It’s a fitting coincidence that Lee’s Ferry was first witnessed by European explorers in the same year that the United States declared its independence, given the importance it would play in future westward expansion. While Native Americans had long appreciated the area for its access to the water, Spanish settlers noticed the advantage of Lee’s Ferry as an ideal point to cross the mighty Colorado River. As years passed, Mormons from Utah used Lee’s Ferry as gateway to Arizona, building a fort at the crossing point to protect themselves from invaders.
In 1870, John D. Lee, a Mormon fugitive wanted for murder by the federal government, was sent to the landmark that would bear his name to set up a ferry service for the migrating Mormons. Along with two wives and several children, Lee formed the Lonely Dell settlement and began launching boats down the river and through the treacherous “Lee’s Backbone”. It was a rough stretch of water that would be bypassed in later years.
On March 28, 1877, after being discovered by the United States government, John D. Lee was formally executed, leaving control of the ferry he started to a long list of future operators and entrepreneurs. One can imagine the caravans of eager, westward pioneers searching for gold arriving at the shores of the Colorado River on horseback. In 1929, the ferry was rendered obsolete for transportation purposes with the construction of the Navajo Bridge.
Today, as travelers cross the Colorado River high above, anglers can continue to experience Lee’s Ferry in the same way as those early American pioneers. Marble Canyon Outfitters can help make your trip back in time as enjoyable as possible.