July 24, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Clearly, there's nothing like Grand Canyon Skywalk

Clearly, there's nothing like Grand Canyon Skywalk
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July 21, 2007
GRAND CANYON WEST, Ariz.--I'm standing hundreds and hundreds of feet out over and above the Grand Canyon, looking down into it, and yet I'm not falling in.

In fact, I'm on the Skywalk, one of the American West's greatest new tourist attractions, and the pride and joy of the Hualapai Nation, which owns and operates Grand Canyon West, a private resort that is far to the west of the popular South Rim location most tourists visit, and only about a three-hour drive from Las Vegas.

The Skywalk is a glass bridge that juts out into the canyon, 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. Construction of the project began in March 2004. It was supposed to open to the public in the summer of 2006, but for reasons that are not entirely clear--I was told that it may have been because the executive board of the Hualapai Nation changed and that the newcomers didn't like the project, and resisted its completion at first--its completion was delayed for around nine months. It finally opened in March with a gala event attended by the likes of former astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

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I wasn't able to make it to that celebration, though I had desperately wanted to. But when I was thinking about where to go on my CNET Road Trip this summer, the Southwest seemed like a great destination because it would allow me to visit the Skywalk.

So here I am. I arranged for a private tour, and everything is going great except for the fact that I've been told upon arrival that I can't take photographs while standing on the Skywalk itself. I can take my camera to the very edge of it and shoot as many pictures as I want from there--using telephoto lenses, even--but there is to be no photography from the bridge itself. The Hualapai seem to be reserving that right for themselves so that they can sell such images to the tourists who come through.

And, frankly, who can blame them? There are some spectacular shots to be taken from the Skywalk, and it's theirs, so they can do what they want.

The view itself is practically priceless. Well, OK, maybe pricey is a better word. A ticket for adult admission to the Skywalk will run $81, but can cost much more with options such as a horse ride, or a helicopter ride.

Regardless, I'm here, and I'm on the Skywalk, and I'm experiencing exactly what my tour guide told me I would: That my body and my mind are in rebellion because standing on a glass bridge through which you can see thousands of feet down into the Grand Canyon is simply wrong. It's not natural. Unless you're a bird.

For me, it's also a challenge to overcome one of my remaining childhood phobias: fear of heights. And so as I stepped out onto the Skywalk, I did so ever so gingerly, knowing that unless I had a 747 strapped to my shoulder, everything would be just fine, but that I would still be frightened nonetheless.

So I set myself a goal: walk from one end of the Skywalk to the other at a normal pace and look down before I leave. And as I take my first few tentative steps, I can tell it's going to be a while before I satisfy the goal.

Bands of color, and a slow walk
Fortunately, I'm finding a lot to distract me. The view from the Skywalk is simply stunning. This is my first visit to the Grand Canyon, and it is taking my breath away. The scope of it is beyond anything I could have expected. For example, at one point earlier, my tour guide pointed out that far, far below, near the canyon floor, there were two tiny black specks on a flat rock. I looked and looked, and finally saw them. They looked like ants.

They were helicopters. I did a double take.

The colors on the canyon walls, too, are breathtaking. Deep reds and oranges, browns and tans. And the shadows from the clouds above are vast and all-encompassing and beautiful.

But before long, I have to return to reality. I'm still standing thousands of feet in the air, with just some glass separating me from a messy end below. And for some reason, my mind is making me walk very slowly. Walking normally, I find, is nearly impossible.

Fortunately, I see I'm not alone. Nearby several others are having similar problems, though they all seem to be men. Children and women seem to be having no issues at all, and are walking normally, enjoying the experience and looking oddly at us silly men and our trouble.

Again, I let myself get distracted, and I take in the view of Eagle Point, a sacred place on the far wall of the canyon. It is easy to see why they call it that. It is a giant rock formation that, magically, looks just like an eagle with its wings spread. Often it takes a stretch of the imagination to see these kinds of things, but in this case, there's no doubting it. It is an eagle. End of story.

