Skywalk at Eagle Point, Grand Canyon West
Grand Canyon West, located on the southwest rim of the Grand Canyon on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, is a very popular destination for tour groups from Las Vegas. The Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass-bottomed bridge projecting out from the rim, has made Grand Canyon West a world-famous destination. Most tour groups arrive by bus or airplane. For driving directions, see Getting There.
Map of Grand Canyon West
Grand Canyon West is open daily all year round. From October through March, hours are 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. From April to September, hours are 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Weekends are the least crowded times to visit, because most of the large group tours are booked out of Las Vegas on weekdays.
For information on Grand Canyon West, visit the Grand Canyon West website, or call 888-868-9378 or 928-769-2636. A number of air tour companies offer tour packages to Grand Canyon West from surrounding cities. For information, see the Air Tour page under Activities.
Grand Canyon West Airport and Bus Terminal
Once you are at Grand Canyon West, all tours start from the bus terminal and gift shop at Grand Canyon West Airport. Private cars are not allowed beyond the designated parking lot, and all visitors must buy one of several ground tour packages. The purchase price includes a permit to be on tribal land, and the basic ground tour to Eagle and Guano Points by shuttle bus. These buses run every 10 to 15 minutes daily. Various options include meals, admission to the Skywalk, and activities such as horseback or wagon rides. Helicopter flights, which include both air-only tours and flights to the bottom of the canyon, can be arranged in the adjoining helicopter terminal.
Eagle Point is the first stop on the shuttle bus loop, and is named for a large rock formation in the Redwall Limestone to the east, which resembles a giant eagle flying toward you. The famous Skywalk was opened in April, 2007, and projects out over the canyon rim. A nearby viewpoint offers views of the Skywalk, the Eagle, the nameless canyon below, and the Colorado River. There are two gift shops, a snack bar, and a small Indian village with examples of traditional dwellings used by tribes in northern Arizona and southern Utah. A canopied pavilion features performances by native Americans from across the country.
Guano Point is the second stop on the shuttle route and is the main viewpoint at Grand Canyon West. It is one of the finest viewpoints on either rim of the Grand Canyon. A fin in the Redwall Limestone, capped by the lower layers of the Supai Group, projects 3,500 feet above the Colorado River, and provides a spectacular view of the west end of the Grand Canyon. Guano Cafe serves a buffet lunch under an open air dining canopy with views of the canyon. From the shuttle bus stop, it is a quarter-mile walk along a broad trail out to the viewpoint. A steel tower here was the South Rim terminal of an aerial tramway built to mine bat guano from Bat Cave on the north side of the canyon. A short spur trail leads to the top of a small hill in the red rocks of the Supai Group, where you'll have a 360 -degree view of the western Grand Canyon.
Bat Cave Mine
The aerial tramway structure at Guano Point was built to mine bat guano from Bat Cave, a large cave in the Muav Limestone located 900 feet above the Colorado River on the north side of the Grand Canyon at river mile 266. Bat guano is rich in nitrates, and has been used to make everything from fertilizer to explosives to cosmetics. The guano deposits in Bat Cave were discovered in the 1930's by a river runner. Two men from Kingman filed a mining claim on the cave and tried to remove the guano by barge, with no success. They sold their interest to the King-Finn Fertilizer Company who tried, also unsuccessfully, to remove the guano by river barge and by aircraft. An airstrip was built on a silt bar left by Lake Mead, but a flood soon washed away the airstrip.
In 1958, the mine was sold to the U.S. Guano Company, which hired a mining engineer to evaluate the mine. The engineer estimated the guano deposit at 100,000 tons, and recommended that the company build an aerial tramway to the South Rim as the best way to extract the guano.
The company leased land at Guano Point from the Hualapai Indian Tribe, and built a new airstrip on the silt bar below Bat Cave to facilitate construction of the tramway. The main span required 9,820 feet of continuous 1.5-inch steel cable, spanning 7,500 feet horizontally and 2,500 feet vertically. A 20,200-foot pull cable was also provided to move the ore bucket along the cableway. The ore bucket could transport six men and 2,500 pounds of guano per trip. The tramway proved to be far more expensive than planned. A mishap during construction resulted in the loss of the main cable, which had to replaced by a new one. Then, after the tramway had been in operation just a few months, it was discovered that the haul cable was frayed beyond repair, and it too had to replaced.
The final blow to the operation was the discovery that the guano deposit contained only 1,000 tons of guano. The remainder of the deposit was actually just decomposed limestone, and the operation ran out of guano and shut down before the end of 1958.
In 1960, a US Air Force fighter pilot, illegally hot-dogging through the Grand Canyon at low altitude, hit the haul cable, severing it and about eight inches of his wing tip. He landed safely, but the incident provoked a lawsuit against the federal government, and the guano company recouped the losses from the destruction of the tramway.
When the north side of the western Grand Canyon was added to Grand Canyon National Park in 1976, the National Park Service initially proposed to remove the mine structures at the Bat Cave, but were persuaded to leave them in place as historic structures. The main cable was cut to remove the aerial hazard.
Read more about Grand Canyon West
We are preoccupied with time. If we could learn to love space as deeply as we are now obsessed with time, we might discover a new meaning in the phrase to live like men. -Edward Abbey