Gazing at Grand Canyon

After leaving Durango, we made our final stop to see Grand Canyon from its South Rim. We visited the North Rim for the first time back in June, and were curious to see how the North and South Rims compare. We also hoped to see condors soaring over the cliffs; a goal that had eluded us in previous visits to the South Rim.

Late afternoon thunderstorm with fragment of a rainbow.

We have it on good authority (the National Park Service) that condors like to soar on the thermals near Grand Canyon Village, so we stayed there for two full days hoping to see those rare creatures. As luck would have it, we saw plenty of vultures, lots of ravens, and a few hawks or eagles, but no condors. We also have it on good authority (our daughter) that condors are huge, and that when they soar close to where you stand on the rim, they look like something out of Jurassic Park coming to eat you!

Colorado River as it looked when it was red.

Colorado River means “reddish river” (or something like that), and the name came from its red-brown water carrying mud and silt to the Gulf of California. Reservoirs created by dams along the river take the mud and silt out of its flow, so the river is usually rather clear as it flows through Grand Canyon. However, we happened to arrive right after a day or two of flash-flooding on upstream tributaries. The photo above shows the river as it probably looked before the dams were built; muddy and reddish-brown.

Most people probably visit Grand Canyon for the unrivaled views, but the area has wildlife, too. The photo below shows one of the elk we saw during our visit. And, like in Yellowstone, we saw our share of tourists trying to see how close they could get without being gored or kicked, and then blaming the elk for feeling defensive.

Young (?) elk near the rim drive along Grand Canyon.

So which has the better scenery, North Rim or South Rim? Having visited both this year, we don’t think you can go wrong either way. The North Rim is a little more difficult to reach, but has fewer crowds and spectacular views. The South Rim is more convenient and comes with more visitor services, crowds of tourists, and its own spectacular views. And if you want to hike, the Bright Angel Trail will take you from one side of the Canyon to the other, weather and strength permitting!

Classic view looking across Grand Canyon towards the Bright Angel Fault.

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