Grand Falls remains a popular getaway for summer tourist flow

The face of the falls, now dry. Below lie large tree trunks, seemingly dwarved from the height of the opposite ledge (Photo by Kate Sorensen).

The face of the falls, now dry. Below lie large tree trunks, seemingly dwarved from the height of the opposite ledge (Photo by Kate Sorensen).

GRAND FALLS-Grand Falls is the home of a thriving Navajo community-but it is also a very popular tourist stop. This spectacular geologic site is located near the community of Leupp, north of Winslow and Flagstaff. The falls remain dry most of the year, but regional rains turn this into a spectacular, raging falls said to be higher than those at Niagara.

The Navajo Nation prohibits boating, rafting and kayaking below the falls, however people have run the river downstream, entering the water from a privately owned bank and traveling about eight miles of challenging rapids after snow melt or monsoon rains. Individuals who wish to attempt this trip must obtain permits from the Wupatki National Monument, where rafts and boats are taken off the Little Colorado before reaching Black Falls, which are totally impassable.

From Townsend Winona Road, running north of I-40 between Flagstaff and Winona, visitors will travel on Leupp Road and pass into the Navajo reservation. Just past mile-marker 5, a left turn and 10 miles of washboard-carved primitive road (Navajo Nation No. 70) will take you to the river and the falls overlook. To the right, one can watch locals cross the river in truck or car without benefit of bridge-quite impressive when the water is running. Visitors from elsewhere should exercise extreme caution in attempting this when water is flowing, as sometimes it is too deep for safe travel, and people have been washed over the falls.

A picnic area complete with shaded tables and grills offer a spectacular view of the falls and the meandering route of the Little Colorado, and the trail to the river below is marked with occasional dinosaur tracks and other geological and botanical features. Again, caution must be exercised. One should not go below the rim during regional rainy periods.

Kate Sorensen, who lives near enough to the falls to hear their roar, recounted a time when she and some friends had taken the trail down to the calm pools that lie beneath the falls, and fortunately were on their way out when a wave of water crashed from above-heralding the wild flow of the unpredictable Little Colorado.

"We were lucky," Sorensen remembered.

Non-Navajo visitors are welcome guests of the Navajo Nation while visiting the falls, and as such should respect any cultural features they might accidentally encounter. Long distance hiking from these points is not recommended without first contacting the Office of Tourism in Window Rock.

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