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Lava Falls, Grand Canyon

BYU Geology club campout adventure, April 2007

A group of intrepid Brigham Young University Geology Club explorers, family, and friends engaged in a rim-to-river assault of the Lava Falls Trail. Don't worry - at only 3,000 feet total elevation gain/loss due to bypassing the Kaibab Limestone, Tapeats and Coconino Sandstones, Hermit Shale and Vishnu Schist sequences, this is the only strenuous, but doable, rim-to-river day hike in the canyon (for us mere mortals, that is). The steep and not entirely pleasant, but certainly scenic, trail accesses the river through the formidable Redwall Limestone via a series of giant lava flows that issued from cinder cones on the canyon rim, walls, and floor and dammed the river at one point. Notice the spectacular Grand Canyon sequences familiar to all across the canyon from us are covered in basalt flows, channels, and cinder cones. There are some occurrences of smooth lava plains in former river valleys that then plunge to lava waterfalls that flowed and solidified upon entering the main canyon.

The photos begin near Mt. Trumbell, where we legally collected mantle xenoliths, which were also visible throughout the National Park trail. We caught some scenic glimpses near the rim and from the top of Vulcan's Throne cinder cone and lava flow field from the night before our hike, then the next morning we headed off on our journey. For the Tucsonans, notice how the territory becomes oddly familiar as we descend into a Sonoran Desert microclimate, complete with barrel cactus and blooming ocotillo. We descended over some tricky basalt cliffs, massive and with columnar jointing, probably from lava interaction with water as it was cooling. Finally, we got to soak our hot and tired feet in the refreshing (but chilly!) Colorado River. We found a nice vantage point from which to watch rafters negotiate the Lava Falls rapids, see videos:

Rafters hit the rapids:

First run

Second run

Third run

After a long and gruelling ascent in 90+ degree heat (bring 1 GALLON of water each just for the way up!!), we arrived at the rim to nothing but the quiet buzz of crickets, the whir of bats overhead, and the soft glow of a 2/3 moon. Tasty dutch oven meals awaited us at the scenic red rock (Supai Group) Tuweep Campground, from which we took a stroll out to the rim the next morning. The final shot is a sideways glance at poor Colorado City on our way back to civilization.

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Please credit Jani Radebaugh for all pics, thank you!