Legend has it that when one of the wives of a Mormon settler came west to this spot on the Colorado River, she declared, “Oh! What a lonely dell!” Hence, the name of the new homestead came to be–and continues to this day–Lonely Dell. For RVers, a lonely spot away from the crowds might just be what you’re looking for. You’ll find a quiet campground alongside a beautiful stretch of the Colorado, not far from Page, Arizona.
Not dubbed with the homestead’s name, rather, Lee’s Ferry is what the Park Service has monikered this 54 site campground. A number of the sites border right on the cliff-side of the river, giving wonderful views of the rolling water, dotted with occasional passing rafters, as not far away is the “put in” for many Grand Canyon float expeditions. It’s said this is a good spot for experienced fishers to maybe pull in a big trout, but we’ve never tried. Rather, we find Lee’s Ferry a place to pull in, set up camp, and just unwind for several days.
The National Park Service charges what seems to be reasonable $12 a night fee for this no-hookup-but-flush-toilets-available campground. Of course, with the appropriate pass in your possession, you can knock that fee down to just $6 a night. If you’re enthusiastic, you can do a self-guided tour of the Lonely Dell ranch site and imagine hand-watering the garden and orchards as the original family did.
Getting There: From Highway 89 near Page, go northeast on Highway 89A. Cross the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado. At Marble Canyon take the Lee’s Ferry Road north about 5 miles to the campground.
All photos: R&T DeMaris
I stopped there once to camp and couldn't find the place to pay for the campground, but happened to run into the camp host who was ecstatic that today was his last day and he was looking for the ranger or whoever was in charge to turn in his 2-way radio. I suppose it was too quiet for an extended stay. The campground was completely empty except for the camp host spot. Maybe we were there the wrong time of year. Anyway we took in the sights and decided to move on.
It's beautiful there. Once, while hiking near the river, we spotted a very shy bobcat. That was exciting.
There is a very intersting history to Lee's Ferry and Lonely Dell. The book "Ferry Woman" (I can't recall the author) is an excellent short fiction (based on fact) about the woman who lived at Lonely Dell. She was one of the several wives of John Lee, a Mormon who was sent off into a sort of exile, while the U.S. Army forces were "investigating" the "Mountain Meadow Massacre" just NW of St. George, UT. Lee's Ferry was named after John Lee, as he operated a small ferry there to cross the river. John Lee was later apparently the sacrificial lamb to take the fall and was convicted and executed as being one of the main leaders of the massacre of a small wagon train of men, women and children. It is a facinating story of history and most of it is easily available to read if you just do a "search" on John Lee or Mountain Meadow Massacre. Under "John Lee", you can find his entire lengthy "confession". This is a facinating story. There is a monument to those killed in the massacre, a short distance NW of St. George. That area is also a very beautiful place to tour and spend some time. I have always found the people of SW Utah to be most pleasant and friendly. I've visited there many times and always wish I could stay longer.