A view of the Navajo bridges on US-89a at Marble Canyon, Arizona, with the Echo Cliffs in the distance.
The original Navajo Bridge (upstream on the left) was built to provide an easy and safe means of traversing the Colorado River between Arizona and Utah. It was completed and opened to traffic on 12 January 1929. Prior to that the only passage for 800 miles was at Lee's Ferry, an unreliable crossing about 5 miles upstream that was mostly inaccessible during the Summer months when the Colorado River flooded. The ferryboat capsized in June of 1928, seven months before Navajo Bridge was completed. The service never resumed.
The bridge served well for 66 years but quickly became obsolete as traffic increased both in size and volume. It was only 18 feet wide and had a 40 ton limit. Though prohibited, pedestrians frequently walked on the narrow bridge to admire the view, creating a hazard for oncoming traffic had limited views from both approaches to the bridge. In a 13-year period there were 72 accidents at these approaches and on the bridge, of which 8 were fatal.
A new bridge (downstream on the right) was erected to address these issues and it was opened for traffic on 2 May 1995. The original bridge remained in place to accommodate foot traffic, and the views of the Colorado River between the sheer cliffs far below is breathtaking.
Services were expanded at the old rest area on the west side of the bridge to include a new interpretive center. The rest area on the Navajo Nation (East) side of the bridge is now a popular spot for tourists to shop amongst the stalls operated by Native American craft vendors.
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