Ray is a writer, photographer and video content creator based in Arizona that focuses on the American Southwest region.
Lees Ferry, AZ
The Lay Of the Land
Located in Northern Arizona in an area known as the “Arizona Strip”, Lees Ferry is world renown as a destination for outdoor adventure and a myriad of recreational and outdoor activities. This ruggedly beautiful high desert region is classic “red rock” country with broad valleys, towering red rock cliffs, canyons, plateaus, and even cool forested high country above 8,000 feet elevation that is more reminiscent of Colorado than Arizona. Most of the land in this sparsely populated region is owned and managed by the U.S. Government. It is blessed with multiple and very popular national monuments and recreation areas including one of the crown jewels of the National Park System and one of the 7 Wonders Of The World - Grand Canyon National Park.
The river side boat launch at Lees Ferry is the gateway to the Grand Canyon and is well known to river rafters worldwide as the starting point for white water rafting trips down the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon. In addition, the 15 miles from Lees Ferry boat launch up-river to the Glen Canyon dam (Lake Powell sits behind the dam) is known as one of the best and unique rainbow trout fishing destinations in the World. The consistently cold and clear water (average temp of 47-48 degrees) that flows beneath dam provides an ideal habitat for rainbow trout to thrive and the fishery for the most part has been self-sustaining since the original stockings in the 1970s.
Kayaking The Colorado River
In addition to providing an easily accessible launch for white water rafting trips down the Colorado River, the 15 miles above the Lees Ferry launch to Glen Canyon dam has also become a very popular kayaking destination. Unlike the river below the Lees Ferry launch which requires a permit to visit, this relatively calm stretch of the river (there are no significant rapids) is open to personal water craft and power boats. Since around 2018 Kayaking the Colorado has become an increasingly popular option for individuals to explore this beautiful part of the river with many sections containing 1,000 foot high red rock canyon walls. There are also a number of primitive and remote campsites maintained by the National Park service where intrepid visitors can camp right along the river and can only be reached by watercraft. In addition a number of local outfitters now provide back hauling services to ferry Kayakers up river to popular and dramatic spots like Horseshoe Bend where they can then paddle back down river as a day trip adventure.
A Fly-Fishing Paradise
A chance to fly-fish the Colorado River at Lees Ferry is considered a bucket list trip for many avid fly-fishers. Lees Ferry is widely regarded as one of the best tail water trout fisheries for wild rainbow trout in the country and the dramatic red rock scenery is "off the charts" beautiful. This legendary fishery is routinely featured in major fly-fishing publications both print and online. Anglers have an option to either fish and wade the easily accessible 1.5 mile long walk-in section of the river located just south of the boat launch. Or they can head up-river in a power boat to explore and fish the many miles of accessible river banks, riffles, and beaches. There are also several local outfitters that provide guided fly fishing trips up river as well.
Rare California Condors
The Lees Ferry area, as well as the nearby Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs Monument, also offer the real opportunity for birders to view the majestic California Condor. These extremely rare (approximately 400 in the world) and large birds attract birders from around the globe to view the largest wild condor population. There are several popular viewing areas (including some designated to see these unique and fascinating animals. It's not uncommon to see a few Condors hanging out in the rafters of Navajo bridge which is near the entrance to the Lees Ferry Recreation area.
Other Fun Outdoor Activities
Other popular and year round recreational activities available in the Lees Ferry area include:
- Hiking- The area is blessed with many spectacular and challenging trails in the immediate area. The Spencer trail is a personal favorite.
- Camping- A large and very scenic campsite is located less than a mile from the boat launch.
- Star Gazing - With little or no ambient light or haze, the area in and around Lees Ferry is renowned for stargazing.
- Photography - The stunning and varied red rock country in around Lees Ferry is a landscape photographers dream. You can view landscape images here from the author.
- Sight Seeing- The North Rim of the mighty Grand Canyon is approximately 1.5 hours away. The over look of Horseshoe Bend near Page is also about an hour away.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Ray Redstone
Liz Westwood from UK on December 05, 2020:
This is an interesting article which showcases the activities available in this area very well.