Reconnaissance of Salt Trail Canyon, Little Colorado, Beamer Trail and Tanner Trail
October 3-6, 1956 by Dan E. Davis, Supervisory Park Ranger
On October 3, Rangers Iverson, Hoener, and myself left Grand Canyon Village at 5:00am, picked up District ranger Lynch at Desert View and continued. A flat tire in Dead Indian canyon made it necessary to borrow a pick-up at Cameron as we didnt want to leave the main highway without a spare tire.
After leaving the highway at Cedar Ridge we followed the attached USGS roadlog and arrived at the head of the trail with a minimum of trouble. The road log is quite accurate, but many roads and intersections are not shown, but by keeping Gold Hill and Cedar Mountain lined up you will end up in the right place. The log is accurate to a tenth of a mile from the wash crossing to the end which is the most critical part. The road does not end on the top of the hill as stated in the log, stop at the mileage indicated on top of the hill and walk west down the rocky hill and the trail head is in the middle fork of the canyon with two large cairns marking it.
Iversen and myself started down Salt Trail Canyon at 11:45 am. There is practically no trace of a trail through the first section as it is a jumble of boulders and scree. After the Supai Formation is reached in the main canyon the route stays on the left (east) side of the canyon following a bench in the Supai. There are cairns every few feet marking the route, it could hardly be called a trail but it is the easiest way down.
A crossover is made to the right (west) side of Salt Trail Canyon where the top of the Redwall becomes exposed in the canyon floor. The crossover is well marked with cairns. There are large potholes immediately below the crossover that should hold water for some time after a rain. The trail on the right continues above the Redwall until just a short distance from the Little Colorado where it switchbacks down a long slope, reaching the bottom of Slat Trail Canyon several hundred yards up from the Little Colorado.
We arrived at the Little Colorado at 6:30 p.m. and camped there. Approximately seven hours were required to get to the mouth of Salt Trail Canyon as it was hard walking all the way. Numerous springs empty into the Little Colorado in this vicinity but all were heavy with salt.
October 4 we left camp at 9:00am and proceeded down the Little Colorado. The first fording was short distance below Salt trail Canyon in water chest deep and the current swift. It was necessary to ford four times but no trouble was encountered. For the most part, the left (south) bank presented the easiest going. Besides the fording, considerable walking was done in shallow water and mud and tennis shoes were worn this entire day and I considered them well worth the extra weight in carrying them.
A park boundary sign and a Closed Area sign were put up just inside the boundary on the south side of the Little Colorado. A Government Property sign was put up in the Beamer cabin near the confluence to deter vandalism.
The scenery down the Little Colorado is as spectacular as any I have encountered in Grand Canyon and considerable time was spent taking photographs. Nosing of a trail and no cairns were seen along the stream. There are numerous spots along the stream suitable for helicopter operations.
The Colorado River was reached at 4:30pm and camp was made on an island gravel bar.
October 5. Left the Little Colorado at 8:30am and found the trail with no difficulty. This trail, as near as Ive been able to find out, was built by Tanner but his reasons are not known. Apparently he had no mining interests above the mines in Palisades Creek but may have built this trail, probably in the 1880s to further his prospecting. Several vague references have been found concerning the use of what is now the Tanner Trail by the Havasupai to get to the salt deposits of the Hopi so this could be an old Supai trail. For lack of any other name I will refer to this as the Beamer Trail as Ben Beamers old cabin is at the northern terminus of the trail, along the Little Colorado.
The trail leaves the Little Colorado several hundred yards upstream going up the long sandy slope which is visible from the junction of the rivers and up from the first large clump of tamarisk and mesquite on the south shore. The trail follows along the edge of the Tapeats cliff most of the way to Palisades Creek and although rarely marked with cairns, is easy to follow. Another branch of this trail follows the shore of the Colorado downstream from the Little Colorado to the second small side canyon, about one half mile, and then climbs to the top of the Tapeats cliffs.
This trail, for the most part, is easy to follow and not especially difficult walking except when heading the numerous draws which are jumbled up with boulders and badly washed. Many excellent views of the river are to be had along this route. Fragments of wreckage and clothing were found opposite the TWA wreck.
The trail drops off the Tapeats
cliffs immediately across from the upper (north) outlet of Lava Canyon just above the
Tanner Copper Mine. From there, travel downstream is along the shore until mile 68 where
it again goes over some cliffs for about half a mile. However, we were able to continue
along the shore because of the low water (2,700 cfs at Lees Ferry). When the river
is much higher than that, there would be no route along the shore and the trail in the
cliffs would have to be taken.
