Kaibab or Black Bridge crosses the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, connecting South Kaibab Trail to the North Kaibab Trail. The bridge makes the crossing of the Colorado River safe and possible for hikers and mules headed for Phantom Ranch.

Kaibab or Black Bridge has been a valuable crossing for miners, ranchers - its intended users - as well as hikers and tourists. The bridge is wide enough for a couple of people, and strong enough for a whole team of mules. Hikers eventually overtook those who used the bridge as tourism to the Grand Canyon became more popular.

The construction of the suspension bridge was difficult. Once designated a National Park in 1919, rangers tried to make the canyon more accessible. They created trails from both rims to allow people to hike to the inner canyon. However, there was only a crossing of the Colorado River by way of a large cableway. The cableway could fit one mule (and a person) at a time. The route had been in use since the mid 1800’s by miners and ranchers going to Phantom Ranch. It was so old by the time the Grand Canyon became a park it needed to be replaced or fixed.

Since tourist traffic was increasing through the Grand Canyon, a larger, more accessible crossing was needed. The Colorado River’s swift current in the Grand Canyon was too strong for a ferry. Instead, the National Park Service (NPS) chose a spot to build a suspension bridge that would connect the North and South Kaibab Trails at the Colorado River. The NPS began work on the bridge in the early 1920s. The construction was dangerous because workers faced precarious routes. They used mules to carry heavy loads down to the river and then, once there, had to dangle from saddle-like bags over the river to connect the large pieces of metal cable. Havasupai laborers completed much of the most difficult work, including carrying large wires down switch backs for nine miles to the river’s edge. The suspension bridge was complete in 1928.

Today Kaibab Bridge is part of the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon. The trail starts at either rim of the Grand Canyon and goes all the way down to the Colorado River. Kaibab Bridge allows hikers to get to rim to rim easily and safely. The views taken from the bridge make the long difficult descent worth it.


Arial View of Suspension Bridge
Arial View of Suspension Bridge Pack mules crossing Kaibab bridge in the 1960s. This mule team crossed daily on their way to Phantom Ranch on the north side of the Grand Canyon. Source: NAU Cline Library Josef Muench Collection. http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cpa/id/11933
High Water
High Water The image shows how high the water can fluctuate. During wet years the river can rise significantly. This photo also features a team of mules taking people across the bridge. Source: Northern Arizona University Cline Library George Billingsley Collection. http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cpa/id/116984
Kaibab Bridge Completed
Kaibab Bridge Completed Men standing on exposed rocks on the riverbed during a possible drought year in 1934. Source: Northern Arizona University Cline Library Fred Harvey (Firm) Collection. http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cpa/id/6358
Suspension bridge, 1940s
Suspension bridge, 1940s This is the view of Kaibab Bridge looking up river taken in the 1940s. Notice the sheer cliff walls workers had to be suspended on in order to build the bridge. Source: Northern Arizona University Cline Library Josef Muench Collection. http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cpa/id/11144


GPS: 36°06'03.0"N 112°05'21.1"W


Alex Anthony, Northern Arizona University, “Kaibab Bridge (Black Bridge),” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 22, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/70.