The Grand Canyon draws in over five million tourists each year and is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World.” But hidden within a 35 mile radius, under control of the local Havasupai tribe, lies something little known to most tourists, yet nearly equal in beauty: Havasupai Falls.
The Havasupai people, which literally translates to “people of the blue-green water”, are native to a region of northern Arizona that’s home to Havasupai Falls (Havasu Falls for short), a waterfall that almost looks like it’s flowing with Cool Blue Gatorade. Despite the inescapable crowds of the Grand Canyon, these turquoise falls are relatively secluded, a well-kept secret of the Havasupai tribe and a small handful of foreigners.
This is largely a result of the local tribe’s understandable reluctance to fully open the gates of their homeland to tourists. They’ve set up a system of camping permits that only lets in a small portion of applicants into the village of Supai, the home of the falls. Even if you are lucky enough to get the permit, you may not be able to afford the helicopter ride, horse ride, or mule ride to assist you in getting there. If this is the case, you’ll have to hike ten miles there and ten miles back — albeit, a beautiful hike, passing red rocks and ancient pictograms along the way.
Once there, though, the views from the 100-foot Havasu Falls are priceless. It’s also a daredevil’s dream; visitors have the opportunity to attempt high cliff jumps and to swim to a rocky shelter behind the falls, both of which run a risk of death. And as if one aquamarine waterfall wasn’t enough, there are three more in the area: near Havasu Falls lie Mooney, Navajo, and Beaver Falls, each beautiful and awe-inspiring in its own way.
The reason for the turquoise color is the high levels of calcium carbonate of the spring-fed waters of Havasu Creek, the source of the four waterfalls. These high levels also create 70 degree travertine pools at the top of some of the falls, making them the perfect swimming holes.
Know Before You Go
Note: As of July 15th, 2016, the Havasupai Tribe has issued a temporary ban on guided tours, based on animal abuse allegations as well as issues with permits. Non-guided tours seem like they are still good to go.