Lake Powell Lees Ferry

Located 15.3 miles (24.4 km) down the river from Glen Canyon Dam, Lees Ferry is a meeting of the old and the new.

A natural corridor between Utah and Arizona, Lees Ferry figured prominently in the exploration and settlement of the surrounding canyon country. The Lees Ferry and Lonely Dell Ranch Historic Districts offer a glimpse into western pioneer life of the late 1800s.

Lees Ferry continues to be a center of activity. Here, adventurous visitors begin river rafting trips through the Grand Canyon. From April to October, rafters launch their craft for 5 to 14-day trips. Backpackers hiking the Paria Canyon Primitive Area finish their trip at Lees Ferry after a 4-day journey down the Paria River. Highway travelers exploring the area's national parks stop at Navajo Bridge, one of only seven land crossings of the Colorado River for 750 miles (1200 km).A "Walking Tour Guide" of Lees Ferry and Lonely Dell Ranch Historic Districts may be purchased for $1.00 from self-service stands located at either the Lees Ferry or Lonely Dell Historic Districts.

Lees Ferry may be reached from Page by driving 23 miles (37 km) south on Hwy. 89 to Bitter Springs. Then turn north on Hwy. 89A and drive 14 miles (22 km) to Navajo Bridge. The Lees Ferry junction is approximately 300 yards (90 m) west of the bridge, on the right.


Located approximately 100 yards (90 m) upriver from the boat launch ramp on the Colorado River are several historic buildings. The small rock structure, built by Charles H. Spencer in 1913, functioned until 1923 as a post office for area residents and gold miners working the canyons.

The largest and most historically significant building in this area is the rectangular structure commonly called Lees Ferry Fort. Built by Mormons from St. George for protection during the Navajo uprising in 1874, the building later served, in an effort to restore friendly relations, as a Navajo trading post.Farther upriver, from 1916 through the 1950s, the U.S. Geological Survey constructed several buildings from which the water flow of the Colorado River was measured.

Yet farther upriver, the American Placer Company, owned by Charles Spencer, attempted gold extraction from the chinle shale in the early 1900s. A large boiler and the sunken remains of the steamboat Charles H. Spencer can be seen.

Approximately one mile (1.6 km) upriver from the historic district is Lees Ferry's most important ferry crossing site. Here, ferryboats operated from 1873 to 1928. Most of the early Mormon emigrants from Utah, heading to Arizona, crossed the river at this site.


In 1871, John Doyle Lee (for whom Lees Ferry is named) became the first permanent resident of the area. Lee established a ranch on the valley floor within a large meander of the Paria River. When Emma Lee first saw the isolated valley that was to be her home, she cried, "Oh, what a lonely dell," and ever after, the place was known as Lonely Dell. Crops and livestock raised here provided economic support for ferry operators, their families, and others through the 1940s.

Located at the ranch site is a log cabin believed to have been built by John D. Lee in the early 1870s. The small log building near the cabin was used as a blacksmith shop. A fruit orchard of pear, apricot, peach, and plum trees is maintained by the National Park Service, creating a semblance of the historic scene. A long rock building, constructed in 1916 by the Bar Z Ranch, functioned as a hub for cattle ranching activities. Leo and Hazel Weaver, two of many ranch owners, added a wood-frame wing on the east end of the rock house in 1936. The ranch cemetery, located about 200 yards (180 m) northwest of the ranch buildings, contains graves dating from 1874 to 1928. Buried here are four of Warren Johnson's children, who contracted diphtheria from a passing traveler and died within a period of four weeks.


This is rugged country. Temperatures can be extreme, ranging from 0°F in the winter to 110°F in the summer (-18° to 42°C). Flash floods are possible during stormy weather and can occur even when the sky is clear overhead. Always carry plenty of water - one gallon (4 L) per person per day is recommended. Ask at the ranger station for further information and current hiking conditions.

  • One Mile River Trail - This trail starts at the Lees Ferry Historic Fort and follows the old wagon road to the upper ferry crossing site. The two-mile round-trip walk takes about an hour.
  • Spencer Trail - This very strenuous trail, which is not maintained, begins at marker post #6 along the One Mile River Trail and climbs a 1500 foot (457 m) vertical cliff. This trail, an historic route, is extremely difficult to follow. Attempt this hike in cool weather and allow at least three hours to complete it.
  • Cathedral Wash - Parking for this hike is at the second pullout from Hwy. 89A, along Lees Ferry Road. This two mile (3.2 km) hike is not along a defined trail but follows the intermittent stream bed, or wash, inside a narrow canyon with interesting rock formations. During wet periods, be alert for flash floods, mud holes, and plunge pools.

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