Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon National Park to Undergo Renovations

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Date: January 11, 2010
Contact: Shannan Marcak, 928-638-7958

Watchtower with snorkle-lift
The Desert View Watchtower.  A snorkel lift was used to complete condition assessments prior to the renovations, and will be used again during the renovations.

NPS Photo

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Desert View Watchtower, one of the most prominent architectural features on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, is slated to undergo renovations over the next several months.

The Watchtower is located at Desert View, the eastern-most developed area on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, the tower was constructed in 1932. Architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter’s design takes its influences from the architecture of the ancestral Puebloan people of the Colorado Plateau. She collaborated on the design with Hope artisans of the day, including well-known Hopi artist Fred Kabotie whose murals adorn much of the second level of the tower.

Today, the 70-foot tower contains a gift store and its upper floors serve as observation decks where visitors from around the world enjoy magnificent views of the canyon and the Painted Desert. Seventy-eight years after it was constructed, the tower’s roof and windows leak and its mortar and many wood elements are deteriorating, threatening the integrity of the structure and damaging its famous murals. As a result, Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C.—the concessioner that manages the gift store and maintains the Watchtower—will be undertaking a two phase renovation project. 

During the first phase of renovations, the tower’s roof will be replaced. Work on phase I of the project is expected to begin in mid- to late January. While visitors will have access to the interior of the tower throughout the renovations, it will be necessary to close the observation deck for approximately three weeks while the roof is being repaired. This closure is expected to occur beginning in mid-January. Work on the roofing project should be completed sometime in March.

Phase II of the renovations, will involve repairing, known as “pointing”, masonry mortar joints and repair or replacement of windows and exterior wood elements. During this phase of the renovations, access to portions of the exterior of the tower may need to be restricted in the immediate vicinity of heavy equipment and the ongoing repairs. Phase II of the project is expected to begin sometime in March.

D. L. Norton will be the General Contractor for the Watchtower renovations; and completion of the project is expected late in 2010.

For more on the Desert View Watchtower, please visit the park’s web site at For more on Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C., visit  To learn more about visiting Grand Canyon National Park, please visit our web site or call


Last updated: February 24, 2015

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