Horseshoe Bend – Arizona’s Bixby Bridge

Michael Chatfield sent me this excellent article. The second half of the article outlines the solutions they are implementing, including fees for parking and viewing the phenomena.

HORSESHOE BEND — In simpler times (before social media), Horseshoe Bend was a quiet yet spectacular stop along a lonely stretch of highway in northern Arizona.

Visitors would wander in from U.S. 89, just south of Page, Arizona, either because they’d heard of the dramatic bend in the Colorado River from locals, or noticed the small sign pointing the way and reacted quickly enough to make the sharp turn.

They would take a sandy path to an overlook where the land dropped away steeply to reveal a canvas only nature could paint — an emerald river hundreds of feet below, tracing a graceful arc at the bottom of sharp-edged cliffs.

A few hundred people might stop each day during the summer road-trip season. In winter, maybe just a few dozen.

But those languid days are long gone, lost in the exhaust fumes of the tour buses, party vans and SUVs that choke an area never meant to hold so much glass and steel. Each day they disgorge thousands of visitors, many from China and Germany and France and Japan.

2 million visitors expected in 2018

for the rest of this article, and the solutions they are implementing, see:

For additional article on bigsurkate re Bixby Bridge issues, see:

Nightmare at Bixby Bridge in Big Sur

10 thoughts on “Horseshoe Bend – Arizona’s Bixby Bridge

  1. Depressing. I remember these changes being implemented in my childhood “wandering ground” of Harper’s Ferry. The park service must do what they do but the sense of history and freedom to see it as it was lived was lost when fences, restrooms, visitor centers and countless parking lots were built. I have never been to this amazing place in Arizona but it was on my bucket list until I read this article. Thankfully, there is still wonder to be found in quiet places of contemplation not “outed” on Facebook or Instagram. Maybe these are our sacrifice until we learn to be real stewards of magnificence.

  2. Thanks Kate and Michael. Good to know that management of crowds is possible. Need to get the county and CCC on board.

  3. Kate, I thought the Arizona indigenous site “Hulapi West- Glass Bridge” would have become the new tourist first choice for The Grand Canyon?

  4. It may be too little, too late, but I’ve often thought that the coast from Point Lobos to Salmon Creek, should be designated a national park or national seashore (like Pt. Reyes), and all residential and commercial development, from the surf to the eastern limits of Los Padres N.F., along this corridor, frozen. With national park/seashore designation would come resources with which to manage tourism. It’s too bad this wasn’t done when Rt. 1 was completed, or even when we camped with the Honest John (“Peace in the Vvalley, we’ll start the revolution tomorrow”) and the gang of hippies at Garrapata in 1969) when land values were reasonable, and before the ugly mass of homes clinging to the cliffs began their sprawl southward from Carmel. (If tourists could see what it looks like from the ocean side, there would be a revolt.) We enjoyed our brief visit midweek this August (traffic and parking not as bad as this blog led me to believe it would be,) but, as beautiful as it still is, I’m no longer sure I would want to live in the vicinity of Big Sur, even if I thought we could afford to do so.
    Good luck!

  5. Wow, I met Honest John in the Park in Carmel summer of 1969. Haven’t heard that name since.

  6. Yeah, John would be appear to be asleep near the campfire in the cove where Dowd Creek crosses Garrapata Beach, until someone would show up with a gallon of Red Mtn. wine, at which point, HJ would rise up with a long exclamation “Whiiiiiiiinnne!!!” Once someone spiked the gallon with a dozen hits of acid. We thought we’d all get high, but when the bottle got around to John, he tipped it up, began gulping, and one by one the pills disappeared down John’s throat. The crew at Garrapata would often share a stew of boiled produce salvaged from the dumpster at the Safeway on Rio Rd. (before they started to secure the dumpster)–hence “Garrapata Stew.” Once when Sue (whom I’m still with) and I were returning from our weekly trip to a seafood restaurant in Monterey, we decided to check out the dumptser, and found 50 half gallons of ice cream that, lacking one of the required four flaps for closure, must have just been tossed–they were still hard. So we filled our back packs as full as we could and hitched a ride back to Garrapata in time to treat everyone to dessert. Back then (’69-’71) it seemed every creek, canyon and beach had its own tribe of folks who took the “turn on, tune in and drop out” mantra seriously. (Gentle folks for the most part.) Wish I had had a good camera and thought to start journalling, The DVD “Big Sur: the Way It Was,” on sale locally, is the closest approximation I’ve seen, that recorded what Sur, along Rt. 1, was like back then. (Back in the Wilderness was a whole ‘nother world–I was saddened to hear from the ranger two years ago that the trail to Tassajara via Redwood to Rainbow and Strawberry camps is so overgrown as to be impassable.) I sometimes wonder how many who back then were camping out in the beaches and valleys, rejoined bourgeois society, made it big in the world, now own property in Big Sur, and are bemoaning current beachcombers and “free spirits” trying to do as they once did. I agree it is now way too crowded: just last month, while walking up the trail from Garrapata beach to the parking area along Rt. 1, we had to stand to one side as fully 40 people descended the trail to the beach. And there’s no excuse for those who leave TP & feces exposed, or campfires unattended, or who park in ways that endanger oncoming traffic. I hope you who live and work in Sur can persuade Monterey and state officials to seriously address your concerns– and stop issuing building permits! Make Sur a National Park and find or start a conservancy that will buy private land and restore it to it’s pristine beauty.

  7. I remember the hippie camp at Little Sur in the cypress grove on the north side of the river down by the beach. I was playing in the Lagoon on my belly board while my mom painted, when I heard bongo drums I went to investigate and came across a large group camping there.

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