Navajo Bridge is one of the architectural wonders of modern Arizona. It encouraged tourism in northern Arizona and southern Utah.
Navajo Bridge spans the width of Marble Canyon along the Colorado River. Constructed of concrete and steel, the bridge is tied for ninth highest in the United States. Ralf Hoffman of the Arizona Highway Department (AHD) designed it, and in June of 1927, AHD contracted Kansas City Structural Steel Company to build the structure. Funding for the bridge came from the State of Arizona and the Navajo Tribal Fund. After completing the bridge in 1929, its architects dubbed it Lee’s Ferry Bridge or Grand Canyon Bridge. Both names did not last long; Navajo leaders and others asked to change it to Navajo Bridge. The State of Arizona agreed to reflect the monetary donations made by the Navajo Nation. Navajo Bridge has been nominated as “Arizona’s most technologically significant highway bridge,” because it reflects the ingenuity of the time in building something that crossed such a deep canyon.
The bridge made a modern connection between the north and south sides of the Colorado River and made US highway 89 possible, encouraging tourism in northern Arizona and southern Utah. There were only ferry crossings hours to the north or south, and often quite limited. The bridge shortened travel time between southern Utah and northern Arizona for both tourism and commerce.
Navajo Bridge remained the only highway crossing of the Colorado for approximately 400 miles in either direction until the 1960s. As traffic and tourism increased, Arizona and Utah constructed new bridges at Glen Canyon and Hite. As the years went by, Navajo Bridge needed repairs and was too narrow for modern vehicles. In 1995, Arizona constructed a New Navajo Bridge to replace the old one. Today, the old bridge is no longer used for vehicle traffic, but is open for tourists and pedestrians.