"I went native and dreamed away days on the shore of the pool under the waterfall, wandered naked as Adam under the cottonwoods, inspecting my cactus gardens."
Using his imaginative wit, this is how Edward Abbey, the Benjamin Franklin of the American southwest, described his five-week stay in Havasu canyon in the late 1950s.
Havasu canyon is at the heart of the Havasupai Indian reservation. The reservation is located in Arizona on the southern edge of Grand Canyon National Park. Reaching Havasu Canyon requires nearly a 14-hour drive from Orem to the parking lot at Hualapai Hilltop. From there, visitors hike eight miles, descending nearly 3,000 feet into Havasu canyon to the small town of Supai. From Supai, visitors continue approximately two more miles to the campground.
In camp you can hear the soothing white noise of the blue-green waterfalls. The towering waterfalls and shallow pools of Havasu canyon are known around the world. Every year, over 12,000 people visit the canyon. This is such a tremendous number that access to this Eden in the desert is controlled by the Havasupai Indians using a permit system.
There are three major waterfalls in Havasu canyon. They include Navajo Falls (70 feet), Havasu Falls (120 feet), and Mooney Falls (210 feet). Havasu Falls is the most photographed of the waterfalls, but it could be argued that Mooney Falls is the most spectacular. The water in the pools below the waterfalls remains a comfortable 70 degrees year round, perfect for swimming, diving or a good chicken fight. Picnic tables are near most of the pools, so there is no need to return to the campground for meals.
The worst part of an adventure to Havasupai is the hike out of the canyon. As you hike the trail, wiping the sweat from your brow, you cannot help but reflect on the water paradise that you are leaving behind. Is this how Adam felt when he was banished from Eden? The final mile before reaching the parking lot is a strenuous climb of steep switchbacks.
If you are interested in visiting Havasupai, the Outdoor Adventure Center is returning to Abbey’s Eden for its annual Spring Break excursion on March 11 through 15. The cost of the trip is just shy of $200 and includes transportation, permit and food. Those that have participated in this annual trip will tell you that it is worth every Benjamin.
If you participate in one activity with the Outdoor Adventure Center during your undergraduate experience, make it Havasupai. Spring break in Havasupai will be an incredible outdoor adventure.
Wandering Havasu canyon au naturel like Edward Abbey is not advised. After all, there are cacti.