Photographing down on Havasupai Indian Reservation
Part 2-Navaho Falls
There are four Havasupai waterfalls that extend beyond the village of Supai on the Hasavupai Indian Reservation in southwest Arizona. The first of the falls is Navaho Falls, which is one mile beyond the village. Navaho Falls and the village of Supai experienced a flash flood in summer of 2008, the monsoon season in these parts. No villagers were harmed during the flood due to fast action, but the waterfalls themselves were forever changed. Navaho Falls lost its characteristic waterfalls, but it still retains its layers of moss covered falls and blue green waters. Photographically scenic, but perhaps not as grand as it once was. There is a long retaining fence along the trail to keep people away from the fragile undercut areas caused by the flood’s path. There is a nice swimming hole below the second fall, though it is a scramble to get down to it.
Yet another mile further down the trail is the famous and much photographed Havasu Falls. The layers of cascades and blue-green water, along with the 100 foot falls against the rusty dried-mud looking canyon walls make it a photographers dream. Because of the 2008 flood Havasu Falls also saw a change where the top of the falls dropped down five feet. Now the falls are set down a little below its canyon sides, but photographically this does not change the experience. Because the falls are only ten minutes from the campground, this is a popular swimming hole. So if you wish to photograph the falls sans people get there early. We were there around 8:30 A.M. and there were only a few people versus the hundred or so people that were there on our return hike out. Because this was an 80+ degree day we brought swim wear for a refreshing dip. The water stays a constant 70 or so degrees, so even though quite chilly and refreshing, it was the perfect antidote to a warm day. We swam in Havasu Falls on the way down to the other falls as wells as on our return.
Again another mile past Havasu Falls is Mooney Falls. Mooney Falls might present a challenge to some, in that to reach the falls you need to descend through a cave, down ladders, and large steps, with chains to assist in lowering yourself down. When we were there several pre-teens were just coming out, so that gave me assurance that I could do the descent. That being said, it is not for the faint of heart and care should be taken with footing as you descend. Mooney Falls is a lovely falls. What was entertaining to watch while there was a group of college age boys getting close to the pounding downpour and spray from the falls. The spray from the falls is intense. There is a nicely situated picnic table placed in the water, as well as a picnic in the shade, from which to watch the falls and the swimmers.
Beaver Falls is another three miles past Mooney Falls, so a six mile round trip hike just to return to Mooney Falls. If you stayed in the campground and had two full days in the Canyon, this would be an excellent second day hike. Of course, if you were in the campground and want to to all four falls in one day, you certainly could. But why rush such a beautiful location. We did not make it to Mooney Falls, but did get a great tip from a guide leading a couple of Japanese tourist. He suggested going just a quarter mile beyond Mooney Falls towards Beaver Falls, where we would see what he called his favorite spot of all on the falls trail. To get to this spot and beyond to Mooney falls requires walking through Havasu Creek quite often, so water shoes is a necessity. When we got to the spot, we found what I call a “Garden of Eden” like setting: A moss covered cave with dripping waterfall cascades, set above and surrounded by the blue-green of Havasu Creek against red stoned canyon walls and verdant understory. The small extra effort was an additional highlight.
Because I was hiking and backpacking with a large daypack, I chose to keep my gear to a minimum. I carried a Nikon D7000 with an 18-200mm lens, with a cable release, 2 graduated neutral density filters, a polarizer and a RRS L-bracket on my D7000. I also carried with me a Benro Travel Angel Tripod. I chose this set-up because of the Nikon D7000’s light weight and good high ISO capabilities. I chose the Nikkor 18-200 lens, knowing that with a crop sensor I could get plenty of zoom range. I also knew that I could shoot panoramic images or HDR images since I had the tripod with me. For the most part this set-up was ideal. I just need to get a spouse that is more patient with the photographic process.
To sum up this trip, I would highly recommend this trip for the cultural as well as the photographic experience. Mid-April was an ideal time as the temperatures are warm, but not too hot. The spring flowers are in bloom. The crowds light and the swimming great.