It's getting late, and while I'm loving this experience, I know it is probably time to move on. So I refocus and gird myself for the task at hand: I must walk the bridge normally, not letting my stomach or my mind stop me.

I go back to the beginning and start to walk normally. I don't get far.

I try again. This time I get a little farther, but I realize it's because I'm not looking down. So I return and try again.

Finally, after two or three more false starts, I do it. I look down, I let my belief in engineering--which is not always comforting, I must say--take over, and I walk. I decide to just focus on the beauty below. It's the Grand Canyon, after all. Never mind that it's directly below me. So I walk, and I walk, and it's getting easier. And finally, there I am, at the end, and I've done it.

Of course, this means it's time to leave, and that is a bittersweet realization. This is a truly world-class place, and in some ways, I want to stay. It's getting close to sunset, and with the clouds in the sky, I know it will be a tremendous one.

But, it's time to go, and I decide to move on. I will watch the sunset from somewhere else and leave the Skywalk and its caretakers to themselves.

I hope to return again someday, and I hope you will go as well.

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20 comments

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That's interesting
Wow...quite a different perspective than that of the NY Times:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/19/arts/design/19sky.html?ex=1185422400&#38;en=0f963ad663c06f7c&#38;ei=5070" target="_newWindow">http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/19/arts/design/19sky.html?ex=1185422400&#38;en=0f963ad663c06f7c&#38;ei=5070</a>

or search "Grand Canyon Skywalk" from their homepage.
Posted by allstar919 (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who can blame them? Are you kidding?
Who can blame them for not allowing you to take pictures? Are you kidding? For what it costs, they damn well better give you a camera! Lame.
Posted by Jeff Putz (302 comments )
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Agreed...
No pictures. No ticket. I don't think I'll ever pay to go out on that thing.

The author has "left the building"....
Posted by xcopy (452 comments )
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Restrictions
I was at the Canyon last week and skipped the Skywalk because I was told that you could not bring cameras or any electronic items out on the walk. Did they change the policy?
Posted by tfsilvia (2 comments )
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First positive review I've heard
I've not been there myself, but I have read about five negative reviews of the skywalk experience. It's too remote, overpriced, and the wait is too long are some criticisms I recall. I'm glad you enjoyed it, though.
Posted by freewheel (6 comments )
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Photos
You can't take photos on it?????
Posted by SGCustom (1 comment )
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No Pictures
That's what we do! Take a trip and keep the memories of it on film. I'll ever go there.
Posted by Ada5750 (1 comment )
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Bumpy Ride Getting There
I was so anxious to go after reading about the Grand Opening of the Skywalk back in March, I booked a quick trip and was there 2 weeks later. I had read everything I could find online before going, which wasn't too much at the time, but I didn't find any suprises: I was even prepared for the the long bumpy rocky winding roads. Actually, there was one suprise after getting there, like many I was very suprised and disappointed to find that cameras were not allowed out on the glass walkway. Being a photographer, I was probably more disappointed then most. So I checked my camera bag with security, donned my special booties and out I went. I too have a fear of heights, well it's more a fear of unstable things like ladders. I had no uneasy feeling as I walked around the Skywalk and got a chuckle out of those holding onto the railing and taking baby steps as they walked. I did manage to shoot several photos with my smuggled digital point and shoot camera, pity I couldn't have used my "real" camera to take better shots, but these will do.

I know the Hualapai are doing alot of construction in the area, expanding the airport to accomodate commercail traffic and paving the road in for a smoother ride in. The paving, I believe was expected to be completed by the end of the year, I wonder if any has been started yet.
Posted by ferdilverdil (4 comments )
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no picutes
I think they should allow all photography on the bridge. Maybe they can even have some professionals get under the bridge or on parts not accessible to tourist and take the really good shots. While I'm not a pro (and very scared of heights), I think that if I were to go to something like the skywalk I would want to take pictures. Hopefully they will see the error of their ways and change the policy.
Posted by Michael00360 (58 comments )
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memories
let me get this straight- 24 miles of washboard road- $81.00- no
cameras-this is NOT my idea of a dream trip it's a friggin
nightmare
Posted by waywest (3 comments )
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Some memories have a price
Admittedly I could have done without the bone-jarring 21 mile ride, but it wasn't all that bad and promises to be a paved road soon. I had no problem paying the $50 park entrance fee (which by the way includes alight lunch) and another $25 to walk the Skywalk. I knew how much it was before going and understood that the whole point of the Skywalk is to raise revenue for the tribe. You can take all the pictures you want of the Skywalk itself and of the canyon views from any area except the actual Skywalk.

