*The Most Spectacular Spot (Toroweap)

Fearless Wildlife

Navigating on
the Strip

 

About the Arizona Strip

The area known as the Arizona Strip is unlike anywhere else in the Continental US.  This is an area that is so vast, remote, and isolated that even today there is little evidence of modern civilization.  The Arizona Strip encompasses five million acres of land, that is almost completely disconnected from the rest of Arizona.  The Canyons of the Colorado River are the reason this area is so isolated.  The Colorado River flows down Glen Canyon from the Utah border and feeds into the Grand Canyon, and at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is Lake Mead and the Nevada border. 

 The size of the Grand Canyon is so great, that it is easy to overlook 1000's of other canyons that dominate the Arizona Strip Country.  Parashant Canyon for example is over 40 miles long and 1000's of feet deep, yet sitting next to the Grand Canyon few people have ever heard of it, and fewer yet have ever seen it.  Many of these great canyons feed into the Grand Canyon, but many more don't.  Along the West side of the Arizona Strip you will find the Grand Wash Cliffs.  These are no ordinary cliffs.  From the top to the bottom can easily span 5000 feet in elevation.  The Grand Wash cliffs and the Canyons carved through them are a fantastic natural wonder that few people will ever see.

The Arizona Strip is not just remarkable because of its size and isolation.  The beauty of this area is not something that can be quickly described or captured in a photograph.  The reason the beauty is so hard to describe is that there are 1000's of beautiful places to see on the Arizona Strip and every one of them is different.  The elevation changes certainly play a big part in this.  The elevations on the Arizona Strip range from 9200 ft on the Kaibab Plateau to 1100 feet at Lake Mead.  Nearly every life zone is found on the Arizona Strip, from low desert to Alpine forest.  The Geology of the region also plays a big part in the variety of sights on the Strip.  This area has been highly active over its history, such that a student in Geology could be satisfied in that area for life.  I especially enjoy some the more recent lava flows.  Paleo Indians inhabited this area as long as 8000 years ago, so if you are into Archeology you could happily spend the remainder of your days searching the canyons for cliff dwellings, or searching the plains for pottery and arrowheads.  From Rock climbers, to Bird watchers, to fossil hunters, and for those who are just looking for a scenic view, the Strip offers remarkable beauty.

The Arizona Strip does have some population, and some paved roads.  There is one bridge spanning the Colorado river between Nevada, and Utah at Lee's Ferry on the far west side of the Strip.  This is the most common route to reach the The North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Coming around from Lee's Ferry highway 67 is a paved highway that extends all the way south to the North Rim. The land around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon reaches the highest elevations on the Arizona Strip.  This high area around the North Rim is called the Kaibab Plateau, and is largely covered in Pine forest.  What few people realize while on the Kaibab Plateau is that they are surrounded by canyons on Three sides, not just one with the North Rim.  The Colorado River extends south along the West side of the Plateau until it makes an abrupt turn to the east, and even turns back North again for  many miles until the confluence with Kaibab Canyon which extends north nearly to the Utah Border.  Traversing through the Kaibab Canyon is virtually impossible, so the Kaibab Plateau is largely isolated from the remainder of the Arizona Strip.  So although the Kaibab Plateau is technically part of the Arizona Strip, these days it is the rest of the Strip the retains the name.  There is only one paved road touching this part of the Strip.  Hwy 389 skirts the North part of the strip between Fredonia, and Colorado City.  Although there are a few occupants in other areas, these two towns are the only places in the entire vastness of the Strip that you will find any signs of Civilization.   There is a small network of maintained dirt roads that provide access into this country, but other than that access is by un-maintained roads, trails, or by foot.  Then again much of this country is not even accessible by foot.

THE MOST SPECTACULAR SPOT
Of all the spectacular sites to be found on the Arizona Strip, there is one location that ranks at the top for most people.  That spot is called Toroweap.  Toroweap is a Grand Canyon View point, and is part of the National Park, but this part of the Rim is nothing like the commercialized view points of the much visited South and North Rim of the Canyon. This spot also goes by the name Tuweep.  The unique aspect of this Grand Canyon view point is that the canyon edge is completely vertical all the way the bottom.  Even a person who is accustomed to high places will be intimidated by this edge.  It is over 3000 feet from the rim to the water.  There are no railings or structured view points either.  The area is completely natural, with the exception of a primitive bathroom.  Toroweap is tucked well within the vastness of the Strip Country. The most direct route is by car from Fredonia about 68 miles, 61 of which is by dirt road.  This is the least curvy and smoothest road on the strip with the exception of the last couple miles to the viewpoint, but still it is full of many potholes and endless miles of washboard.  So the access to Toroweap is actually quite good by Arizona Strip standards.  Toroweap is one of the few destinations  on the strip that I would recommend to a novice off road driver.  Never the less don't underestimate the need for preparation.  There are no services what so ever, cell phones don't work, and a round trip from pavement will take a good five hours.  I have seen cars make it to Toroweap, but it is advisable to travel with a high ground clearance vehicle, and be mindful of rain, don't even consider taking a two wheel drive vehicle if there is a chance of rain, and don't assume the road is passable even if you have  4 wheel drive.

