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Whitmore Canyon at North Rim of the Grand Canyon

St. George Jeepers Trail Report - April 11, 2017

Whitmore Canyon on North Rim of Grand Canyon, Arizona

Thirteen vehicles and their occupants met at the intersection of Route 7, Airport Parkway, and BLM 5 at the Arizona state line for a trip to Whitmore Canyon on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The trip was led by Bud Sanders and Dan Gastineau was the tail gunner, or the man who makes sure everyone makes it to our destination.

The weather was pleasant with partially sunny skies, temperatures in the low 70's. After lowering the air pressure in our tires to smooth the ride we departed south toward the Grand Canyon and our first stop the Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is the traditional historical and pit stop.

History of James Montgomery Whitmore - and the origin of the Whitmore Canyon name 

The first settlers at Pipe Spring, Arizona, were Dr. James M. Whitmore, his eight-year-old son, and his brother-in-law, Robert Mclntire. In 1863 the three built a dugout shelter, erected corrals, planted an orchard and vineyard near the spring, and dubbed the enterprise "Whitmore's Ranch." Soon other Utah ranchers, drawn by the high desert grasses and water sources on the Arizona Strip, (all of Arizona north of the Grand Canyon) arrived. Pioneers from Utah soon controlled access to most of the area's water.

In 1854 Navajo Indians began raiding Mormon livestock on the Strip, and by 1865 the raids had escalated. In December of 1865, the Navajos attacked the Mormon militia garrisoned at Kanab where a fort was being constructed.

On January 8, 1866, some Indians raided Whitmore's Ranch and rode away with all of his sheep. Mclntire accompanied Whitmore on an expedition to recover the livestock. When the two men failed to return, Whitmore's young son set out resolutely on foot through the deep snow to summon aid. After floundering through the drifts for a few miles, the lad met a scouting party who relayed the information to the militia. On January 20 the militiamen uncovered the arrow-riddled bodies under a foot of snow. Shortly thereafter, they came upon a band of Paiutes, who, unfortunately for them, were wearing clothing taken from Whitmore and McIntire. The evidence was judged to be sufficient, and the Paiutes were summarily executed.

Title to the land and spring was later secured from Elizabeth Whitmore, widow of James M. Whitmore, that first settler of the area. According to information given to the group at the Bar 10, the names of Whitmore Canyon, Whitmore Point and any of the other Whitmore titled locations were named after Elizabeth who continued on ranching in the area after the death of her husband, James. Elizabeth Whitmore, widow of James M. Whitmore, eventually moved to the Jacob Hamblin Home in Santa Clara with her son.

On the trail toward the Bar 10 

Arriving at the Bar 10 Ranch 

Upon our arrival at the Bar 10, a representative (far right) of the ranch and the Heaton family welcomed the Jeepers and gave the group a brief presentation on the history of the area and function of the ranch. 

Bar 10 Ranch 

Heaton Family, 1983 

"The late Tony Heaton, and his wife, Ruby, were the original founders of the Bar 10 ranch. Their four boys and two girls have been actively involved in cattle ranching and building the ranch since its inception in the early 1970s.

The Heaton “children” are all married and doing their part to produce more Bar 10 cowboys and cowgirls! The Heaton family has been ranching on the Arizona Strip for five generations. Tony and Ruby, bought up small ranches on the Arizona Strip, and ultimately ended up with a little over 10,000 deeded acres and over 200,000 acres of grazing rights on BLM and Arizona State lands.

As was common in these isolated expanses, access to the ranch house was simplified by adding an airstrip to the property. Coincidentally, about this same time tourists began running the Colorado River in rubber rafts. Soon, many hundreds of people were floating down the river through the Grand Canyon, just down-wash from the Bar 10.

When cattle prices fell, and interest rates soared, Tony recognized a business opportunity in the Colorado River. By the time river rafters got to a point near his Bar 10 Ranch, they had already been on the river for seven days, the length of time most people budget for a vacation, and near a person’s maximum enjoyment of the cold water, hot sun, and camping conditions on a Colorado River raft trip.

Tony offered rafting companies the option to end their trip a few days earlier – just below the climactic Lava Falls Rapid, and use his airstrip to catch flights back to Las Vegas. He quickly organized teams of mules, and he and his four young sons were soon bringing wet, sunburned, awestruck tourists up from the river to his ranch. (St. George Jeeper, Kay Crabtree recalls floating the river many decades ago when mules were still in use.)

The journey took one hour by mule to the rim from the inner canyon, and another hour in an old converted school bus to the airstrip where waiting planes would ferry them to Las Vegas. Relieved of their passengers, the large empty rafts would have to continue down through the remainder of the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead before they could de-rig their rubber rafts near Lake Mead.

It wasn’t long before Tony saw an opportunity there too. He worked with the tour operators to restock the boats with a fresh batch of rafters, flown into his ranch. Before long, the dirt airstrip was being used almost daily to fly river guests in and out of the river. That first year in the mid 1970’s, the Heaton’s efforts ferried just 125 people, but by 1983 they were seeing 1,000 people per summer.

At that point, the family decided to build a lodge to expand the experience for the river runners. Tony and Ruby transported all the lumber, brick, windows, and other materials over the eighty miles of dirt road in a cattle truck.

Later they added Conestoga Wagons to provide additional private sleeping and were pleasantly surprised by their comfort and popularity with guests. In 1985, the Heatons set aside the mules in favor of helicopters and quickly saw the numbers of visitors to the Bar 10 Ranch increase to 6,000 per season.

