Kaibab Bridge (Black Bridge)
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.