A history hike in Glen Canyon
This hike follows the road built by Robert Brewster Stanton for his mining ventures. It follows Glen Canyon upstream along the Colorado River for several miles, starting across the river from the boat ramp at Lees Ferry. Beyond Hislop Cave (actually a large overhang in the Navajo Sandstone)Stanton's Road continues a short distance but will become harder to follow due to washouts. This hike description assumes you just want to see Hislop Cave, a very interesting destination.
In 1889 Robert Brewster Stanton and Frank Brown organized a river expedition starting in Green River, Wyoming. They were part of a company called the Denver, Colorado Canyon and Pacific Railroad Company. Bob Stanton was an engineer, and Frank Brown was CEO of the company. John Hislop was on the trip as well, and carved his name into the cave, which is why it has been called Hislop Cave ever since. Frank Brown drowned just downstream from Lees Ferry, in Marble Canyon, near Soap Creek Rapid (in a small riffle), a few days after Hislop made his inscription. Frank Brown had insisted they not spend money on life jackets. Two more members of the river party drowned soon after, and the expedition was abandoned at Vasey's Paradise and their equipment was stashed in what is now known as Stanton's Cave at Mile 32 in Grand Canyon. They hiked out at South Canyon. Stanton organized a second expedition soon after, and the railroad survey was completed. However, needless to say, the railroad from Green River, Wyoming down the Green River to the Colorado River, through Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon, was never built.
Later on Bob Stanton returned to the area, in 1897 or thereabouts, and with another famous river runner, Julius Stone, formed the Hoskannini Company, a placer mining outfit. They went broke after a few years. This mining venture is not to be confused with the Charles Spencer steamboat fiasco, which also was a mining venture at Lees Ferry. Charles Spencer was in the area from 1910-1912. Stanton and Stone were 10-12 years earlier. Everyone who tried to get placer gold out of the river, or tried to sluice the dirt from the Chinle Formation in hopes of retrieving gold, went broke. There wasn't enough gold to pay for the ventures, let alone to make a profit on it.
To begin the hike along Stanton's Road you will need a kayak, packraft, canoe or rowboat to get across the river at Lees Ferry. It's a very easy crossing. You can even use a cheap inflatable kayak from a discount store, but please wear a life vest. Glen Canyon Dam is only 15 miles upstream. Water coming from the bottom of Lake Powell, from the dam, is 47 degrees pretty much year round. (OR you can take a rough road in off of 89A, drive as far as you can, and follow the river from there.) This description assumes you will use some sort of a boat.
You will launch NEAR THE DOCK at the paved boat ramp used by fishermen, NOT at the wide gravel beach used for downriver expeditions in Grand Canyon. If you have a packraft and want to carry it and launch upstream, you can follow the signs for the River Trail. However, this really will not be necessary.
I used a cheap little inflatable to get across the river. Very easy. I'd suggest paddling upstream first along the shoreline until you spot a small beach and sandy trail through the tamarisk right below a gray metal tower which used to hold a cable car. Paddle up PAST this point before you try to cross the river, (see GPS route) so that when you do paddle across, the gentle drift of the river will pull you right into that beach. You could even hike the river trail, carrying a packraft, and launch it a bit upstream of where you can see that gray metal tower, and get across and float on down to the little beach.
I hid my inflatable behind the tamarisk trees (tammies). But the main thing is that you make sure it's pulled well up above recent waterline, because releases from Glen Canyon Dam go up and down every day. The water could come up a bit during your hike. If you are leaving it on the beach, tie it up. If you are leaving it up behind the tammies you won't need to tie it.
You'll first need to get across a small dry wash, but you will find a horse trail right away which crosses it. This horse trail is going to be your very best friend for some time, because it follows Stanton's Road. Due to erosion over the past 116 years or so some of the rock base of the road has washed away. Keep following the hoof prints of unshod Navajo horses.
Eventually, you'll come to a big "falling sand dune" at the base of Echo Peak. You don't want to get down to the beach here, but stay a bit higher. If you see any cairns, follow those, and you will find a horse trail across the dune, a few hundred feet higher than the beach. You can see on my GPS route how I made the mistake of going too low on my upstream ramble, but corrected it on my return. This part of the hike is a bit of a slog through the sand no matter how you do it.
Once past the dune, just keep following the trail. The huge overhang which is Hislop Cave will begin coming into view. There is a distinct boater's trail leading into the cave. If you miss it, not to worry, you can make your way up the wash below the cave. You'll see a switch-backing trail leading into the cave and you'll find a way to it. Follow this trail. Hislop's inscription will be to your right as you face the cave. There is another inscription, "A Colton" which is also an old one, plus a lot of newer ones. Hislop's name "HISLOP 1889" is carved big, letters about 8 inches high. It's not on the wall of the cave but on a flat slab of sandstone which broke free. I don't know if the slab broke free before or after he carved his name but for sure it has shifted since he was there, because it is sort of wrongside up.
Return the way you came. Don't forget to charge your camera battery before your trip because your views of Glen Canyon and the river are going to be killer.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.