The following is a transcript of the narration for this panorama location. To watch and listen to the narrated panorama, enter the project here at this location and then press the play button.
Here we stand just underneath the Black Bridge, at the point where the one long continuous trail crossing the Grand Canyon between the South and North Rims simply changes name. We are on the north side of the river and the North Kaibab Trail starts here, first heading downstream along the Colorado, then turning to the right into Bright Angel Canyon, quickly reaching Phantom Ranch, and then continuing on its long fourteen mile journey to the North Rim. Cross back across the bridge and you officially are on the South Kaibab Trail, climbing steeply for six miles to the South Rim near Yaqui Point.
The Black Bridge is actually the third bridge to be built to cross the Colorado River at this location. Most of the pioneers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries lead early tourists into the canyon from the South Rim, but there were a few Mormon tourist entrepreneurs that did it from the north. In 1907 they built a cable tramway to ferry to more numerous tourists arriving from the South Rim to a small tourist encampment they built nearby at the current site of Phantom Ranch. The tramway was in service for 10 years until it was wrecked by a flood in 1917.
The second bridge was built by the park service in 1921, two years after the park was created in 1919. It was a suspension bridge like the current one, but it was a flimsy affair – only one or two persons could cross the bridge at a time as it swayed in the breeze. By the mid 1920’s, after construction of the Yaki Trail (today’s South Kaibab Trail), and Phantom Ranch, the park service knew it needed a new bridge capable of handling a much greater volume of traffic, and it built the current Black Bridge in 1928.
The Black Bridge hangs much further up in the air than either the tramway or the 1921 suspension bridge, well above the high water mark of any flash flood that might roar down the canyon, like the one that destroyed the tramway in 1917. That, however, placed the southern end of the bridge right up against a sheer cliff face, so the builder’s blasted a hundred yard long tunnel to reach it, and you still pass through that tunnel coming to and from the bridge today.
Down at the level of the river as we are, the steep walls of the inner canyon have closed in on us and our views of the upper canyon have disappeared. But when we are ready to move on, after tarrying a bit to enjoy the placid green water flowing by, we can cross the bridge and head up the South Kaibab Trail to near the junction with the River Trail, where the features higher up above the inner canyon first start coming into view. Or we can head downstream along the river on the North Kaibab Trail towards Phantom Ranch, but we’ll first stop a quarter mile away at the mouth of Bright Angel Creek, where we can just a glimpse of Zoroaster Temple peeking above the rim of the inner canyon.