Today there are over 12,000 visitors per year, with the rafting season operating April thru September. The Bar 10 is still a working cattle ranch, as well as becoming the premier recreational destination spot in the area. In addition to river guests, they welcome individuals, families, and groups. Guests are treated to delicious country-style buffet meals, using their own all natural grass fed beef (

The Bar 10 crew provides evening entertainment, and ranch activities that include horseback riding, skeet shooting, hiking, and relaxing. ATV rides and helicopter tours are also available. The one thing that never changes is the genuine, friendly, western hospitality."  -- Information courtesy of the Bar 10 Ranch website.

Bar 10 Ranch

P.O. Box 910088, St. George UT 84791

Phone: 1 (435) 628-4010 Toll Free: 1 (800) 582-4139

Ropin' pit where the city slickers can hone their skills.

From the Bar 10 to the Grand Canyon the run is about 11 miles, the last 7 of which are quite rough and rocky. However, it is at about that point where it got rough the wildflower blooms were stunning. Below, globemallow growing on a rocky outcrop. 

Globemallow blossom, probably desert globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), also known as apricot mallow, desert hollyhock, Mal de Ojo and sore-eye poppy. 

Scenery along the trail.


Banana yucca (Yucca bacatta) were in full bloom. 

One of the most widely distributed of the yuccas, the Banana yucca, has extended its range from the mountains of the eastern Mohave Desert of California across southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and southwestern Colorado as far east as Trinidad. From this northern boundary it extends south and southeast across northern and central Arizona and the greater part of New Mexico into southwestern Texas. The banana yucca is also called the Datil yucca, Spanish bayonet, Spanish dagger or amole.

Sacred Datura or Jimson Weed. 

A pale yellow blossom of prickly pear cactus. There  some 200 species of the genus Opuntia. 

Prickly pear cactus represent about a dozen species of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactaceae) in the North American deserts. All have flat, fleshy pads that look like large leaves. The pads are actually modified branches or stems that serve several functions -- water storage, photosynthesis and flower production. Chollas are also members of the Opuntia genus but have cylindrical, jointed stems rather than flat pads.
Like other cactus, most prickly pears and chollas have large spines, actually modified leaves, growing from tubercles or small, wart-like projections on their stems. But members of the Opuntia genus are unique because of their clusters of fine, tiny, barbed spines called glochids. Found just above the cluster of regular spines, glochids are yellow or red in color and detach easily from the pads. Glochids are often difficult to see and more difficult to remove, once lodged in the skin. 

Tiny, barbed spines called glochids

A prickly pear cactus with beetles probably feeding on the blossom and incidentally pollinating the flower. 

Ocotillo-Fouquieria splendens (commonly known as ocotillo American Spanish: [okoˈtiʝo], but also referred to as coachwhip, candlewood, slimwood, desert coral, Jacob's staff, Jacob cactus, and vine cactus) Ocotillo is not a true cactus. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. With rainfall, the plant quickly becomes lush with small (24 cm), ovate leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months. 

Mexican, or California gold poppy, Eschscholzia californica is a species of flowering plant in the Papaveraceae family, native to the United States and Mexico. It is also a cultivated ornamental plant. It is used medicinally and in cooking. It became the official state flower of California in 1903. 

First view of the Colorado River as the group descends Whitmore Canyon into the Grand Canyon.

Below, desert daisy, Baileya multiradiata and barrel cactus.


A small fishhook cactus (Mammillaria microcarpa) growing from vertical face rock. 

Cholla cactus 

Desert yellow daisies (Erigeron linearis) with barrel cactus, prickly pear cactus and red brome grass. 

Desert yellow daisies (Erigeron linearis) with barrel cactus, prickly pear cactus and red brome grass. 

The Sego Lily, with white to lavender blossoms is a sacred plant in Native American legend. Sego is a Shoshonean word thought to mean "edible bulb." The flower thrives in desert-like conditions. It blooms in May and June. There are about seven variations of the plant in Utah. The white flower species displays three large, waxy petals. Each petal, on the inner surface, shows a distinctive crescent-shaped, purplish marking with a fringe of bright yellow hairs. The plant's leaves, withered by flowering time, appear grass-like and sparse. The pioneers of 1848-49 ate the sego lily bulb to help ward off starvation. Some bulbs were as large as walnuts, but most were the size of marbles. The bulbs were best fresh-cooked because they turned thick and ropey when cool.

By the 1880s those early settlers who had eaten the bulb felt it set them apart from newcomers to the Salt Lake Valley. The old-timers thought that to have suffered through the hard times of the early Utah colonizing showed their tenacity and righteousness. For those pioneers it became a badge of virtue to have been a "bulbeater."

On March 18, 1911, the Utah State Legislature designated the sego lily as the state flower. Early in 1913 the LDS General Relief Society Board chose it as their official emblem. During the First World War the flower became a symbol of peace. Karl E. Fordham's poem "Sego Lily" portrayed the plant as an image of home, mercy, freedom, and peace for the men and women of Utah who were serving on the battlefields of Europe. 

View of the Colorado River looling upriver.

Elden Ericksen and Kay Crabtree enjoying lunch and swapping stories, maybe true, maybe not. There's an old saying among the Jeepers, "Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story."

Karen and Barry Bishop, Carol Steck and Bud Sanders at lunch.

Another panoramic view of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Telephoto shot of rafters on the Colorado River.

Fascinating geology.

View from below the rim looking up at the lava that once dammed the Colorado River.

Lava columns looking straight up from under the alcove.

View on the river looking up to the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Loaded up and heading home after another wonderful spring day in the southwestern desert.

Submitted by Bud Sanders. Scott Goodfellow also contributed photos.

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