Although The Big Cut of AZ Highway 89 into the Antelope Mesa on the way between Flagstaff and Page represents man’s forceful domination of the landscape it is also inspiring in terms of its engineering and scale. The cut itself is a wide swath of Kaibab formation blasted and chiseled away to let this thin ribbon of asphalt emerge on top of the mesa.
The south side of the plateau offers brilliant views of the Grand Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, and Lee’s Ferry. The north side of the plateau is a impossibly (relatively) flat plateau of grasses, sage, mesquite and juniper.
I love this picture for its stark, graphic display. It looks amazing printed. My scan of this slide introduced a light/halo artifact in the cut but I didn’t feel it detracted from the image.
Perched up high on Antelope Mesa I found this vibrant Yucca. I loved the deep warm colors of the young heart of this plant surrounded by the faded greens and sun-bleached, sharp edges of the fronds circling it.
Here’s a couple views from further up towards Page looking towards the beginning of the Grand Canyon. From bottom of the photograph working up, we have the Paria River coming in from the right. Although it looks dry, it is still 30-40′ wide as it is meandering in an even larger river of sand to finally add its chocolate-brown water to the crystal-clear waters of the Colorado. About halfway up from the confluence is the Navajo Bridge. Up the photograph from there, near the horizon, on the left is the location where the previous photo was taken!
Here’s a close up of the actual confluence and a size comparison with the 2-lane road of Lee’s Ferry. On the left side there is a truck perched above the river.
Driving down to Lee’s Ferry is by far the easiest way to get right up close to the Colorado River — obviously that’s why John D. Lee set up a river crossing here over 130 years ago. In future posts I will show you a much more complicated approach to the Colorado that is for the adventurous traveler.
If you’re like me you love driving and if you love driving there isn’t a more thrilling piece of highway engineering on the way to Page, AZ than “The Big Cut”. Highway 89 rips up side of the Antelope Mesa and provides expansive views of the Colorado River — well, at least the path it carved through the rock below.
I had the opportunity to 4×4 and climb out to the edge of this canyon with a Navajo guide (most of this area is in the Navajo Nation). From here we could see Lee’s Ferry and the confluence of the Paria River with the Colorado River.
I will start you off with one photograph to give you a sense of scale. We’re at the top of Antelope Mesa here, and if you look in the upper right corner… yes, those are people. Our guide and a companion.
This is one of the highest points of the Kaibab formation. Roughly 3,000 feet below us, the sliver of dark just below, is the Colorado River Gorge, in which the river flows another 3,000 feet deeper.
The face on the opposite side is Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon. Here you’ll find a number of small fly fishing lodges, rafting outfitters and is one of my favorite places to stop is the Lee’s Ferry Lodge at Vermillion Cliffs especially because of the 100 or so gourmet beers they have in their collection.