FEARLESS WILDLIFE
The wildlife in the more remote parts of the Arizona strip has had little if any exposure to man.  So the wildlife on the Strip behaves in a manner that is both fascinating, and that demands respect by those of us who visit.  It has been my experience that most of the time the wildlife does not show any fear of humans what so ever.  I have observed rabbits walking right through camp with people present.  On one occasion we pulled in to set up camp with five peopleTwo deer happen to be grazing less than 200ft away.  The deer continued to graze for more than 20 minutes while we set up camp.  So naturally it is very easy to find and view wildlife on the strip.  The varieties of wildlife on the strip are as varied as the Strip it self, I don't have space here to write about everything, but I will touch on a few thing I have found interesting.  One thing that becomes obvious quickly is that the deer are incredibly large.  These are Mule deer, and are consistently larger than any Mule deer I have see in other areas.  The deer hunting in this area is highly limited, with only about 200 tags granted yearly across the entire area.  The odds of being drawn are in the neighborhood of 1 in 75.  Traveling across the high plains of the strip country you pass endless miles of grass lands, Buffalo would not look out of place, but I don't think any have ever lived here.  I am certain there are antelope, but they are elusive.  The more rugged canyon country will have Big Horn Sheep, but that is another elusive animal you will not likely see.  Rattlesnakes are something you will likely see if you come during the summer months, especially if you get into the Canyon Country.  All visitors to the strip need to be watchful, and careful not to step haphazardly into area with rocks, brush and other cover that a Snake would find appealing.  If you are lucky you might get to see a Grand Canyon Rattlesnake.  The Grand Canyon Rattler is only found in this area, and is characterized by a much more yellow color than other varieties.

Navigating on the STrip
F
inding your way on the Arizona Strip can get complicated, and getting lost is a very real danger.  There are many roads on the Arizona Strip that only see a vehicle once in a month, so breaking down, or getting lost can turn into a life and death situation very quickly.  I recommend visitors stick to the main roads unless you have experience navigating in remote desert locations.  Considering the vastness of this Country the main roads are actually marked quite well, so with a map and a little common sense a first time visitor should be able to safely navigate the main roads.  I recommend acquiring a BLM Arizona Strip map.  They can be acquired through the Arizona Strip field station in St. George Utah.  A four wheel drive vehicle is advisable for travel on the Strip, but don't assume that just because you have a four wheel drive that all roads will be passable.  As you review your map and consider your expedition onto the strip, you will see that the main roads are designated with numbers.  The most important roads will have only 1 number, for example County road 5 is one of the main routes across the Strip.  Routes with 3 numbers are generally going to be main routes also, and should be clearly marked and maintained from time to time.  Unless you have experience I don't recommend traveling off these roads.  Four numbered roads are liable to be very rugged and poorly marked.  They are not generally maintained roads.  There are also numerous roads on the strip with out any designation at all.  Don't forget that there are no services what so ever on the Arizona Strip, and the distances are vast.  You could easily use a full tank of fuel in your vehicle with only a short excursion across the Strip, and you won't find anyplace to purchase a beverage or fill your tank so plan carefully, and be conservative.  It will take significant preparation to travel any distance across the Arizona Strip.  If you are serious about exploring the Strip then you will likely be navigating from topographical maps.  A GPS can be extremely useful, but don't rely on one solely.  I have guided several people on the Strip who brought their GPS, the problem for them is that they were not adequately familiar with the areas to interpret what the GPS was telling them.  The new GPS units are fabulous, and have very good maps, but if you don't recognize any of the points on the map how will you know where to go.  I like to use a GPS on the Strip, and have programmed numerous landmarks, but have not found them to be full proof methods of navigation.  An all terrain vehicle, like a quad or side by side utility vehicle, is an excellent way to travel on the Strip, but keep in mind that if you are driving on a road with a 3 number designation or less then you will probably be expected to have registration and insurance should you run across a park ranger.  An experienced ATV rider will find the majority of roads on the Arizona Strip to be easily traversed, but there are difficult spots especially where water has effected the road way.  The roads through the canyons can get quite difficult and should only be attempted by expert riders /drivers.  Ultimately experience is the key to navigating the Arizona Strip, and so a first time visitor would certainly benefit from a guide.

 

 

Copyright 2008 [Jacob Stoddard]. All rights reserved.
Revised: June 15, 2012 .