Desert View Watchtower

Desert View Watchtower

Standing on the far eastern end of the south rim of Grand Canyon, Desert View Watchtower offers great views of the Painted Desert, the Canyon and the Colorado River. Be sure to see the stunning artwork that adorns the inside.

The Desert View Watchtower is way-high on our list of top stops. The shuttle service inside the Grand Canyon does not go far enough east to see it, but it is well worth the drive over. The views are magnificent even from the ground, but get up in this 70-foot-high stone building and you’ll be at the highest point on the South Rim and have even better views! You are the closest to the Colorado you’ll get on the South Rim and there’s a beautiful bump in the ground out to the northeast (pictured above) that will leave you wondering – is that a plateau, a mesa or a butte?

The gift shop is on the bottom floor and the upper floors serve as awesome observation lookouts. Desert View Watchtower was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and is part of the Desert View Watchtower Historic District. The interior walls of the tower feature murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. The link below offers more details and history.

“From Desert View… aptly named because of the views to the east of the Painted Desert…you can see the Colorado River make a big bend and continue to the west, the North Rim more than 10 miles away, and a panoramic view for well over 100 miles on a clear day.

The Watchtower dominates the near view. This structure was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter who is often referred to as the architect of the southwest. She traveled throughout the southwest to find inspiration and authenticity for her buildings. The architecture of the ancestral Puebloan people of the Colorado Plateau served as her model. This particular tower was patterned after those found at Hovenweep and the Round Tower of Mesa Verde. Ms. Colter indicated that it was not a copy of any that she had seen, but rather modeled from several.

As you get closer to the building you might see how well it blends into the environment. It is difficult to tell where the rock of the canyon walls end, and the tower begins. She said“First and most important, was to design a building that would become part of its surroundings; one that would create no discordant note against the time eroded walls of this promontory.”

To obtain this result she insisted that the rocks not be cut or worked, so they would not lose the: “weathered surfaces so essential to blend it with the canyon walls”.     – READ MORE

Oh! And by the way, the beautiful bump in the ground I refer to in the first paragraph above, is a flat-topped mesa called Cedar Mountain. A butte is a small flat-topped or pointed hill or mountain. A mesa is a medium-sized flat-topped hill or mountain. And a plateau is a really big flat-topped hill or mountain. So give a prize to the woman who said it went alphabetical according to size! You know who you are!

Desert View Watchtower. A Definite Must-See.

Next Stop: By the Time I Get to Phoenix

Barbara Olson

Barbara Olson

1 Comment

  • Laurie


    December 7, 2014 at 11:24 pm

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