Located on the western site of the Grand Canyon Skywalk is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Grand Canyon area. While it is widely visited, it is does not form part of the Grand Canyon National Park. The skywalk is a cantilever bridge on the western side of the Grand Canyon. It is a huge tourist attraction. The skywalk is located at height of 4470 feet above sea level and the vertical drop just below the cantilever is at least 500 feet. The skywalk was sanctioned by the Hualapai tribe that also owns it. This cantilever that opened to the public in 2007 can be accessed by the Grand Canyon West Airport. By road it is at least 190km from the city of Las Vegas.
The Hualapai People
The most prominent native American tribe that is found in the area in which the skywalk has been built is the Hualapai People or literally People of the Tall Pines. These people have lived in the region for thousands of years occupying the areas along the Bill Williams River to the Grand Canyon. There are about 2300 tribal member and they have their tribal headquarters in Peach Springs. Although tribe members are involved in other activities like ranching and timber exploitation, most of the locals are now involved in tourist activities.
The skywalk is managed by the Hualapai Tribe and they levy visitors to the cantilever. Certain areas of the skywalk are restricted to the public. Although the Skywalk is the most popular tourist destination in Grand Canyon west, there are other site of attractions in the area.
The U shaped bridge that has a glass bottom is the world’s highest man made bridge surpassing other similar structures by at least 700meters. The bridge overlooks the Colorado river and the west rim of the Grand Canyon. The cantilever was designed by a tourism entrepreneur in the area David Jin with the help of an architect Mark Ross Johnson.
The sky walk has a width of 20m and a length of 21 meters extending from the post closest to the canyon walls. The deck and railings of the cantilever are made of layers of Saint Gobain low iron glass. The deck has been designed to withstand strong seismic forces as well as wind. The foundation of the cantilever has been built to be able to withstand earthquakes of up to 8.0 magnitudes occurring within 80km of the area.
Assembly of the skywalk took place on top of the canyon and a rig was use to put it into place. The weight of the skywalk without counterweights but including dampers and steel box reams stand at about 450 thousand kilograms. At the time the skywalk was being towed into place, it weight approximately 75 thousand kilograms. It took two days to put it into position. According to the design of the cantilever, it is said to be able to support the weight of 71 747 planes that are fully loaded.
The officials in charge of the skywalk project claim it cost about 30 million dollars to put the structure in place. There are also plans to include museum, gift shops, luxury restaurants and a movie theatre. The skywalk is presently managed by the Hualapai Tribe a Native American tribe that controls about a million acres of land in the Grand Canyon area.
There have been a number of controversies surrounding the building of the skywalk. There was widespread disagreement among the community members on the importance of the project. There were those who thought the project infringed on the community’s holy site while others saw the project as a way of increasing the financial profitability of the area. Another controversy was that between the Hualapai tribe and the Grand Canyon Skywalk Development. Some member of the Hualapai committee seized control of the skywalk management. Environmental have also been vocal about the effect of such a project on the natural environment of the area.
Most people who visit Grand Canyon west go there to visit the skywalk that stands at 4000feet above the floor of the canyon. The view from the skywalk is memorable. Tourists can buy tickets to the skywalk right from the airport and at the visitors ‘center. Other tourist activities in the area include white water rafting and hiking. Tourist should note that it is easier to get to the skywalk through Las Vegas than through other routes. It is a two to three hour drive from Las Vegas going by Hoover dam.
Visitors to the area should beware that the site is still a work in progress. Also the temperatures on this side of the canyon are hotter than in other parts of the canyon. Also the skywalk is on a side canyon and not directly above the main Grand Canyon. When it comes to lodging, there are a few around the area but the closest is about one and half hour drive away.