Miners came to Grand Canyon to exploit its resources, but many found the tourist industry more profitable. In addition to maintaining claims in the canyon and building trails to provide access, enterprising miners started offering guided tours and set up tent camps or hotels, providing the first visitor services at the canyon.
Dan Hogan and the Orphan Mine
Dan Hogan was in the first group of prospectors to come to Grand Canyon from Flagstaff in 1890. He and some friends are the first known hikers to complete a rim-to-rim-to-rim backpacking trip through the central corridor in 1891. But his adventures were only getting started.
In 1893, Hogan registered the “Orphan Lode” or “Orphan Mine,” located 1,000 feet below Maricopa Point and on 20.64 acres of scenic property less than two miles west of today’s village. Four acres abutted the canyon edge while the remainder plummeted to the copper mine’s shaft in the cliff face below.
Hogan constructed two trails to his claim. The Battleship Trail followed the upper 1.4 miles of the Bright Angel Trail before traversing below Maricopa Point another 3.5 miles to the mine site. Another trail consisted of ropes, ladders, and toe holds chiseled into the side of the cliff from the rim directly above the mine site. Few other than Hogan used what he called "The Slide" and others called the Hummingbird Trail. You had to be a hummingbird to hang on!
Hogan not only had the mine, he was able to build tourist facilities uncontrolled by the National Park Service.
In 1936 he opened the Grand Canyon Trading Post, eventually adding cabins and a saloon. World War II ended his mining and tourism business, and Hogan sold out to Madeleine Jacobs in 1946.
Jacobs operated the tourist facilities with little interest in the mine until 1951 when it was discovered that the black rock she had been kicking aside was actually some of the richest uranium in the Southwest. The Orphan Mine became one of the most productive uranium mines in the region, in operation from 1953-1969.
An 1,800 foot long cable tram was added in 1955. A large "bucket" carried miners down and back from the rim to the mine opening in the cliff below, and hauled out the excavated ore. Each bucket could hold 800 pounds of ore, with an average of 1,000 tons removed each month.
In 1959, to meet higher safety standards and increased production demand, the cable tram was replaced by an elevator and load car operated from a large headframe. A 1,500 foot vertical shaft was drilled straight down from the rim to the mine site. Miners had a long, dark ride into the mine below. Ore production increased to almost 9,000 tons each month.
In the late 1950s, the mining company sought permission to extend the operation beyond the mining claim and into federal property. To speed the approval process they proposed an 18 story, 800 room hotel overhanging the rim. This grand hotel would spill “down the side of the precipitous cliff like a concrete waterfall” ending at a swimming pool and sun deck below.
Because of the controversy over the extended mining operations and the unprecedented hotel plans, Congress passed a law in 1962 that allowed a compromise. Mining could continue, but tourist operations were prohibited after 1966 and all mining would cease by 1987, when the property would then pass to the federal government. Mining actually stopped by 1969 when the market for uranium declined and shipping costs for the ore increased.
When the mine closed it had produced 495,107 tons of ore, including 4,257,571 pounds of uranium oxide, 6,680,000 pounds of copper, 107,000 pounds of silver, and 3,283 pounds of vanadium oxide. The value of the uranium alone has been estimated at $40 million.
Louis Boucher and Hermit Trail
One of the early miners to settle in Grand Canyon, Louis Boucher was called the "hermit" by some because he not only lived alone but made his home beneath the canyon rim in an isolated alcove at Dripping Springs. He set up a small tent camp and corral at this perennial water source, continuing to build trails and search for copper deposits.
Boucher built the Silver Bell Trail (today's Hermit Trail and spur to Dripping Springs) and the Boucher Trail down to the Colorado River. Backpackers staying along Boucher Creek can still find evidence of his second camp near a copper mine, with remnants of stone cabins and outbuildings, near where he also planted a small garden and orchard.
During the 1890s Boucher worked several mining claims but also began leading tourists to his small camps. When the railroad brought increased tourist business to the South Rim in 1901, Boucher was better to able to make ends meet with tourism dollars and work he did for friends such as Pete Berry, John Hance, and Niles Cameron.
Boucher left the canyon in 1909, selling the upper portion of his trail to the Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey Company. Between 1911 and 1913 the railroad developed the "Hermit Trail" into the best constructed trail at the canyon, with cobblestone pavement and cement corrugation for better traction. Tourists traveled down the trail by mule to Hermit Creek where Hermit Camp offered visitor services such as tent cabins, restrooms, showers, and a Fred Harvey chef to cook meals.
By 1925, a cable tram was installed from Pima Point to Hermit Camp 3,600 feet below. It was said to be the longest single-span cable tram in the United States at 6,300 feet in length. It was also the only tourism tramway that went from the rim to the inner canyon. Hermit Camp closed in 1930. Remnants of the stone corral and cable system structures can still be seen by backpackers today.
