What brings anglers back to Lees Ferry again and again? It’s the tug!
It’s the mind-blowing grab of a wild trout in the gin clear waters of the Colorado River that start your juices flowing whether it’s the first or fiftieth time you experience it.
The Colorado River on the downstream or “tailwater” side of Glen Canyon dam is a unique fishery – unlike others in the world. The river flows at varying rates, but the water temperature stays at a near-constant 48 degrees, a perfect environment for healthy trout. A year-round fishery, anglers catch 12- to 24-inch free swimming rainbows. And as the seasons change, so does the fishing. The summer months are a great time to target eager rainbows rising to big terrestrials. In the fall, spring and winter months there are aggressively feeding rainbows in the riffles and deeper runs. Trout at Lees Ferry gorge themselves on tiny midge larva, scuds, and aquatic worms. The tannins in the fish’s food source cause them to exhibit magnificent spawning colors which have become synonymous with Lees Ferry.
With its 1,000-foot tall Navajo Sandstone cliffs and crystal clear water, the Colorado River is a desert refuge destined to capture the hearts and minds of any fly-fishing fanatic. Lees Ferry Anglers’ up-river fishing trips take passengers 14 miles through Glen Canyon where they experience first-hand why John Wesley Powell, the first explorer of the lower Colorado Basin, gave the canyon a name which connotes a sense of peace and tranquility.
Lees Ferry Anglers has expanded to include Cliff Dwellers Lodge and The Cliff restaurant, offering a complete fishing lodge experience. There are 13 full-time guides on staff, each of them competent in assisting all types of anglers: from beginner to the most advanced fly caster.
To fish with us at Lees Ferry, email us or call toll-free at (800) 962-9755. Fishing trips include transportation in a covered Koffler Jet Boat (heated during the winter), lunch, rods, and guide service. If you need waders, we rent them in our fly shop. We are more than willing to help. Come visit the Ferry and find out why we are proud to call this place our home.
Should you not wish to utilize our guide service, try the walk-in section adjacent to the Lees Ferry Boat Ramp for excellent fly- and spin-fishing opportunities. Additionally, our Lees Ferry Boat Rental offers 18-foot boats with Mercury Marine jet drives for full river access.
From the high-desert canyon country to the ponderosa forest of the Kaibab Plateau, there are hundreds of hiking trails within a short distance from Cliff Dwellers Lodge. Regardless of the time of year there are hikes to suit each individual’s interest and skill level. Summer months are very warm and it is necessary to carry lots of water … at least two gallons per day per person is recommended. Never hike solo and always let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back. Stay on designated trails and wear proper clothing for the time of year. A wide brim hat and light long sleeve shirt are recommended for summer months along with plenty of sunscreen. Warm clothes and a water-proof jacket are necessary during the winter months.
Whether it’s historical interests, the Colorado River and its trout fishing, or the stark natural beauty of the area, any hiker can find solitude.
Cathedral Wash Location: Two miles after the turnoff to Lees Ferry from Marble Canyon is a pull out on the left hand side of the road. There is a Park Service point of interest sign here and the trail begins in the wash bottom another 50 yards down the road.
Hike Description: A two-hour round trip hike which takes you through limestone narrows to the Colorado River. There are a couple of short drop offs which can be avoided by hiking the upper shelves. The song of the canyon wren can be heard year round and an occasional red tail hawk can be seen. This canyon is subject to flash flooding during summer rain storms. Before entering the canyon check local weather reports. The trail ends at the Colorado River in the Marble Canyon gorge where you can fish and enjoy the solitude. This is a day use area only where overnight camping is prohibited without a permit issued from the Park Service.
The Honeymoon Trail: This trail ran right through the Cliff Dwellers Lodge property and was the historic old wagon road linking St. George, Utah with Lees Ferry on the Colorado River; and from there, to numerous settlements throughout northeastern Arizona. The route was used for several years by young married couples from Arizona seeking Temple marriage in what was then the only “Mormon” Temple west of the Mississippi River.
In 1877, the St. George Temple was completed and in 1881 the first of the settlers made the journey to St. George over what would eventually become known as the “Honeymoon Trail.” The trip took 3-6 weeks, with the worst section being the crossing of the Colorado River. Earlier, in 1870, Brigham Young had sent John D. Lee to establish a ferry and by 1872 it was fully functional. Lee worked the ferry until 1874, after which it was manned by the Johnson family until 1896. In 1928, Navajo Bridge was built, replacing the ferry.
Much of the Honeymoon Trail is still visible. In some places it can be negotiated by car, although most of it is passable only by foot, horse or 4-wheel drive vehicle. Some sections are located on private land or Native American lands. The trail is sporadically marked on public lands from the Lees Ferry area to just east of St. George, Utah.
As wagon trains and young couples moved along the trail, they stopped to leave their names chiseled in sandstone or painted in axle grease on the cliff walls in several areas. If one of your ancestors passed along the Honeymoon Trail, their signatures may be etched into the stones of Arizona.
