Havasupai Reservation

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Helicopter ride into Supai, Arizona (Video: 3 min, 34 sec)

Tucked within the greater Grand Canyon area is the Havasupai Reservation. Within the reservation is a small Native American village, Supai, Arizona. This small community of about 200 people is considered the most remote community in the lower 48 states. Since the village is surrounded by cliffs, the only access to the village is by foot, by horse or by helicopter. No roads in or out. In fact, Supai has the only post office in the United States that carries out mail by mules.

Running near this small community is Havasu Creek, which eventually drains into the Colorado River. The creek is surrounded by gorgeous territory and the water itself is full of color. I met up with my buddies Karel and Elisabeth, and we journeyed along the creek to explore its waterfalls and the rocky terrain of this desert valley.

The initial pool of Havasu Creek had us amazed at the color saturation of the water. Rich blues and greens. I’ve only seen water of this color twice in my life, once in Glacier National Park where the water is fed directly by glaciers and the tropical waters of the Caribbean. At first glance, the colors deceive the eyes and it appears to be crystal clear. However, upon further scrutiny, the water has a somewhat milky appearance and it is difficult to see the bottom of the creek. We would later learn that the water has lime (calcium carbonate) in it, which gives the water its blue-green hue.

The first set of waterfalls we encountered are the Upper and Lower Navajo Falls. In 2008, Havasu Creek flooded and the creek was rerouted. The original Navajo Falls was diverted and the resulting Upper and Lower Navajo Falls was created. The day we were there, the creek was full of blues and greens, the surrounding canyon walls were rich with reds and the sky was clear blue.

The next waterfall is the Havasu Falls, with water dropping 100 feet from the cliff. Because of flooding, the creek and falls change formation from flood to flood. Havasu Falls was once known as Bridal Veil Falls because the water flowed over the width of the creek system and not just the narrow path it makes now. Havasu Falls illustrates great examples of the travertine formations that run along the creek. These irregular and spasmodic shapes are formed by the lime in the water and mineralize over time, creating bizarre and eccentric shapes.

Although there are additional waterfalls along Havasu Creek, our hike led us as far as Mooney Falls. Named after the miner, D. W. “James” Mooney, this waterfall is quite spectacular with the water falling over 200 feet. In order to access the bottom of the waterfall, a precarious system of dark caves, rocky paths, slippery cliff sides and wet ladders lead to the bottom of the falls. Extreme caution must be taken when climbing downwards. After making it to the bottom, one definitely feels a sense of accomplishment. We spent some time taking in the scenery of Mooney Falls, then climbed up our dicey trail back up to the top of the falls and headed back to village of Supai.

The entire area is quite the unknown gem. Permits are needed for the camping area in between Havasu and Mooney Falls and reservations are recommended months in advance. Elisabeth’s suggestion of Havasupai Reservation turned out to be a spectacular adventure!

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