Hiking the Hermit Trail? A must have for its history, geology, and natural features is this trail guide available at the Grand Canyon Conservancy Bookstore:
Pete Berry, the Last Chance Mine, and Grandview Hotel
Another early miner to arrive at the canyon around 1890 was Pete Berry. He and his partners, Ralph and Niles Cameron, discovered the purest grade of copper to be found at Grand Canyon on Horseshoe Mesa. They registered their claim as the Last Chance Mine and quickly built what is today's Grandview Trail. To speed construction, they took shortcuts such as "cribbing" - using juniper logs and chains to construct the trail next to a rock wall rather than blasting the trail out of the rock wall. Hikers still walk on many of these portions of the trail today.
Berry and the Camerons also had mining claims in Bright Angel Canyon. They constructed the Bright Angel Trail, loosely following a Havasupai Trail down to Indian Garden.
They registered the trail as the Bright Angel Toll Road but, until the railroad arrived in 1901, a toll was never actually collected.
While Cameron focused more of his energies in the Bright Angel area, Berry continued to develop mines on Horseshoe Mesa as well as tourist facilities on the rim.
He and his wife, Martha, opened the Grandview Hotel in 1897. This two-story lodge catered to increased numbers of visitors arriving by stagecoach from Flagstaff and was marketed at the time as the "only first-class hotel at the Grand Canyon."
The Berry's were very successful until the railroad's arrival in 1901. With the train terminus many miles to the west, and visitors more likely to use the cheaper, more comfortable, and quicker railroad service rather than the stagecoach, business for the Berry's dwindled rapidly. In 1913, after several attempts with other ventures, Berry sold his homestead and mining claims to William Randolph Hearst. Despite threats to build luxury hotels, Hearst used the property mainly for cattle grazing.
The Grandview Hotel was torn down in 1929 and the park service was able to purchase the properties on and below the rim in 1941. Today hikers can still travel the historic Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa where mining debris slowly deteriorates, yet stubbornly remains as a reminder of the most successful copper mine at Grand Canyon.
Hiking the Grandview Trail? A must have for its history, geology, and natural features is this trail guide available at the Grand Canyon Conservancy Bookstore:
One of the most controversial figures in the history of Grand Canyon was Ralph Cameron. Arriving at Grand Canyon with mining partners Pete Berry and his brother Niles in 1890, Cameron was quick to set up mining claims anywhere he thought a profit could later be made.
Working with his partner, Pete Berry, Cameron helped construct both the Grandview Trail and the Bright Angel Trail, both leading to multiple mining claims along their paths into the canyon.
Berry focused on development in the Grandview area while Cameron began developing tourist facilities and mining claims in the Bright Angel area.
The Bright Angel Trail loosely followed a Havasupai Trail down to what is now called Indian Garden. The trail was registered as the Bright Angel Toll Road, but a toll was never charged until after the railroad arrived in 1901.
Cameron built Cameron's Hotel and Camps near the top of the trail and developed a tent camp at Indian Garden in anticipation of the business the railroad would bring. But when the railroad built its depot below the Bright Angel Hotel, ignoring an agreement between Cameron and a previous railroad company to build the terminus below his hotel, a battle began that would rage for over thirty years.
Cameron erected a gate at the Bright Angel trailhead and began charging a toll of $1 per mounted user in 1903. Lawsuits immediately followed but to no avail. In 1906 the registration on the toll road expired and ownership passed to Coconino County. But with Cameron on the Board of Supervisors, the county easily approved the continuation of a toll on the trail in exchange for trail maintenance.
In 1909 the federal government evaluated Cameron's mining claims at Grand Canyon and found that most had been "salted" and were invalid. Yet he ignored the ruling and retained his claims for the next fourteen years.
The Santa Fe Railroad realized it would never have control of the Bright Angel Trail, so between 1911 and 1914 it funded the construction of Hermit Road, Hermit Trail, Hermit Camp, and Hermits Rest to the west of the village offering visitor services that at the time were unsurpassed anywhere else in the canyon. Hermit Road was the best built road in northern Arizona. Hermit Trail as the best constructed trail in the canyon, designed for tourists rather than for miners. Hermit Camp offered luxuries that no other inner canyon tent camp could, including toilets, showers, phone service, and a Fred Harvey chef.
Cameron's Hotel and Camps closed in 1909, but Cameron stubbornly held onto his other businesses. The battle became more heated when the National Park Service took over management of Grand Canyon National Park when it was created in 1919. In 1920 the United States Supreme Court declared Cameron a trespasser within the national park, but Cameron ignored this ruling when he was elected to the United States Senate by his Arizona supporters.
As a senator, Cameron was ruthless in his fight against the National Park Service, succeeding in removing operating funds from Grand Canyon National Park in 1922 and continuing to fight for control of the Bright Angel Trail. The park service built the South Kaibab Trail in 1925 to bypass the Bright Angel Trail. In 1926 Cameron lost his senatorial seat and in 1928 the Bright Angel Trail was finally transferred to the National Park Service.
The battle was over. After needed improvements made by the park service, the Bright Angel Trail became part of the most popular overnight loop trail in the park. Hikers and mule riders could use the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails to access Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the canyon. The unique natural and cultural features of each trail still expands the Grand Canyon experience for thousands of visitors each year.
Hiking the Bright Angel Trail or the Grandview Trail? A must have for its history, geology, and natural features is this trail guide available at the Grand Canyon Association Bookstore: