I heard that there were birds at Navajo Bridge. Not just any birds, California Condors, one of the world’s largest and rarest birds.
Now I never really expect to see advertised wildlife. I mean there were supposed to be moose in Montana and Wyoming yet we spent almost the whole summer there and didn’t see even a glimpse of an antler. So I was rather skeptical that we would actually see one of these extremely rare birds.
I approached the bridge with an eagle eye, peering at the walls of Marble Canyon that descended down into the banks of the Colorado River. And there she was, L3, just hanging about in the morning sun. Before long, I was seeing condors everywhere, hanging out on the walls of the canyon and on the rafters of the bridge.
They didn’t seem to mind the tourists walking across the bridge, snapping pictures, and taking in the view of the river that leads down to the Grand Canyon. In fact, I think they liked being seen. After enough tourists gathered, just like the flying Voladores (Mexican Native American acrobats) in Mexico they took to the air.
Before the extinction of many late Pleistocene large mammals, condors ranged across southern North America where they fed on carrion (dead animals). They became limited to the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico when their food sources became extinct.
Condors returned to the southwest in the 1700s with the introduction of cattle, horses, and sheep. But their population began to decline again in the 1900s because of carrion poisoning meant to eradicate predators, as well as illegal collection of condors and their eggs.
Concern for the species led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list it as endangered in 1967. By the early 1980s, the range of the species was limited to a small area of Southern California. Destruction of habitat, lead poisoning, and poaching reduced the California condor population to 22 in 1982.
Eggs from the wild were collected for captive hatching and eventually all wild condors were captured for captive breeding as the population continued to decline. The last wild condor was captured in 1987. The first captive California condors were released in California in 1992.
California condors were reintroduced to the Glen Canyon area in 1996. In 2008, for the first time since the reintroduction program began, more California condors were flying free in the wild than in captivity. Today there are over 500—more than half of them flying free in Arizona, Utah, California, and Baja Mexico.
The first California Condor was seen in Sequoia NP in late May the first time in nearly 50 years.
If you are interested in visiting Navajo Bridge and want to know a little bit more about the individual California Condors you look them up at Condor Spotter.
And, of course, there were other birds at the bridge too.
After our visit to Navajo Bridge, we headed to Lees Ferry, part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We have visited Glen Canyon a few times in the past but this was our first trip to the historical Lees Ferry.
Lees Ferry is full of colorful stories of people seeking riches, explorers and scientists, Mormon pioneers, and a few outlaws. Named after John D. Lee who settled along the Colorado River with his wife Emma, Lee established ferry service in 1873. This ferry was the only crossing place along 600 miles of canyon until the construction of Navajo Bridge in the late 1920s.
Cathedral Wash Hike
Before we left the Lees Ferry and Navajo Bridge area we decided to take a leisurely hike down Cathedral Canyon. It wasn’t as leisurely as we would have liked but the canyon was stunning.
This week I will be sharing this post on My Corner of the World, Travel Tuesday, Wild Bird Wednesday, Through My Lens, and Sharon’s Souvenirs. Check out these links to see what other people are doing all over the world.