Landing on the Rim of the Grand Canyon

Well, it’s really the rim of Marble Canyon upstream from the Grand Canyon, but it is still a huge thrill. The airstrip is located in restricted airspace and usually you have to be super-careful not to penetrate that airspace. However if you are landing at the strip you allowed to fly there (though you need prior permission to use the strip). The official name is the Cliff Dweller’s airstrip, a wide empty dirt strip that it situated very close to Soap Creek Canyon, one of the deep canyons that branches off of the Colorado River.

On approach. Soap Creek Canyon on the right. South fork then straight ahead and north fork to the right.
On crosswind after overflight. Hwy89 to the left and Soap Creek Canyon on the right.

I had flown into Soap Creek a few years ago and hiked to the Colorado River via the South Fork of Soap Canyon. It ended up in my book on classic flying destinations. I’m writing another book on family adventures and I wanted to redo the South Canyon trek to see how difficult it really is.

But first, we decided to do a technical descent down the North Canyon. Then we would hit the South Fork about halfway down and complete a circuit. The North Fork requires some fairly long and technical rappels.

Lynn at the first big drop on the North Fork Soap Creek Canyon
Graeme on wild rappel. A guy came off his rope and fell here a few years back – and lived!
This was a very awkward and difficult rappel. I ended up almost upside down under that ledge. Safety tip: Don’t hang upside down while rappelling.

We finally made it to the mighty Colorado, not coincidently right at Soap Creek Rapid. We had a bite to eat and then hiked at a decent pace to the confluence and then up the South Fork. We had flown in from California that day, did a technical descent of North Canyon and still had about 4 or 5 miles to go before dark.

One thing I love about this airstrip is that the South Fork canyon comes up and ends midfield! It was getting dark on the hike out and seemingly in the middle of sagebrush and sand the tail of the airplane appears, then the entire plane, then a cooler, then a beer! All within about two minutes!

The next post in this three day adventure: Peek-a-boo and Spooky Slot Canyons

2 thoughts on “Landing on the Rim of the Grand Canyon

  1. Love this adventure Ney. I hope to follow your route exactly someday, including of course landing at that strip.

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