When most people think of the Grand Canyon, they imagine the view from the South Rim—that timeless image of red and brown bands of rock, carved by time and river and wind into points whose massive shadows compete for dominance as the sun sets. That view is nothing short of breathtaking, but it’s only one facet of all that the Grand Canyon has to offer. If you’re planning a Grand Canyon adventure, it’s worth it to take the time to check it out from all the angles you can!
One such angle is from the Desert View Watchtower about 45 minutes east of Grand Canyon Village on far eastern edge of the South Rim. This tower, standing tall at the far eastern edge of the South Rim, was completed in 1932. Designed by Mary Colter, one of very few female architects in her time, Desert View Watchtower was created to blend in with its surroundings rather than stand apart from them.
Until recently, the tower’s main room housed a large gift shop, but in early 2015, the National Park Service was able to purchase the tower from its private owners and undertook the task of restoring the building, its murals, and its adherence to Colter’s vision. Today, Desert View Watchtower functions as "a place to celebrate, share, and learn about inter-tribal cultural heritage," according to the National Park Service.
This is appropriate given the watchtower’s architectural features which Colter drew from Puebloan people from all over the Colorado Plateau. The tower’s main room, for example, is modeled after a Kiva, with a ceiling of logs laid out in a pattern and a fireplace in the center. The interior walls of the second floor are adorned with murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.
Throughout this year, the Desert View Watchtower has hosted shows featuring artists and craftsman from the Grand Canyon’s 11 traditionally associated tribes. Through the Desert View Cultural Demonstration Series, the park, in partnership with ArtPlace America and the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, hopes to provide guests with the opportunity to learn more about the diverse cultures and histories of the region.
And… when you’re on the river, don’t forget to look up. You can see the Desert View Watchtower from the Colorado River!