The best views from the South Rim of the Canyon lie east of the Village. Some of it can be seen from the Orange Route Shuttle. The last 25 miles requires you to drive your own vehicle out and back. But the scenery is so much better that if you have just one day, you should drive the Desert View Route and see the Watchtower, the Painted Desert, the Tusayan Ruins/Museum, and the Moran Point Overlook.
The Orange Shuttle route takes 50 minutes plus ten to fifteen minutes per stop. You must stop at Yaki Point (we tried to see a sunset there, but the weather did not cooperate) which offers a fine view of the river from several angles, not to mention top to bottom views of the full spectrum of the Canyon’s geology. The other stops are more than worthwhile if you have a few days, but if not, catch Yaki, and then drive the Desert View Road.
Moran Point on the Desert View Road is named for 19th century American Impressionist Thomas Moran. He was a fiendishly talented artist when it came to painting landscapes of our country’s most spectacular scenery. It wasn’t easy for him – the only way to get to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon was to sign on to somebody’s expedition as painter in residence. But he did that and got there, he endured the hardships of the journey, he set up his easel, and created some wonderful oil paintings of those scenes. On sheer talent Moran falls short of a Monet, a Cezanne, a Van Gogh, but his subjects were so much more interesting that he comes pretty close to the top in the pecking order of outdoor Impressionist artists.
We mentioned Mary Jane Colter in an earlier post. She worked all her life for the Fred Harvey Company, something of a Marriott of that day. The Grand Canyon was popularized by entrepreneurs Kolb and later Harvey. In time the US National Park Service bought them out. But the Canyon has been a tourist attraction as long as there have been tourists. Ms. Colter was among the first female American architects, and she combined a talent for inventing structures on the edge of the Canyon with a knack for selling those ideas to Fred Harvey. The Watchtower, which is at the end of the Desert View Road, is a prime example of those skills. Not one stone was cut or broken. There is a steel skeleton supporting the Watchtower, but the rest is all native stonemasonry. They fitted the rocks into place one by one. That was over 100 years ago. The building yet stands, and in keeping with Fred Harvey’s tradition, they sell a lot of gee-jaws even today.