DAYS 25-28 ......................................................................................................................................................... FROM LEES FERRY TO NEARLY TO CEDAR RIDGE

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Day At Lees Ferry (Day 25)

Lees Ferry
September 26, 1884 - Lees Ferry
Day 25 of 44 - Week 4 (Day 6)
Lees Ferry = 0 Miles: Total Trip Miles = 439
Total Trip Average Miles per Day = 17.6:   Average Miles per Day - Week 4 = 11.3

September 24 - 26
September 26 - 27

Note:  A video has been added on (Day 24) of the 5 miles road trip to Lees Ferry.

Original Journal Entry (posted above)
Friday 26
Arose Early to cross the river.  but the arose so we could not cross - made a dug way to land at went up on the Back Bone to examine it went boat riding in the afternoon.  Paid $1.00 per span for feed.

Final Journal Entry (Charles P Anderson Journal - p 6)
Friday Sept. 26.  Arose early to cross the river but the wind arose so we could not - made a dugway out of river - went up on the Back Bone - returned and went boat riding in afternoon.  Paid $1.00 per span for feed again.

Note: I did the same thing.  I crossed the river and went up on the Back Bone (Day 26)   I went boat riding in the afternoon (Day 24).

Anna Anderson (Charles wife) in her life sketch said:  "We (Mrs. De La Mare and herself) were very tired from driving and at the same time holding on to the little children so they would not tumble out.  The road was rough, such big rocks and boulders in the way that going was extremely difficult.  Here made camp and rested for a day and night, very thankful that all was well."

The Andersons spent the day at Lee's Ferry.  Charles went up Lee's Backbone to examine it and went boat riding in the afternoon.  This blog will explore what was there then and what is there today.  Little did Charles know that boating would be the main activity at Lee's Ferry in years to come.  You would be able to cross the river in a kayak as the flow would be controlled by a dam above it.  This video will give you an idea of what the area was like on the day they spent there.  The surroundings certainly have not changed much.  Today we will explore the surrounding on this side of the ferry.  Hopefully this video will give you the feeling of being there. 

John D. Lee for whom Lees Ferry is named

Walking Tours
Lees Ferry Walking Tour

In January, 1874, three young Navajo men were killed in a confrontation with Anglo settlers, near what is now Bryce Canyon National Park.  Tensions ran high between Navajos and white settlers, and Mormon settlers coming through Lees Ferry trickled to a halt.  In June that same year Brigham Young ordered a fort be built at Lees Ferry.  This fort was complete by mid-July.  Tensions soon eased and colonization resumed without incident.  The fort was never attacked, and became a trading post instead.  In March 1876, new ferryman Warren Johnson moved over into the fort where he lived for the next three and a half years. ("Lees Ferry Historic District - A Walking Guide" National Park Service)
Lees Ferry Fort

This building (below) was constructed in 1911 as the headquarters for Charles H. Spencer's gold mining company.  It was the first of eight stone building Spencer put up along the road to the ferry, giving the place the feel of a small village.  When Spencer failed to recover gold, he moved on in 1912 and the office stood empty.  Cowboys, miners, and travelers occasionally camped in the building.  Lees Ferry Post Office was opened in this building in 1922.  Almost no mail was sent or delivered and the post office closed seven months later. ("Lees Ferry Historic District - A Walking Guide" National Park Service)
Lees Ferry Post Office

 Lees Ferry is the launching point for most river trips within the Grand Canyon.  It is approximately one mile upstream from the Grand Canyon National Park boundary.
boat launch ramp

Scattered around the parking lot are these big white flowers
Caution this plant may be poisonous

Charles H Spencer

Ferrying was not the only means of business at this river crossing.  The American Placer Company headed by Charles H. Spencer, set down roots in 1910.  He expected to obtain gold from chinle shale.
the Spencer mining operation in 1911

evidence of the Spencer mining operation today

Investors in Spencer's company built a 92-foot steamboat to improve coal transport and gold production, but it burned most of the coal it transported in the process.  By 1912 the company was shut down.
92-foot paddlewheel steamboat built for the Spencer company
evidence of the paddlewheel steamboat

The Dominguez-Escalante Experience at the Ferry

On our trip we again run into Dominguez and Escalante.  They were mentioned in Day 22 when they arrived on October 25, 1876 at the San Bartolome Campsite.  The following day they approached the Colorado at Marble Canyon, a spot they described as "a corner all hemmed in by very lofty bluffs and big hogbacks of red earth which..... present a pleasingly jumbled scene".  Crossing the mouth of the Paria River, they then made their camp amid the more difficult terrain of what's now Lees Ferry, roughly a hundred yards downstream from the present-day boat launch site.    Two members of the party managed to swim across the Colorado.  They returned having been too exhausted to climb the cliffs on the far side.  Next they built a raft, but three times failed to pole it all the way across.  After eleven days convinced of the impossibility of coaxing their horses (some of which they were in any case by now having to eat) through quicksand and onto makeshift rafts, they gave up.

They headed north instead, managing to climb out of Paria canyon a few miles along, and eventually forded the Colorado on horseback on November 7 at what became known as the Crossing of the Fathers in Glen Canyon. (The Rough Guide to the Grand Canyon by Greg Ward)  It is also called Ute Ford and is about 35 miles north of Lees Ferry.  More can be found  here. The crossing is now under nearly four hundred feet of water in Padre Bay in Lake Powell.

Lonely Dell Ranch Walking Tour

For more information on Lonely Dell Ranch click here or here

Lonely Dell Ranch Historic District

Historic District Map.  Click here for explanation of sites.  The main ranch buildings are about 700 feet up the dirt road from
the parking near these signs.  The tour is about a 1 mile round trip 
"picture window" cabin
pioneer cemeter

One of many stories that can be told at Lees ferry is of Warren Johnson was the ferryman at Lees Ferry for 21 years.  In 1891 death struck the Warren Johnson Family.  Within less than two months four of their children age 5 to 15 died.  Everything possible was done to save them, but nothing helped.  The four children were buried side by side in a small cemetery near a bend in the Paria River.  Belatedly, the cause of death was determined to be diphtheria unwittingly borne to Lees ferry when the Johnson took a family into their home while they waited for the river to drop for safe crossing.  The visitors had buried a child by the side of the trail just days before, dead of an unnamed illness.  Warren John felt forsaken.  He revealed his anguish in a letter to church elders: "What have we done that they Lord has left us?"  Church Prophet Wilford  Woodruff replied that he had done no wrong and urged Johnson to remain steadfast. (Arizona Highways (p16-21)

 Johnson preserved as ferryman at the "Mormon Crossing" for another four years.  Right around the time of his release from the ferry he was involved in a wagon accident that paralyzed him from the wait down.  He spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair ("Welcome Home")

More on Warren Johnson and the trial of his faith can be found in this talk by Elder Faust.

Johnson family headstone

Warren M Johnson

Tomorrow they would cross the Colorado River and Lees Backbone.  It is difficult to imagine Lee's Backbone as a road, but thousands of vehicles passed over it.  The route to Lee's Ferry from the Utah settlements was bad enough, with its long waterless stretches, its deep sand that clung to the wagon wheels and forced the draft animals to strain in the desert heat, its impassable washes. during rainy weather. And the ferry crossing was no picnic, with the swift current, makeshift equipment, and Marble Canyon yawning below.  But it was the Backbone that struck most vividly in the memories of many who followed this route.  The next blog will share accounts from some who made this journey

The beginning of Lee's Backbone just after crossing the Colorado River

anything is possible after crossing the river and the backbone

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