Navajo Nation Council Rejects Grand Canyon Escalade Project

This 2010 aerial photo shows the area of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade project, near the confluence of the Colorado (left) and Little Colorado rivers. | Courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park

The Navajo Nation has voted down a proposal to build a tram to a boardwalk along the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

The Navajo Tribal Council voted 16-2 to reject the proposal, known as Grand Canyon Escalade, at its meeting last week, the Associated Press and other outlets reported. The vote was the first time the full council had taken up the proposal.

Grand Canyon Escalade would have occupied 420 acres of Navajo Nation land bordering Grand Canyon National Park, including the area around the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. As proposed, the project would have required $65 million in infrastructure investment from the tribe.

Proponents of the project pointed to its potential contributions to tribal employment and the Navajo economy, particularly with the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant near Page, on track to shut down in 2019.

Opponents, though, including environmentalists and outdoors enthusiasts, decried the proposal, saying the land is sacred and that the development would mar the landscape of the Grand Canyon.

Arizona Highways touched on the Grand Canyon Escalade debate in The Mighty Colorado ... It's Not What You're Thinking, a September 2015 feature in which photographer Bill Hatcher and writer Tyler Williams traveled the length of the Little Colorado River from its source in the White Mountains to its confluence with the Colorado River. As Williams wrote:

My mind traced the river's journey from spruce-cloaked mountains to surreal volcanic grasslands, through black gorges and past sandstone monoliths to fantastically blue springs, finally tumbling into pools fizzing like champagne while plunging into the greatest chasm ever known.

That spectacular path seemed too unlikely to be real, as unbelievable as the insult of human infrastructure might be at the river's grand finale.

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