Saturday, July 11, 2015

Phantom Ranch -- Grand Canyon National Park

Phantom Ranch was built in 1922 on a site once used by Anasazi and later Native Americans.  John Wesley Powell and his group camped here in 1869 and Wesley originally named the creek "Silver Creek" but later changed it to "Bright Angel Creek" when he wrote about his trip. President Teddy Roosevelt stayed in this area in 1913 on a hunting expedition, and his love of the canyon helped propel it into the National Park System in 1919.

Phantom Ranch's elevation is 2,460 feet, about 4,800 feet lower than the south Rim and about 5,800 feet lower than the North Rim. The average daily high and low temperatures range from  106 to 78°F during July and 56 to 36°F in January. This represents a wide differential from temperatures at the South Rim with the average daily high and low temperatures of 84 to 54°F in July and 41 to 18°F in January.  The South Rim averages 58 inches of snow and Phantom Ranch less than 1 inch.

Phantom Ranch offers cabins, two dormitories each for men and women, a restaurant (serving only people who book meals ahead of time), a mule corral, emergency medical facilities, a ranger station, the Bright Angel Campground, a beach that is frequently visited by Colorado River rafters, and a heliport. Cottonwood trees line the creeks and shade the buildings.  The only modes of access to the ranch are foot trails (also used by mules) and the Colorado River. The North Kaibab Trail leads 14 miles to the North Rim. The 9.3 mile trail to the South Rim follows the River Trail for two miles and then climbs the Bright Angel Trail to Grand Canyon Village. 

The two suspension trail bridges near the ranch (Silver Bridge and Black Bridge) are the only Colorado River crossings within a several-hundred-mile span in the area.  In the foreground in this photo you see the Silver Bridge and beyond it the Black Bridge.

The black bridge is at the end of the South Kaibab Trail and has wooden planking as its decking because mule trains use it and mules will not walk on a surface they can see through.  When the older black bridge was built in 1928 it was the only bridge crossing the Colorado for 350 miles. The cables for the black bridge were carried down from the South Rim by Indians in 1928. Each cable was 600 feet long, weighed over a ton, and required 42 Indians per cable to snake down the switchbacks of South Kaibab Trail.


The silver suspension bridge is built about a half mile down river and carries foot traffic to the Bright Angel Trail and also carries the water pipe which transports water from Roaring Springs to the South Rim (see the photos on my North Kaibab Trail page for more info on the water system.)

This is the main building at Phantom Ranch, housing their office,  snack shop, kitchen, and dining room/meeting room. When I was there in 1985 and 1989, breakfasts were family style and wonderful! Lunches were sack lunches of sandwiches, fruit, and cookies. Suppers were a choice of steak or their all-in-one-pot-stew, both of which were fantastic. Snack items include candy, chips, pop, lemonade, etc. and are available for several hours each day. Everything needed at Phantom Ranch, as well as all garbage generated, comes in and leaves by supply mule train (yes, even the eggs!) The price for meals is therefore expensive, but well worth it, especially when compared to your own dehydrated food! All employees have to walk in and out, and they remain down there for a couple weeks per shift, then have a week or so off at the South Rim.

Here's the entrance to the office/canteen/restaurant building seen above.

Deer abound here...

Here are some of the cabins...

This is a view looking down at the entire Phantom Ranch area from the Tonto Plateau on the Clear Creek Trail, about 100 feet above the canyon floor.

The Bright Angel Pueblo is near the Boat Beach on the trail to the Black Bridge.  It was the home for the Anasazi (the ancestral Puebloan people.)

The Bright Angel Campground, located approximately 1/2 mile from Phantom Ranch, offers 32 campsites, including two large group sites, and borders on Bright Angel Creek, into which many of the campers retreat during the heat of the day.

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