The Grand Circle Tour – Day Eight (Part 1) – Horseshoe Bend and the Chinese Tourist Invasion

Our plan for the day was to drive from Kayenta to the town of Page, with stops along the way to check out a couple of popular sites.

We stopped on the road into Page at a company offering tours of Antelope Canyon and found out that all tours were booked until at least 4:00 p.m.  Apparently the tours were more popular than we realized, so we decided to head to Horseshoe Bend and save the canyon for later.

Horseshoe Bend is a massive horseshoe-shaped meander in the Colorado River.  It is located five miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  It is about four miles southwest of Page and can be viewed from the steep cliffs overlooking the 1,000-foot drop to the river below.  It is the ultimate Kodak Picture Spot.

 

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The iconic Horseshoe Bend

 

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The ever-cautious Jan approaches the edge to snap some photos.

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The place was an absolute zoo, with a steady stream of cars and buses vying for open parking spots vacated by those leaving.  Statistically speaking, you are probably more likely to die after being run over by an irate Chinese bus driver, weaving his way backward through oncoming traffic, than you are by falling to your death off of the steep cliffs.  We witnessed one such bus driver making slow, backward progress, while honking and occasionally jumping out to scream and shake his fist at the other drivers.

After successfully finding a parking spot, we started the short hike to the edge of the rim. As we crested the first hill, we saw a sea of people that resembled a line of marching ants traveling to and from the rim.  Again, this spot was more popular than we anticipated. Based on the banter we heard, the majority of visitors were foreign and appeared to be overwhelmingly Chinese – probably day trippers staying in other locations.  We could not imagine what visiting would be like in the heat of the summer with the crush of high-season tourists.

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The Crew about to start the short hike to the edge of Horseshoe Bend.
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Steady stream of tourists heading to and from the rim.
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Tourists crowd the edge of the rim – the ultimate selfie spot.

The minor delays and frustrations were definitely worth enduring, because the views were absolutely stunning.  We walked along the rim and witnessed the beautiful, emerald-green river winding through the bend below.  We also spotted a few inflatable boats in the river, possibly carrying groups of Chinese tourists.

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The views from the edge were not for the faint of heart.  Peering over the edge was made even more nerve-racking by the lack of any guard rails.  This is another spot where pictures do not do it justice and you cannot capture the entire bend unless you have a wide-angle lens.

This sizeable section of rock really intrigued me.  It had cleaved away from the edge of the rim and was hanging precariously over the edge.  It would eventually fall to the river below.  That might happen tomorrow or that might happen in a thousand years.  It occurred to me that the many visitors crawling out to the edge of the rock to capture that perfect photo were oblivious to this fact.

 

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Taking bets – When will it fall?

 

As we were leaving, we were in for one final burst of excitement.  The hatch to our minivan popped open, launching Jan’s duffel bag out of the back and depositing it onto the dusty, dirt road.  I sprang from the vehicle and sprinted about 200 feet to retrieve the bag, thinking it was in imminent danger of being mangled by an irate Chinese bus driver.  Several bystanders were kind enough to point out that we had lost a suitcase as I ran past, huffing and puffing.  Once back in the vehicle with the bag, Jan was surprisingly calm.  He did quietly point out that it was probably my fault for not properly closing the hatch.  Although the conversation quickly turned to other subjects, I suspected that this was not the last I would hear of this incident.

SAD POSTSCRIPT:  A few days after our trip ended and we were safely back home, we learned that a 33-year old man from Phoenix fell to his death at Horseshoe Bend.  

4 thoughts on “The Grand Circle Tour – Day Eight (Part 1) – Horseshoe Bend and the Chinese Tourist Invasion”

  1. Very impressive photos! Your vivid descriptions and observations of the very dangerous path and 1,000 ft. drop into the emerald green river issue a warning to beware of the other tourists crowding the edge. Once again, your writing is an excellent complement to the outstanding photos!
    Please don’t get so close to the edge!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for taking me back to one of my favorite places in the world! Remembering how easy it was to escape civilization back in the 1980s, it’s a bit depressing to see how overused the area is today. That said, on a mountain bike it’s not hard to leave the crowds behind.

    Liked by 1 person

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