April 22, 2019, Cameron, AZ-
I set out from Flagstaff, around 9: 30 this morning, heading to the western edge of this once sleepy sheep-ranching community, which is now tapping into the growing number of people who want to visit the Dineh (Navajo) people, see their starkly beautiful land and learn of their culture.
Here, at the foot of Gray Mountain, on the way to Grand Canyon National Park, lie two overlooks which capture that stark beauty and share an area regarded by the Dineh people as their point of emergence from the underground, following a long ago calamity, and thus a sacred site.
It is the last segment of the Little Colorado River, approaching and reaching its confluence with the Colorado River, after a 338 mile journey, from the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, through the Painted Desert and Coconino Plateau.
A two-hour exploration of the twin overlooks offered these scenes. Whilst some will say, “Well, what is so special about black and brown stone?” , the geological story told by the three main layers of limestone (top), granite (middle) and shale (bottom) is, like that of the Grand Canyon itself, a classic account of wind and water working together, with a fair amount of help from volcanic and seismic activity.
In the far background, please note Navajo Mountain (Naatsis’aan), an igneous rock peak, the rises 10,387 feet, towering over Lake Powell, and like the lake, straddling the line between Arizona and Utah.
The layers of sedimentary deposit are quite visible, as one scans the rock, from top to bottom.
The water, whilst uniformly scant, looked clearer from the first overlook than from its western counterpart.
You may not that there is considerably more silt being washed into the river, as it moves closer to the confluence.
Looking closely, it might seem as if the granite canyon fascia resembles petrified warriors.
The algae working this limestone bench seems to show everything from a man with outstretched arms (foreground) to pictographs.
On the right hand side, below, the tall shafts of sandstone appear to be standing guard over the shallows of the Little Colorado.
In all the bareness, sage, a medicinal staple of the Dineh and Hopi, alike, grows in abundance. Desert bottlebrush is its accompanist.
The relatively wet winter has produced an effusion of greenery in the Gorge.
This struggling, but intrepid, river and its gorge, lead to the most spectacular sight on the North American continent. In the next post, I will focus on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, at its east end, and the Desert Tower that overlooks the beginning of its Inner Gorge.