The purpose of no cameras and other hand held items is to prevent items from being dropped onto the glass surface which is easily scratched. While they do offer a souvenier photo of you while on the Skywalk, which they do of course charge extra for, the shot they take is not the typical shot people would be taking with their own cameras looking straight down thru the glass. So I feel they are genuine in their reasoning for no cameras.
Posted by ferdilverdil (4 comments )
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It's a shame...
That we live in such a techno world that even when going out into nature we scream and cry because we must only use our eyes to view something beautiful.

Shame on all of you that hate because you can't sit in your lounge chair and wag a photo at your buds and make them feel envious that you were there and they weren't!

Get real, people.... Some things are better left natural. Probably why they built a "glass" bridge there, so that you could "see" the beauty of nature. Plenty of other things to take photos of in this world...

Now anybody want to see the pics I took of the UFO with aliens holding up signs... "No Photos allowed?"
Posted by bob1960 (55 comments )
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Their only income
These Indians feel they are so hopeless in this world and can only support themselves by prostituting out the land - work and education must be a white man thing. They don't have to have actual money to start buying Hummers or to even pay taxes on the land. Why can't they learn to survive and stop blaming white man society for killing them off? Yes it was bad, but sulking yourself into an uneducated stupor will not help.
Posted by mikeburek (418 comments )
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Why not share
So not only are the cable companies, phone companies, cell phone companies, music companies, movie companies all on this "People were only born to give us all their money and be our slaves" view of the world, but now this Indian tribe has decided to do the same.

This is upsetting me enough that my new goal in life is to create a company that will actually try to please a customer, not squeeze money.

Is there no other transparent substance available so people don't have to walk around in booties and worry about "dropping a camara and scrating the glass floor?" Because, I know I'm always throwing my $200 camara on the ground. You know, I can always just go grab another one without flinching if the lens gets scratched or out of alignment or the lcd cracks. When I can't find a hammer, I just grab my trusty camara and pound away. Those things are so indestructable.

Has anyone here ever driven through the desert? What happens to your windshield? What, a scratch? Why did you walk on your windshield? Oh, you say the sand in the wind. I see. Good thing they don't have sand or wind at the Grand Canyon. Oh, wait, let me check an encylopedia on that one...

When I first heard about it, I thought it would be mostly transparent. But the pictures of it show humongous steel beam supports and lots of smaller crossing supports. Because of their attitude toward visitors, I will never visit it myself, but it seems that the floor is far from fully transparent. For that price I can get a hotel room at a fancy Las Vegas hotel on the strip. And 2 nights off the strip. And you can bring a camara. And is there still a short time limit? Even Disney World is cheaper for an all day all access pass!

Remember "Field of Dreams"? If you build it they will come. Yes they will, but when you first charge to drive on horrible roads, then charge again to get on the thing, then take away camaras, then prod people along quickly to fit more "cattle" onto you money squeezer, you will turn many many people away.

What if visitors were respected? What if you told a visitor "Look at this beautiful landscape. Please, just a small charge to help us keep it up." Think of how many people would say "Wow! I have respect for this. Please, here's more a big donation to preserve this. I want to be a better person."

Instead, at least for me, I would say "Dang, $80, a poke in the ribs, not even a picture, and a order for new car shocks. Yeah, that's nice, lets go home and drive the Hummer in city traffic and sit inside and watch tv."

