The Cliff Dwellers Take a trip into the quintessential west and meet the Cliff Dwellers

The Proper Function

The Cliff Dwellers

The Cliff Dwellers is a unique tale that that takes place the same year Prohibition began in the United States (1920). Blanche Russell was a successful dancer in a series of sophisticated theatrical productions called The Ziegfeld Follies. These Follies were ritzy revues which featured the “Ziegfeld Girls” and top entertainers such as W.C. Fields, Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor, Will Rodgers and many others.

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Blanche left the limelight when her husband Bill was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Unfortunately, the diagnosis came one year before the first vaccine was available. For health reasons, they decided to relocate to the dry Southwest climate as many Arizona visitors do to this day. With their car packed, they started their journey from the east-coast to embark upon a new life. Shortly after crossing the mighty Colorado River, they approached an area called Marble Canyon when their car suddenly broke down.  With several unsuccessful attempts to fix the vehicle themselves, they decided to camp that night amongst the boulders and await help.

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“This would be a great world to dance in if we didn’t have to pay the fiddler.”

– Will Rogers

As the sun rose the following day, Blanche ironically found herself drawn to the natural beauty of the desert. She loved the solitude, bright blue skies and the majestic hanging cliffs. Once their car troubles were resolved, they immediately purchased the land and constructed a unique rock house which they later converted into a roadside trading post. The structure was built with stacked rock against a large fallen boulder.  Wooden framed doors and windows provided a picturesque view of earths antique crust. The original home remains on the property today.

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All Good Ideas Arrive By Chance

Without intent, the Russell’s stumbled upon an innovative idea that would later turn into a very successful business operation. They started serving food to travelers and later found themselves running a full-scale restaurant, trading post and even selling gasoline. The area became so popular, travelers began to refer to the area as Soup Creek or House Rock Valley. This was also a popular destination for members of the Latter-Day-Saints, who travelled to this area to access the Old Arizona Road, which is now know as the Honeymoon Trail. The trail passed directly through the Cliff Dwellers Lodge property and linked members of the church to the temple in St. George, Utah where marriages were sealed. Parts of the trail are visible today, though the majority of the wagon road has faded with the passage of time.

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After a decade, the Russell’s grew tired of the desolate desert and sold the land to a rancher named Jack Church, who later turned the restaurant into a bar. It wasn’t but three years later when he sold the establishment to Art & Evelyn Greene. By 1943, the Greene Family established the first river guide service down the Colorado River. The guided trip included a 60 mile journey on a 450 hp airboat, which burned more than 30 gallons of gasoline per hour. While guiding trips, they continued to manage the trading post until they built the ‘Cliff Dwellers Lodge’ which remains operational today. The Russell’s and Greene family would be proud to know that the lodge continues to serve food, lodging and provide guided fishing trips with the Lee’s Ferry Anglers!

Discovery

Navajo BridgeCalifornia Condors

01_WidePhotoConstruction of the original Navajo Bridge began in 1927 and crosses the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon. Spanning the entire canyon, the bridge carries travelers to southern Utah and the Arizona Strip. Due to high volumes of traffic, a new bridge was built in 1995. However, the original Navajo Bridge still is open to pedestrians where you can keep an eye out for the California Condor! The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 13, 1981.

01_WidePhotoWhile walking upon the historic Navajo Bridge, you can view the California Condor at close range. These birds almost became extinct and was placed on the Endangered Species list in 1967. Following a captive breeding program in 1983, six young condors were released into this area in 1996. The re-introduction is a large success with a total of 71 condors being accounted for within the Grand Canyon region. For more information on Condor viewing areas, please visit the Peregrine Fund.

This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
Arizona
58°
clear sky
humidity: 88%
wind: 4mph NNW
H 58 • L 58
86°
Sun
Weather from OpenWeatherMap
F
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
LocationMarble Canyon
State, RegionArizona,North
Coordinates36.746236°, -111.751183°
DirectionsView on Google Maps
DifficultyEasy
WaterBring
DogsYes
HistoricYes
Time30 Minutes

TPF

Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.