Kaibab Plateau

The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River bisects the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona. The north side of the plateau, part of the greater Colorado Plateau, has an elevation of up to 9.200 feet. The south side ranges in elevation from 8,800 down to 6,000 feet. Because the North Rim, itself, of the canyon is a thousand or so feet higher in altitude than the South Rim, the North Rim is colder and has more snow. My photos here are taken from the South Rim. I have not visited the North Rim.

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The Grand Canyon is more than one mile deep, 277 miles long, and up to 18 miles wide. The Colorado River falls 2,000 feet during its course through the canyon. Most first time visitors to the Grand Canyon stand speechless as they gaze out across the awesome vastness. The nearly 40 layers of sedimentary rock layers of sandstones, shales and limestones lay exposed like pages in an open book revealing a story of geological phenomena inscribed from 200 million to two billion years ago. It simplifies the story to say that the Grand Canyon was carved solely by the Colorado River; other geologic forces are involved, too, including movement of the earth’s tectonic plates, volcanic activity and wind erosion.


President Chester A. Arthur designated this land federal government property in 1882, effectively pulling the land out from under the Havasupai (the People of the Blue-Green Waters), all but 518 acres, who had existed on their land, the size of the state of Delaware, for eight centuries. The Havasupai have held strong bonds with the Hopi people, who live in close proximity.

President Gerald Ford returned much of the land to the Havasupai. Supai is the Havasupai city on the floor of the canyon. The town is home to about 500 tribe members, and the tribe charge tourists, required to make hotel and rooming reservations, to visit their land.

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The Bright Angel Trail you see in the photo above, descends 4,380 feet, at a 10 percent grade, to the floor of the canyon. The highest point is 6,860 feet at the South Rim; the lowest point is 2,480 feet at the Colorado River. Follow the eight mile long, narrow trail by foot or by mule, from the South Rim down to the canyon and then another 1.9 miles to Phantom Ranch. Mules rather than horses carry you and your packs along the Bright Angel Trail because mules have calmer dispositions and are more sure footed.

Hopi House & El Tovar

El Tovar, situated on the rim of the canyon, is a National Historic Landmark. Opening in 1905, the hotel had its own greenhouses growing herbs and flowers, poultry, cows and a butcher shop. Even today, although regulations do not permit husbandry within park boundaries, the hotel maintains sustainability, sourcing these products from just outside the park. El Tovar was once a part of a chain of hotels owned by the Fred Harvey Company in conjunction with the Santa Fe Railway. Such luminaries as Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Western author Zane Grey, President Bill Clinton and Paul McCartney have stayed here. Teddy Roosevelt thought this location beautiful as it is, that no hotel ought to be built. He also told the Havasupai that this land was being designated a national park and that they would have to leave. I ate breakfast here with a Tahitian couple I escorted on their tour. To the waiter’s question, “How would you like your eggs?” the French-speaking wife replied, “Sur le plat.”

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This picture above is of Hopi House, a gift concession featuring a large selection of Native American handicraft. Hopi House is a National Historic Landmark. The building, located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon next to El Tovar, was designed by architect Mary Colter on the model of a Hopi dwelling and was completed on January 1, 1905.

And here is how I got to the Grand Canyon to take these photos. (And, no, Capt. Steve Smith is not looking for pennies on the ground. It’s a cold, windy day.)

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–Samantha Mozart

12 Responses to Kaibab Plateau

  1. Red says:

    I did not know the name of the plateau. I know the river, like most people. I saw the Grand Canyon on a whirlwind “southwest” trip during college, but would love to go back and traverse the canyon on burros (if they still do that).

    • sammozart says:

      Definitely they still traverse the Canyon on burros, Red. I would love to do that, too, but I’m not in good enough shape these days. Twenty years ago, when I took these photos, it would have been easier. On the other hand, maybe this is an incentive to exercise more — a lot more. 🙂

  2. Jean says:

    Beautiful. I love sedimentary rock. The color gradations appeal to me. Thanks for visiting me.

    Jean visiting for the A-Z Challenge. @PolarBear60 on Twitter. http://pmtoo.jeanschara.com/journal

  3. Simply gorgeous, Samantha. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon — a shame — but plan to take my son in the near future. I am just struck by the majesty and beauty of the whole area, all that you show here and describe so well. In looking at these images, particularly the way in which you capture the light in the top three images, I am marveling over and over at how good a photographer you are. Thank you for sharing fantastic your travels.

    • sammozart says:

      Thank you for the compliments on my photography, Silvia. In those days I used a camera with film, of course. At midday in elevation that high the sun washes out the color, so I had to wait until near sunset to take the photos, when the hues were deeper and richer, the shadows longer and more dramatic.

      Anyway, definitely take your son. You only live a day’s drive away, so do it while you have the opportunity. And maybe you, your son and your husband are all young enough that you are in good enough shape to ride a mule down the Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch. That would be fun, I should think. 🙂

  4. Pat Garcia says:

    These pictures and the accompanying explanations are beautiful. I have never been to the Grand Canyon. It’s never been high up on my list of things to see, but you have awoken a tiny urge. Maybe, one day I’ll go there.

    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

    • sammozart says:

      First time visitors have an interesting reaction the first time they see the Canyon, Patricia. We’re all just kind of dumbstruck. It’s hard to wrap your mind around such vastness and color. It is absolutely worth seeing, though. And it is beautiful in all its grandeur.


  5. Gwynn Rogers says:

    Oh I LOVED visiting the Grand Canyon. It is SO spectacular! Your pictures are dynamite as I felt I was there! To me, the Canyon is God’s gift to the earth. It is a total wonder. Thanks for the marvelous memories!

    • sammozart says:

      I couldn’t have said it better, Gwynn. The Grand Canyon is awesome in all its grandeur. Thanks!

  6. susan scott says:

    Samantha this is very magnificent – in a post or two before I had a similar thought to what someone else said I forget who that you could be a travel writer …

    Around this time two years ago I was with Susan Schwartz in Phoenix and we went to the Grand Canyon and viewed from I’m unsure which side, east or west … at a guess I would say east side and was truly in awe … she will be here tomorrow early a.m. and I will show her your post. We will remember – she is magnificent.

    Thank you also for the history of land being given and taken – very sacred land which the Havasupi are still maintaining, and the hotel maintaing sustainability –

    Thank you for this beautiful post! Nature, she is wonderful!

    • sammozart says:

      Susan, the person who commented that my stories qualified for great travel writing is Rhonda Gilmour at “Late Blooming Rose.” She commented on my Harpers Ferry post. So, thank you for saying the same. I love traveling and writing stories about a sense of place. I had considered travel writing in the past, and have been toying with tying this series of A-Z posts in with that. I’ll pursue it further when the A-Zs are done. All I need is a digital camera.

      Has it been two years already since you visited Susan in Arizona? No doubt you viewed the Grand Canyon from the South Rim; that’s where most tourists go.

      Yes, a fascinating history the Grand Canyon and surrounds have. Thank you.