Lower Paria Canyon/Lonely Dell Location: Trailhead for Paria Canyon begins at the historic Lonely Dell Ranch near the Lees Ferry boat launch. Before you cross the bridge at the Paria River, turn left onto a gravel road. This road is easy to drive and will not be an issue for any vehicle.
Hike Description: The lower Paria Canyon trail follows the creek bed, which flows year round with shallow muddy water fed by springs further up the canyon. Magnificent sandstone walls streaked with desert varnish rise nearly 1,000 feet on either side. The canyon bottom is dotted with cottonwood and desert willow. The trail is easy to follow and allows the hiker to enjoy the scenery. Early in the morning scope the cliffs with binoculars and you might spot bighorn sheep. There is also the possibility of seeing one of the giant California condors effortlessly gliding through the sky. Spend some time poking around the historic Lonely Dell Ranch where first, John Doyle Lee and later the Johnson family lived. There is an interesting cemetery along the trail where many of Arizona’s pioneers are buried. This is an easy hike and offers its visitors a glimpse into the labyrinth of Arizona’s canyon country.
Spencer Trail Location: Trailhead located a couple hundred yards upstream from the Lees Ferry boat launch. There is a sign and rock cairn where the trail takes off to the left.
Hike Description: The Spencer trail climbs to the top of the cliffs above the Colorado River. This hike is considered difficult and not recommended during summer months or to be done by anyone with a fear of heights. This hike will consume 4-5 hours. Expect to do a lot of switchback hiking. It is recommended that you bring plenty of water, 2-3 liters per person. The view from the top is spectacular (absolutely jaw-dropping, guaranteed) with quiet and solitude not found anywhere else. While overlooking the launch point and the beginning of the trail, you will also be able to vaguely see the Navajo Bridge in the distance. Bring some snacks and enjoy the view once you make it to the very top.
Once you arrive at the top of the hike, you may continue straight-bound for a couple hundred yards and you will be able to see the approximate 6-mile turn of the Colorado River, in addition to the city of Page, Arizona in the distance.
Feel free to explore the area, but be careful not to become lost. It is absolutely crucial that you always have a sense of direction.
California Condors were placed on the Federal Endangered Species list in 1967. Revered as one of the rarest birds, the population has increased to more than 400 condors around the world … about 80 of them near Lees Ferry.
As the largest wild bird in North America, condors can reach wingspans of 9 1/2 feet. With exceptionally keen eyesight, the condors normally nest in caves on cliff faces up to 6,000 feet in elevation.
Part of a reintroduction project to attempt to boost the wild population, there are more condors in the Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry area than anywhere else in the world.
Cliff Dwellers Lodge is conveniently on the road between the North and South Rims of Grand Canyon with access to other National Parks within a few hours. Enjoy our food and accommodations visiting some of the American West’s most spectacular places. Cliff Dwellers Restaurant is open early … a great way to start the day.
North Rim, Grand Canyon
With generally smaller crowds than the South Rim, the North Rim is a quieter way to see the Grand Canyon. While the facilities are closed from mid-October to mid-May, these dates are expected to change soon, adding two weeks or longer in both spring and fall. Check the National Park Service (NPS) website.
South Rim, Grand Canyon
The most developed area of Grand Canyon National Park, the South Rim offers amenities such as bus service, hotels and water stations, but is also more crowded than the North Rim. Scenic highlights include Pipe Creek Vista and Yavapai Point. Use a Grand Canyon National Park Pass or a National Parks Pass.
With beautiful canyons and geological structures, there are plentiful places to experience firsthand. Take a scenic drive through the park in your own vehicle or on a free shuttle. If you are looking for solitude and a quiet place to contemplate nature, take a day to visit Zion. You may purchase a pass at the gate or use a National Parks Pass.
Hoodoos are a tall, thin spire of rock that protrude from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. They generally form the within sedimentary rock and volcanic rock formations that dot Bryce Canyon, a great place to hike, bike or camp. There are several programs geared to star gazing at night. Because there is so much diversity in the landscape, sunrises and sunsets are beautiful. You may purchase a pass at the gate or use a National Parks Pass.
Whatever your interests, there are plenty of things-to-do within an hour’s drive from Lees Ferry Anglers and Cliff Dwellers Lodge:
Created in 1963 when the Glen Canyon Dam was being constructed, it took roughly 17 years for Lake Powell to fill completely. If you were to remove over 500 feet of water, you’d find ancient Anasazi ruins and mining sites, among other fascinating bits of history. Above, you would find yourself surrounded by magnificent rock formations and cliffs.
Lake Powell contains more shoreline than America’s West Coast. The water fluctuates from deep blue to a sea green depending on the time of day and weather.