P.S. Did you know that ancient civilizations like the Romans and Greeks and even up to somewhere around the 18th century, they were all time travelers. Yeah, see, they had some rugged land and wanted it smoothed out. So they just flipped their communicator open and called for a paving crew. When you go visit Rome, all those streets were really built by people who still have not been born. Really. What, you think people who own the land would get a shovel do-hickey and work to smooth out the land themselves? Ha, you probably are one of those people with pride and ethics. The Indians have been though enough. Everyone mail them money so they can smooth out the road to their only source of income.
Posted by mikeburek (418 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You mean it's made of steel too?? WTF?!!
You said...
"When I first heard about it, I thought it would be mostly transparent. But the pictures of it show humongous steel beam supports and lots of smaller crossing supports. I will never visit it myself, but it seems that the floor is far from fully transparent."...

Since you haven't seen pictures of the actual floor I'm not suprised you assume it's not fully transparent. The entire center of the walkway, aprox. 6 feet wide is indeed completely transparent, free of any obstructions. There is about a 2-3' section on each side of it that has frosted glass to cover any support beams (which is also good for those who are afraid to walk over the clear glass)

But golly, they said it was made of glass...
Why yes, Opie, it is, but you need to have a support system strong enough to hold the loads put on it. Sarcasm is a sign of a simple mind, but I use it to humor you... I'm sure the thinking is that people are clumsy and will accidentally drop things onto the glass, not hammer in imaginary nails with their cameras.

And as to your argument about sand in the wind scratching it, yes the sand in the wind may have some effect on it over time, but I have driven off road in the desert and scratches I've gotten come from rocks hitting the windshield, not sand. The workers there take pretty good care to quickly and carefully clean any dust that settles on the skywalk and its glass walls.

I don't know what makes you think you are rushed off either- I spent over an hour on it and was not once asked to move on nevermind getting poked in the ribs.
Posted by ferdilverdil (4 comments )
Link Flag
Why even go...?
While I do support and honor the Hualapai Indians rights to their land - land that we (white Europeans) stole from them - it'll be a cold day in hell before I pay (that much) money to walk out on the skybridge.

Grand Canyon is a marvelous place, but one can experience a lot of it for "free" (park admission granted). I've ran solo from the rim down to the river and back up again - likely one of my best night time runs ever - as well as hiked the Canyon rim inside and outside the park. Free, part from some water and wear and tear on shoes.

For the less able, just "hanging" in GC village provides a lot of the majestic feelings being close to GC trigger.

But building a modern looking "skywalk" in the middle of nowhere, charging huge money for admission to it, linking it up with helicopter tours, and other (motorized) tourist trappings - for people who drive up from Vegas for a "see Grand Canyon in 4-hours" - thank you, I think we'd be better w/o that stuff.

Instead work on preserving and displaying the wonderful culture, artifacts, and craftmanship of the Hualapai. Don't try to create a modern "trap" in the middle of nowhere - totally out of style/shape with anything within 200 miles or more. That "beast" is better reserved for the Vegas strip. The Hualapai lands would be better if left for hiking and horsebackriding. The canyon is just not itself encrusted with modern buildings and activities.
Posted by euspos (190 comments )
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There is a Native American Village where you can tour through and learn about dwellings of different tribes. Once the entry package is purchased, there are several options that can be added such as; The Skywalk, Helicopter tours, airplane tours. horseback riding and even overnight cabins. So for those of you that take the time to read these comments, please take the time to see that this is not just about the Skywalk, it is about an entire Nation sharing this with you and creating an experience for you like no other. There is also an incredible One Day Grand Canyon White Water Raft , take a look at the web site. When someone writes a comment without really knowing and you don?t take the time to look it up for yourself, you are missing a great thing!
http://www.travelamerica360.com
Posted by greenlex4 (19 comments )
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The Grand Canyon is among the natural wonders of the world, and is among the most visited attractions in the world. Travelers from all over the world come here to admire then canyon, as well as enjoy the remarkable views, and diverse flora and fauna that is to be found here. The Grand Canyon is housed in the Grand Canyon National park, which is one of the oldest national parks in the United States.
http://www.travelamerica360.com/grand-canyon-skywalk-a-chief-attraction-at-the-grand-canyon-national-park.html
Posted by JadeSmith1789 (13 comments )
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