Lees Ferry is the only place within Glen Canyon where visitors can drive to the Colorado River in over 700 miles of canyon country, right up to the first rapid in the Grand Canyon. A natural corridor between Utah and Arizona, Lees Ferry figured prominently in the exploration and settlement of northern Arizona. Lees Ferry is now a meeting of the old and the new.
Lees Ferry Historic Site
Just upstream from the Lees Ferry launch ramp is the ferry crossing site and several historic buildings. Different ferryboats and pioneers, miners, Indians, and tourists crossed here from 1872 until 1928. Of special interest is Charles H. Spencer’s attempt to extract gold from the clay hills here in 1910. Two of the stone buildings, a steam boiler, and the remains of a sunken paddlewheel steamboat remain from his efforts.
Lonely Dell Ranch Historic Site
This historic ranch, near the mouth of the Paria River, was home to the families who operated Lees Ferry. The place was so isolated that the families working at the crossing needed to be self-sufficient, growing food for themselves and their animals. Hard labor changed the barren desert into a green oasis. The main ranch buildings are about 700 feet (213 m) up the dirt road from the parking area. A "Walking Tour Guide" may be purchased at the entrance to the ranch. The complete tour of the orchard, log cabins, stone ranch house, and pioneer cemetery is about a 1-mile (1.6-km) round trip. There are picnic tables and shade trees at the ranch. Take drinking water with you.
Lees Ferry Today
Lees Ferry continues to be a center of modern activity. Here at the very start of the Grand Canyon, adventurous river runners launch their boats for trips down the canyon. Fishermen enjoy world-class trout fishing upstream to Glen Canyon Dam. Backpackers finish their 4 or 5 day hike through the Paria Canyon Wilderness Area here. Day-hikers can explore canyons and desert ridges.
Did You Know?
Personal watercraft are vessels. In Utah, you must be 18 years old to operate a personal watercraft alone (unless you comply with Utah personal watercraft operator conditions); in Arizona, you must be at least 12.