of the park heading east on AZ 64 to Hwy 89. Take Hwy 89 north and cross Marble Canyon on the Navajo Bridge picking up Alternate 89 west (89A) along the Vermillion Cliffs. The ride along the cliffs is a scenic highway. So scenic that after a while we got “scenic-ed” out. There are a couple of neat places to stop and eat along the way - The Vermillion Cliffs Lodge and The Cliff Dwellers Lodge are both good stops.
After the Grand Canyon comes the biggest dam on the river, the Hoover Dam. It bridges the Colorado joining Nevada and Arizona, creating Lake Meade. We rode around Lake Meade and the Valley of the Fire State Park on our way to the MOA National a few years back. We’ll never do that again in the summer months – there’s a reason they call it the Valley of Fire…way too hot!
This is one monster of a dam. Even though the dam has been closed to truck and RV traffic since 911, traffic can still come to a crawl. Highway 93 is a popular route to Las Vegas for Arizonians, and, let’s face it, the dam is a major tourist attraction. As you come up to the dam you’ll find several places where you can park to view the river and the huge spill way. Not too many more years and there will be one of the longest, most outrageous bridges known to man strung across the river. Riding across the dam will be an option or maybe not allowed at all.
(End of Part 1. On Down the River next month.)