DESTINATION: Hualapai Tribe and Grand Canyon West
By Lynn Calf Robe
TRAVEL: On March 11, 2015 my family and I embarked on a trip that would bring us to one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. Considering the size of the canyon and our time constraints, we chose to view the Grand Canyon from the westside, lands located in Hualapai (WALL-uh-pie) Tribe.
Hualapai is translated to mean “People of the Tall Pines” who have lived in the Southwest for generations according to local historians. Traditionally their homelands stretch from the Grand Canyon to the Bill Williams River in Arizona and from the Black Mountains bordering the Colorado River to the San Francisco Peaks. Established in 1883, the Hualapai Reservation is approximately 1,000,000 acres today and the population counts about 2,300 members.
Photo 1: Our journey to the Grand Canyon began on Wednesday morning from the National RES 2015 Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada which was my main reason for travelling south. I had come to Vegas to cover the event and thought maybe if I have time I will venture out of sin city to finally see the Grand Canyon and to my surprise I came across the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation exhibit, a tourism umbrella corporation of the Hualapai Nation who offers three tourism enterprises; Hualapai River Runners, the Hualapi Lodge and Grand Canyon West.
I immediately took this as a sign, especially after the guy manning the booth at the RES 2015 Tradeshow gave me a few discount coupons and a map to visit the Skywalk located at Grand Canyon West. Before leaving the conference in search of the Hualapai Tribe, I wanted a selfie of course and came across this photo booth located in the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino (RES 2015 location) and thought WOW this takes great pictures and what a great way to start my photo journal. I was pretty pleased with my morning at this point until I uploaded this photo as my Facebook profile picture and saw that the shadow makes it look like I am missing a tooth..or shall I say my lateral insicor much like Stu on the movie ‘Hangover’ anyway that is another story, back to the trip.
Photo 2: Thanks to Enterprise, we rented an economy car for the day for approximately $100 american including gas. After questioning a few Las Vegas locals about how long this little road trip would take (answers ranged from 1 to 3 hours) and a few maps we collected along the way, we decided to take a chance at finding the Grand Canyon, after all how hard could it be to find? The real challenge we thought was getting there before sunset and closing hours which we were not sure of at the time. TIPS to all new travellers, be sure to get all this information beforehand to save time and your sanity especially if you are a nervous traveller. We are known to be spontaneous explorers and take many chances that usually work out but I would not recommend this for those who like to stay on schedule.
The drive took us roughly 2 hours after a few stops for food and slow scenic driving through certain places along the way including the Hoover Dam which we drove by but could not see because of the barricade (but the sign assured us that it was there) and again when we crossed into Arizona state. While there is not much to see in terms of manmade structures, the changing landscape which included Lake Mead and Joshua trees is what captured our attention except my daughter who chose to sleep most of the way there.
Photo 3: We arrived at the entrance of the Grand Canyon West at 5:25 pm, 5 minutes before the last Skywalk tour bus and ran in acting like we totally planned this. We were greeted with a very large giftshop and super friendly hosts who recognized our ‘indian status’ right away by appearance only and offered us additional discounts at the gift shop and humour that only other indians would understand.
We boarded the shuttle bus with six other tourists; three who spoke only Spanish and the other three who spoke Japanese (at least i think they were Japanese.) Based on the excited chatter from everyone in all languages, we were all pretty excited to finally get to the Grand Canyon. You cannot see it from the entrance so once the shuttle bus got closer to the Skywalk, we all caught our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon which quickly replaced all the talking with the universal response ‘ooooooh’ that indicated we were all impressed except from one of my travel companions who was looking out the other window!
Photo 4: The Grand Canyon West tour offers three stops; the first being Eagle Point where the Skywalk is located which is also located on tribal lands and is managed by the Hualapai Tribe. Very cool business venture if you ask me.
The Eagle Point marker in the photo included this description:
“At 4000 feet above the Colorado River, this Majestic View has been a special point of interest for the Hualapai People. With its beautiful panoramic views of the canyon walls where the Heavens and Earth meet with such magnificance this point of the Grand Canyon can be enjoyed by all”
This location also had a giftshop, cafeteria, a stage for dancing and traditional dwellings situated in different areas of the grounds which we could go into. Based on the size, my daughter and I estimated these homes could fit one small family that look liked tipis but were made from the natural elements that could only be found at this location.
Photo 5: The Skywalk is a horseshoe shaped steel frame with a glass floor and sides that projects about 70 feet from the canyon edge. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any items with us on the actual Skywalk including our cameras so no images were captured except in memory only and from the side which is shown in this photo taken from some video I took earlier.
“OMG, this is majestic!” is what I recall most when I walked on the Skywalk to view the Grand Canyon from a very unnatural perspective that left me feeling exhilarated and a bit nauseous. As I carefully shuffled across the window pane, grasping the rail, I had wondered to myself – why had we not done this sooner?
Photo 6: Most would agree that the Skywalk was the best part about Eagle Point however I would have to say the best part about this place is the reason behind the name which rests in the canyon, can you see the eagle in the rock? The picture does not do it justice but is still an amazing sight to see.
We took some time enjoying this place in silence and taking in as much as we could. The sun slowly began to set, creating a soothing ambiance that only mother nature can create. I could only imagine what the ancestors thought of this place and how they must of lived so many years ago. After a little more exploration, we boarded the bus to the second destination.
Photo 7: Guano Point was the next stop on the tour which provided more breathtaking views. Also referred to as the “Highpoint Hike” Guano Point offers panoramic views of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River below which looks red instead of blue.
Again my photos can only capture a snap shot of this majestic view that is so foreign to someone who grew up on the plains near the Rocky Mountains in the north. There is also remnants of a historic tram that stretched 8,800 feet across the canyon to a mine at this location and generated much discussion among my travel companions who thought this would be a great place for a zip line or gondola. I on the other hand was content with the natural beauty that only the Grand Canyon could offer.
Dining is also available at this site, right on the edge of the Grand Canyon with 360 degree canyon views as well as the Hualapai Market offering jewelry and crafts.
Photo 8: The other amazing part of Guano Point was this great look out point that could only be reached on foot and with a little bit of hiking. My travel companions took full advantage of this opportunity and climbed straight to the top. As we descended down ‘high point’ the sun fell below the horizon as we took in the last few moments of daylight together looking out at one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world.
We were then greeted by staff who notified us that the last bus to our final destination was scheduled to leave and that it was time to say goodbye or katamutsin ‘see you later’ in Siksika (Blackfoot).
We walked back with the tour guide who was very friendly and informative. He shared additional information on the sight, the community and gave us a quick peak at fossil remains left behind millions of years ago when this place was once covered in water.
We were then brought to Hualapai Ranch for a BBQ supper which was included in the tour package price and eventually made our way back to Las Vegas.
Overall we enjoyed the trip and would definitely recommend that you add this to your bucket list. Thanks to my friend Leah who suggested this tour way before I travelled south, it was worth the journey.
For more information on Grand Canyon West check out their website at: www.grandcanyonwest.com