Construction companies have begun expanding the parking lot at Horseshoe Bend and as a result the north parking lot has been closed to visitors. The south parking lot – which includes its restroom facilities – is still open, but the small lot wasn’t nearly large enough to accommodate the thousands of people that visited it over the Christmas holiday. The area was particularly busy during the Thanksgiving weekend and the week leading up to, and following Christmas.
But tourists, many of whom traveled to Page specifically to see Horseshoe Bend, were still determined to visit the famous site, and when Horseshoe Bend’s parking lot filled up they parked along the road. ADOT installed barrier cones along the highway last summer, which extend for a quarter mile in either direction from the Horseshoe Bend parking lot, as a measure to prevent people from parking along the road. In recent weeks ADOT also added traffic cones and caution tape to extend the “No parking” zone. But at the spot where the barriers ended, people parked their cars on the side of the road.
It wasn’t just a few cars, but several dozen. The tourists then walked along the road to the Horseshoe Bend trailhead. With cars parked for miles on both sides of the two-lane highway and dozens of people walking along the road it devolved into a rather chaotic, and sometimes dangerous situation.
While visiting the area last Thursday the Chronicle witnessed a passenger van, which had been parked along the road, back blindly into traffic on US 89. It’s also not uncommon to see vehicles parked in the middle of highway 89 while they unload their passengers, or while they wait for a car parked on the side if the road to pull out. U-turns on the busy highway are also common, as is jaywalking.
To take advantage of the large number of people in need of a place to park, two entrepreneurial companies opened up parking lots for the tourists. One company was Horseshoe Bend Tours, which already operates a parking lot in the area, from where they lead guided tours to Horseshoe Bend Overlook, but from the Navajo Nation side of the boundary.
Another group bladed away the sagebrush and created a small make-shift parking lot on Navajo Nation land. They charged those who parked there 20 dollars per car, then an additional $20 per person to shuttle them to the Horseshoe Bend trailhead.
“This place is Crazy Town!” said Jeremy Casum who was visiting Horseshoe Bend from San Jose, Calif., with his girlfriend Stephanie Cain. Casum gestured with his arm as dozens of people walked along the road, crossed the road, with traffic passing just a few inches away. “I can’t believe no one has been run over.”
But despite the chaotic scene, Casum and Cain were among the dozens of cars parked along the road. They locked their car and started walking along the road to Horseshoe Bend.
Anders and Isabella Pautsch, from Norway, came to the American southwest specifically to visit the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon. They too, parked along the road and began the mile and a half walk to the trailhead.
“We’ve already traveled thousands of miles from Norway, then drove 14 hours from Los Angeles to get here, so of course, we’re going to go the last couple miles,” said Anders. “Having come this far, we’d be willing to walk much farther if we had to.”
The area was considerably calmer last weekend, with low enough numbers of visitors that they could all fit into the parking lot without spilling over.
The city council has stated in recent city council meetings they hope the parking lot will be paved, with toll stations, and ready to operate by April 1.