Camp was made at the bottom of the Tanner Trail at 4:30 p.m. and a drift pile lit for a signal. The large can of old dynamite at the Tanner mine buildings was disposed of by placing it in the river.
October 6. Left camp at 7:45 am and arrived at the top of the Tanner trail at 3:00 p.m. The Tanner is about in the same condition as last year, no new slides or washouts of consequence but it would be extremely difficult to get stock over it now, it could be done, however, with Supai horses but it is doubtful if the NPS mules could get far on it now. A large number of cairns were built and with the exception of one stretch above the Redwall, where we lost the trail, it should be fairly easy to follow once you are on it.
On the official Arizona State Roadmap (produced by
Arizona Highways Magazine), a dirt road is
shown heading west from US 89 at Cedar Ridge. Cedar Ridge is 43 miles south of Page and 41 miles
north of Cameron. Cedar Ridge used to be a trading post, but all that remains visible now from US 89
is the graded dirt road. This junction serves as our starting point (mile 0.0). This is not the only way to get to the Hopi Salt trailhead, but is the only route I have detailed directions for. The first 16.9 miles are along graded dirt roads.
The directions for the first 17.3 miles are borrowed,
while those of the last 2.5 miles are my
own. The last 2.5 miles were recorded during my last trip in 1991, but not merged into this
document until 1995. The last 2.5 miles are along unmaintained double tracks. Two-wheel drive, high
clearance is all that is required to reach the trailhead (although I have seen passenger cars
there). Don't consider doing this in the dark - it will be hopeless. All distances are
cumulative (not interval).
0.0 Proceed west from Cedar Ridge (Road 6110, if the sign is still there).
6.8 Turn left onto Road 6120. (Road 6110 continues straight.)
7.4 Bear right at fork.
Ignore secondary roads bearing off to the right for the next 2
11.4 Continue straight in a southerly direction. Do not take road bearing to the left.
13.8 Pass wooden shack and a corral. Marble Canyon is visible in the distance on the right.
16.9 Turn right off the southerly
graded main road. The unmaintained road follows a slight
rise in elevation
This is was the easy part. What follows is a
menagerie of roads in various states of repair.
One mistake from now on can get you very lost ...trust me. The forks are numerous and tightly
spaced from here on in. If you get lost, return to the two hogans and corral at mile 17.3 and try
again from there, since it is your best reference point. Generally speaking, if you wander into any
significant drainages along the way, then you are lost. Also if you encounter any true 4WD
roads, you are probably lost. If my mileages stop making sense, turn back, all the way to the two
hogans/corral ...trust me.
16.9 Junction of main road and the turnoff to the first unmaintained road.
17.0 Stay right.
17.3 Two hogans (primitive Navajo
homes) and a corral are located in a slight depression.
Be very careful with your bearings here! Drive right up to the abandoned settlement. As you face the
settlement, you are facing west. As you approach the settlement from the main road, turn left
around the south side of the abandoned settlement, and proceed south, up and out of the slight
depression. Memorize this spot; you may have to return to it. I have tried to take into account
all junctions from here on in; even those in which you clearly stay straight on your current
road instead of veering off onto some faint road. Reset your trip odometer here.
0.0 Two hogans and a corral, as above, with your trip odometer reset.
0.1 Bear right.
0.4 Bear right.
1.1 Bear left.
1.3 Bear right.
1.5 Bear right.
1.6 Bear left.
1.7 Stone hogan visible on the right.
2.0 Bear left.
2.2 Bear right.
2.4 Pass by a large cairn on
the hilltop. Hopi Salt Trail Canyon and the trailhead parking
lot is visible from this hilltop.
2.5 Turnoff to trailhead
parking. Congratulations - hope you find your way out OK.
The following USGS topos are useful, (but don't rely on them for road accuracy);
Altar, AZ, 1954, 15 minute
Blue Spring, AZ, 1954, 15 minute
With respect to the Shinumo Altar map, the route
follows next to the following features, in
- Pass between Tooth Rock and Bodaway Mesa
- Curve Reservoir
- Big Reservoir
- Horse Reservoir
- Elevation Point 5875
The Blue Spring map does not show any of your roads,
but it does show Salt Trail Canyon. Its a
short downhill hike from the trailhead parking lot to the point at which the trail drops off the
rim into the canyon. Scrambling and bouldering is required almost immediately after the drop-off.
Tom Veto, 1995
Another Salt Trail Road Log