Pierce Ferry Camping Trip

Jet ski trip into the lower Grand Canyon


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The Experience

After I bought my Unimog, I decided that I needed something to pull behind it, so I bought a jet ski. I got the top of the line SeaDoo for that year. It was a fun ski, but later developed many mechanical issues and eventually sank. Fortunately, we did not have any issues with it on this trip. Looking at the map, we decided that it would be fun to go to upper Lake Mead at a place called Pierce Ferry. The plan was to launch at the Ferry and run upstream into the lower Grand Canyon. Since it was Memorial Day, we expected it to be hot (it was very hot in the lower deserts near San Diego). But, we were wrong. We had mostly cloudy skys and rain on several days. And, unbeknownst to us, the water in the river was frigid cold -- 42 degrees. The temperature was not due to the season or the weather, but rather the fact that the entire flow of the river was output from Glen Canyon dam and was that temperature all year around. The photos below are scans of chemical pictures.

A view looking north from the Pierce Ferry campground toward the tail end of Lake Mead. We had clear skys the first day which gave us a false sense of well being.

On the day of our trip into the canyon, it was cloudy, rainy and cold. We wore our 3 mm wet suits, but they were insufficient for the cold water. Plus, we discovered that rain, even light rain, at 50 mph is like getting hit with a BB gun and really stings. We traveled upstream for about 1/2 a tank of fuel and then beached the ski. Here Kathleen shows her style.

The weather generally cleared later in the day and the waters of the lower canyon are calm and smooth.

Here I survey the terrain from a small sand dune at the water's edge.

I am not smiling because my feet are icy cold.

We passed a float trip coming downstream. Here, the group puts ashore for a lunch stop.

Around the 1900s, there was a guano mine in the canyon. Back then, the nitrate concentration in the guano (bat droppings) was used to make explosives. The mine was on the opposite side of the canyon from this shot and there was a cableway that spanned the whole river. The hoist house is visible on the skyline of the mesa near the center of the photo. From here, they pulled cable cars filled with bat shit to the south cap rock for trucking to the factory..

Here is a view of the cave that contained the guano. It is the vertical crack in the center of the photo. The old timers claimed that as dusk fell, there would be a solid stream of bats that poured out of the cave seeking insects.

Here is another view of the cave. Note the hoist tower just below the mouth of the cave. In the 1960s, there was an airplane crash here due to the haulage cable. Some fighter jock was flying low in the canyon and hit the cable and sliced his plane in half causing him to crash.

A view of one of the high canyon walls.

Here is a shot from my jet ski.

A great view of the canyon wall.


To celebrate our successful trip (or more correctly our successful return) we decided to get dressed up and go out to dinner at a nice place downtown. I rented a limo so we could drink. And drink we did. Here Kathleen shows off her new, low cut dress. THAT is what I am talking about! Check out the skeleton ear rings.

If that was on your arm, you would be smiling too!

The trip to the canyon was good but it was early in the season and therefore cold. The water temperature was about 42 degrees and therefore dangerous should you have to be in the water for any length of time. Gladly, we did not have to get in the water.

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