There are rentals for boats and personal watercraft as well as boat tours that will take you to Rainbow Bridge, Antelope Point or, in the summer, dinner cruises. You can swim, fish, scuba dive or walk along the beach. There is a fee to enter Lake Powell, which you can pay at the gate or you may use a National Parks Pass.
Lake Powell is located approximately an hour away.
Glen Canyon Dam
The Glen Canyon Dam can be viewed from top and bottom. The Dam can be seen from Page, Arizona, and also while on the river from below.
There are nearly continuous free tours of the dam throughout the day. The Visitors Center is located just off of US 89 near Page on the north side of the bridge. There, you can watch short films on the construction of the dam, view photos from the early years of the dam or take one of the free tours down into the dam itself. Outside, enjoy a perfect view of Lake Powell and the Colorado River from the bridge.
The Honeymoon Trail ran right through the Cliff Dwellers Lodge property. It was the historic wagon road linking St. George, Utah with Lees Ferry on the Colorado River; and from there, to numerous settlements throughout northeastern Arizona. The route was used for several years by young married couples from Arizona seeking Temple marriage in what was then the only Mormon Temple west of the Mississippi River.
Much of the Honeymoon Trail is still visible. In some places it can be negotiated by car, although most of it is passable only by foot, horse or 4-wheel drive vehicle. Some sections are located on private or Native American lands. The trail is sporadically marked on public lands from the Lees Ferry area to just east of St. George, Utah.
Dinosaur Tracks at Tuba City
Traveling to Lees Ferry or Cliff Dwellers Lodge from the south, you will pass a dinosaur track-way that deserves a visit. Or, this can be an easy side trip from Cliff Dwellers Lodge. It’s about an hour drive.
The area that the tracks lie in is the 160 to 200 million years old Moenkopi formation. When the dinosaurs were roaming this landscape, it was a swamp and low area. There are many visible three toed tracks mostly belonging to the dilophosaurus, a large herbivore. Three skeletons were discovered in northern Arizona in 1940.
Take a short course in astronomy by just stepping outside … and looking up. See how many constellations or stars you can find.
Summer: Scorpius, Sagittarius, the Milky Way, Aquarius, Circlet of Pisces, Cygnus, Cassiopia, Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Draco, Virgo, Libra, Leo and others. Jupiter, Venus and Mars can be seen during various months as well.
Winter: Taurus, Pisces, Delphinus, Gemini, Cancer, Orion, Canis Minor, Canis Major, Head of Hydra, Lepus among many others. Saturn is visible during the late winter months.
For maps and viewing help, visit the science center of the University of Arizona.
For many, a whitewater rafting trip into or through the Grand Canyon via the Colorado River is the experience of a lifetime. And it all begins right here at Lees Ferry.
Since John Wesley Powell’s remarkable groundbreaking trip in 1869, thousands of people have become part of the river-running community. The whitewater trips offered by local certified outfits allow visitors young and not-so-young to travel and experience breathtaking beauty, fierce rapids, ancient ruins, side canyon hikes and the unique geological history of the Grand Canyon. Innovative raft design and multiple generations of qualified river runners have opened up the river as a safe and exciting way to visit one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Many of the river outfits now offer trips for disabled patrons.
Passengers and guides usually stay with us at Cliff Dwellers Lodge and dine at our restaurant before their adventure. The entire river trip follows 279 miles of water from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead. As raft and passengers float through the Grand Canyon, the river drops 1,709 feet to the lake and produces some of the most challenging and exciting rapids in the world. Every day, guests encounter torrent waters and heart pounding thrills. While most river rapids are gauged on a 1 to 5 scale (5 being the most challenging) the Grand Canyon is rated 1 to 10. This fact alone assures an adventure that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.
If whitewater thrills aren’t all you seek, the trip juxtaposes its rapids with serene side canyon filled with trickling streams and spectacular waterfalls. Nestled back in lush riparian oasis, you have the opportunity to explore prehistoric cliff dwellings and commune with the Grand Canyon’s unique and isolated flora and fauna. If you are a geology buff, a river trip allows you to venture back through geological history starting at the age of the dinosaurs and ending 1.7 billon years ago when the Southwest was covered by shallow tidal seas.
To become a part of the Grand Canyon river rafting community, book your trip with one of the 20 certified rafting outfits from our community. These outfits offer different adventure packages to fit the needs of guests. Trips vary in length from 7 to 12 days. Most of the outfitters allow singles or couples to sign up for group trips; or you can spend your time in the canyon with friends and family on charter trips. Lees Ferry Anglers and Cliff Dweller Lodge work closely with Hatch River Expeditions. They are our neighbors and they have been operating on the Colorado River for the past 65 years. They have a fleet of experienced boatmen and offer most of the packages mentioned above as well as four-day trips.
Visit Hatch River Expeditions for more information. No matter how you choose to raft the river, you must get reservations in advance. If you are planning a trip down river and need lodging and food contact us or give us a call at 800 962 9755.