Category Archives: grand canyon

Walking on Air

In middle school, a friend of mine wrote a terrible, terrible song, entitled “Walking on Air.”  What made it so bad?  Well, those three words were pretty much the entire lyrics.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Got to admit, it showed some grapefruits. 

When I saw this story this morning, I immediately thought of that song.

I also thought that, like the song, it was a good idea on paper, but could be incredibly disastrous.

Controversial skywalk in place over Grand Canyon

POSTED: 10:03 a.m. EDT, March 20, 2007

var clickExpire = “04/19/2007”;

Story Highlights

• Walkway over Grand Canyon to be unveiled Tuesday; opens to public next week
• Glass-floored Skywalk lets visitors look 4,000 feet straight down to canyon floor
• Cost: $25 plus fee to get on Hualapai reservation
• Concerns raised about tribal burial sites, tourist glitz in natural wonder

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HUALAPAI INDIAN RESERVATION, Arizona (AP) — Visitors who have marveled at the Grand Canyon’s vistas will now have a dizzying new option: a glass-bottom observation deck allowing them to gaze into the chasm beneath their feet.

The Skywalk, which will be unveiled Tuesday, is being touted as an engineering marvel. The glass-and-steel horseshoe extends 70 feet beyond the canyon’s edge with no visible supports above or below.

For $25 plus other fees, people will be able to see 4,000 feet straight down to the canyon floor, a vantage point more than twice as high as the world’s tallest buildings. (Watch the view from above the Skywalk Video)

Hualapai Indians, who live near the rim about 90 miles west of the national park, allowed a Las Vegas developer to build the $30 million Skywalk in hopes of creating a unique attraction on their side of the canyon.

Tribal leaders are betting that people will flock here, braving the rugged terrain — including a twisty ride through unpaved roads — to walk its transparent surface. The Skywalk, they hope, will become the centerpiece of a budding tourism industry that includes helicopter tours, river rafting, a cowboy town and a museum of Indian replica homes.

It’s scheduled to open to the public on March 28.

The Skywalk has sparked debate on and off the reservation. Many Hualapai (pronounced WALL-uh-pie) worry about disturbing nearby burial sites, and environmentalists have accused the tribe of transforming the majestic canyon into a tourist trap.

Hualapai leaders say they weighed those concerns for years before agreeing to build the Skywalk. With a third of the tribe’s 2,200 members living in poverty, the tribal government decided it needs the tourism dollars.

“When we have so much poverty and so much unemployment, we have to do something,” said Sheri Yellowhawk, a former tribal councilwoman overseeing the project. “It sounded like a good idea.”

Las Vegas businessman David Jin fronted the money to build the Skywalk. Yellowhawk said Jin will give it to the Hualapai in exchange for a cut of the profits.

Construction crews spent two years building the Skywalk. They drilled steel anchors 46 feet into the limestone rim to hold the deck in place. Earlier this month, they welded the Skywalk to the anchors after pushing it past the edge using four tractor trailers and an elaborate system of pulleys.

Architect Mark Johnson said the Skywalk will support the weight of a few hundred people and withstand canyon winds of 100 mph. The observation deck has been embedded with shock absorbers to keep it from wobbling like a diving board as people walk on it.

Hualapai leaders were to be the first to set foot on the Skywalk on Tuesday. They’ve hired former astronauts Buzz Aldrin and John Herrington to join them. The astronauts were expected to help christen the deck during a brief ceremony.

Herrington was chosen in part because he’s a registered Chickasaw Indian. Aldrin said he agreed to attend after reading about the project. And, as the Apollo 11 astronaut famous for walking on the moon, Aldrin said he has no fear of heights.


Analysis: I would probably wet myself walking on the bridge.  No joke.  It’s a clear structure sticking out over the deepest canyon in the world with no visible support beams?  You can enjoy that, I’ll stick to terra firma.  I did, once, take a helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon.  That was great.  The floor was solid.