Monday, July 4, 2011

They Say A River Runs Through It!

While it is general knowledge that the Grand Canyon was formed by the Colorado River, 90% of tourist photos of the Canyon do not show the river itself! In some overlooks the River, at the bottom an an "inner gorge", is invisible, in other places, it may be visible through views afforded by side canyons. The view at left here is from Yaki Point, and while the inner gorge is visible, the river is not.

A few miles to the west, at Yavapai Point, the traditional home of the star party we've spent countless hours showing visitors, not only the stars at night, but the Canyon during the day to get their attention. The Colorado can be seen at 2 spots, this image through a small telescope shows "Phantom Ranch Beach" where river rafters put in to change crews or stop for a meal. It also shows the terminus of the South Kaibab Trail and the suspension bridge where hikers and mules cross the Colorado River. This little spot of the river was a popular telescopic view from the rim where you could usually see hikers or boaters and get a little sense of scale. Note the pair of hikers on the trail just above the river rafts... This is the standard view from the Grand Canyon Village area - no or very spotty views of the Colorado.

Twenty miles to the east is a little different. Out near Desert View, the Colorado comes down from Utah to the north and makes the big turn to the west. The small tributary of the Little Colorado joins in from the east, and the Canyon is much more open, making for easy river viewing. The panorama shot shown here at left is from Lippan Point, a high viewpoint with excellent horizons a couple miles west of Desert View. While viewing the river through my little telescope (480mm F/6 Meade APO lens), I was on the lookout for raft trips to take video sequences as they ran rapids along the river. But alas, no excursions were to be seen that afternoon. I did happen to take a mosaic of a bend in the river that was nice and symmetric in an artsy way, so I show it here. Unfortunately, blogspot limits image sizes to 1600 pixels, so I can't show you the full sized image 10,000 pixels across!

Another thing easily noted about the river, other than it's bashful appearance, is while it is called Colorado, Spanish for "red", the river's color is usually shades of green. That is because since the 60s when Glen Canyon Dam was built, the red silt that gave the mighty river it's color, now settles out above the dam. You occasionally see some red tints when rainfall brings in silt from the side canyons, but green is now it's normal color.


David A. Harvey said...

Awesome shots and info Dean! What 480mm F/6 optics from Meade are you referring to?

Dean said...

It is a triplet APO (80mm F/6) that Meade used to make a few years ago. It was a smokin' deal, only about $500 as I recall, with excellent color correction. Almost all my bird shots at Whitewater are taken with it, even though it is a stop or two slower and lacks auto-focus over your humongo-lenses (admittedly at quite a few grand savings!). -Dean