Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Grand Canyon Skywalk - Hualapai Dreamland

I do not know anyone, not a river runner, Grand Canyon resident, or friend who has gone out on the Hualapai tribe's new glass Skywalk. So when I had a chance to visit this attraction at half price, I jumped - let me rephrase that - I took advantage of the opportunity. I was helping out on a Hollywood scout of the Grand Canyon in a pre-production locations search for an upcoming movie called "Due Date" starring Robert Downey Jr. No stars we present - just the director and producer who weighed the pro's and con's of filming here at Grand Canyon West (GCW) or the traditional view at Grand Canyon National Park.

The approach to the Skywalk is off of the Pierce Ferry/Meadview Road. Joshua Trees greet travelers on this dirt track which is currently being paved by Mojave County. The Grand Wash Cliffs, edge of the Colorado Plateau, is the background.

The empty entrance booth. Fees to enter Hualapai land total $42.00 per person. This includes a $29.00 entrance fee, $3.00 fuel charge (for the bus rides), $8.00 Impact Fee, and a Hualapai Tribal tax.

The gift shop has loads of plastic tomahawk's and stuffed Indian dolls.


After a short 3 mile bus ride, this was my first view of the Skywalk* There is no other angle from which to take a picture of it and camera's are not allowed on the "bridge." There are photographers wandering the glass plus photo radar type cameras to take your picture. Starting price $30.00 for one picture.

* I have seen the Skywalk from the river looking up.

Here you see the full drop to the Colorado River. Pre-trip information states that "it is 4,000 ft. straight down to the river." Actually it is about 800 feet down to a ledge of Redwall Limestone and about 2,700 feet above the river. Many exaggerations in statistics were noted. To go onto the Skywalk is an additional $32.05 on top of the previous fees.

I stayed out on the bridge for about an hour - long enough to listen to three different sets of people come through. Some were very scared and did not wander out onto the glass. Others were in awe of the Skywalk. But most folks seemed to be taken by the majesty of the Grand Canyon.

This is the backside of the Skywalk building. It is beautifully constructed but unfinished at this time.

There are some nice shade structures constructed away from the rim of the canyon. This one houses a dance floor where women of the tribe dance during the day.

Here are two members of the tribe doing a dance. No one was watching when I was here.

Numerous wikiups are constructed around a cultural trail. They also have Plains Indian tipis, Hopi pueblos, and Navajo hogans. The added benefit of these wikiups is that have full electricity (foreground).

This is Don, another Hualapi tribal member, I just loved his red feather headress.

I wonder if the name of this restaurant is lost on people? The Bat Shit Cafe!

A gorgeous view of the Colorado River from Guano Point. Note that the river here is perched on at least 50 feet of sediment deposited when Lake Mead was much higher. Thus, the river is not "natural" here.

Guano Point was named because this is where a cableway was built to extract guano from Bat Cave down near the river. After constructing this cableway, it was determined that there was very little guano to be mined and the effort died.

The seal of the Hualapai tribe. I have mixed feelings about this development. I wish the tribe well, but there is certainly a sense of "retribution" that I feel from the tribe. It is much more expensive to visit GCW vs. the national park. Many things seem hokey, trite, and ill-advised. But perhaps the greatest threat from this type of "entertainment tourism" is that it may only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg for what the tribe has in store here in the future. Right now there is a "Vietnam-type" atmosphere at GCW with zillions of helicopters and planes in the air. It is not a peaceful place. These helicopters bring tourists to boats that ply the river - with a total disregard for the Grand Canyon River Management Plan. A Las Vegas entrepreneur put up the money for the Skywalk and takes half of the receipts. What future deals will the tribe make with Las Vegas personalities? Hotels in the canyon? Casinos? Are tribes immune to rules, decorum, or even common sense in places like the Grand Canyon. Or is it "their land" with a right to do "whatever we want?" It all harbors a very chilling thought.

Old Route 66 west of Seligman, Arizona.

3 comments:

Gaelyn said...

Thanks for posting this Wayne. I'm not impressed and figure my toes get close enough to the edge. I do like the irony of the Guano Cafe. Wonder why so many visitors, especially foreign, think the skywalk is on the North Rim?
Think I'll pass on this expensive experience and hope no more over development occurs there.

Russell Ownby said...

Interesting thoughts Wayne. I haven't been out there. Think I've seen enough from your pictures...Thanks! It's ironic that the government(some parts like the NPS) are the ones taking care of our land while the Indians(some tribes) are busy using it up. I hope their blatant acts of disregard don't spur more development upstream. Cheers and hope you have/had a blast on your raft trip...wish we could have been there!

Alyn said...

When my family and I visited Grand Canyon last year we were tempted by the Skywalk, but alarm bells rang when I read about the 'no cameras' policy and then added up all the fees that are payable. Outrageous! Your post only confirms my suspicions about the place. Hopefully, there will be no more developments of this type to further spoil this beautiful place!