Rock Garden - Grand Canyon Routes

Exploration of Bass Ferry to Copper Canyon, 14 Oct 1991

Mine site visit 12 Apr 1993

The Travelers

Doug Nering and Danny Weimer. This exploration was made during the 2nd day of a trip from Bass to Elves Chasm and back.

The Route

The route connects the bed of Copper Canyon with the Bass Ferry site on the south bank upriver from Shinumo Creek. The recommended direction of travel is from the ferry site to Copper Canyon, although GCT-I page 46 describes the opposite. Apparently this was a well-constructed stock trail at one time, but some critical sections are now obliterated and the route does not seem to be used much by wildlife, as are other old trails.

Bass Ferry

From above the ferry, faint traces of the trail continue downriver past the mouth of Shinumo Creek. The rocky shore opposite the mouth of Shinumo is an accessible, if somewhat steep, detour from the old route, and suitable for camp. Continuing downriver, the faint route crosses a small drainage and goes up the steep slope on the other side to the next bench. A large cairn is sited at the top. Travel is easy but very little sign is visible in the hard soil and the track is difficult to locate, but present.

The route does not go above this layer of reddish soil until it rounds the point into the next drainage. Necessity forces the route upward. After a period of uncertainty, confidence in the location of the route can be regained near the bed of this drainage and as the route leaves the bed along a shelf that must have been a part of the trail.


Beyond this, the route may exist, but is not evident. Some signs of travel tend upward, but may not follow the proper route. An obstacle in the form of a short drop that cuts across all of the slope can be crossed at the highest point by lowering packs and climbing down a few steps with minimal exposure. Another, perhaps better, break may exist lower. Beyond the drop another upward obstacle is present and no good route or sign of travel could be located. In this case we scrambled up onto the next shelf to poor footing above some exposure, and without any sense of certainty the route would continue, and worked up to the point of the slope just below the cliff and the entrance to Copper Canyon.

Copper Canyon

No further obstacles complicate entry into Copper Canyon. The easiest, but not necessarily obvious, line of travel along the slope leads to ancient, but firm signs of construction that continue high along the slope. Here the track follows a very level and firm, but narrow, line of travel. Further into the side-canyon the trail remains just below the base of the Tapeats until a brushy slope leads to the creekbed near the large Tapeats cliff on the opposite side.

Copper Canyon Routes

Six routes converge on this point: 1) just described, 2) downstream to the copper mine, 3) upstream to the Tonto Trail crossing, 4) east to the top of the Tapeats rim, 5) west to the opposite rim, 6) along the west side leading to the Hakatai cable site. Of these: "2" is evidenced by a clear ramp along the east side of the bed with parts continuing to the copper mine and camp. "3" requires climbing over a rockfall at the base of the cliff just upstream and an easy climb up a low fall further upstream. Having followed the streambed once, there is nothing much to recommend it. "4" is the remains of a well-constructed trail that was the route out of the canyon for ore from Copper and Hakatai. This trail starts just below the rockfall. There is a cleared platform here that makes a good campsite. The trail goes to the point of the Tapeats rim directly above and continues upward toward the saddle along the Tonto Trail; it is the best route into the area. "5" leaves the bed opposite "1" and goes north to a clear break in the Tapeats. This route has the flavor of a naturalistic, improved route and comes out near an agave pit. "6" is a continuation of "5" along the base of the Tapeats and was probably a trail to the cable crossing to Hakatai. With knowledge of "4" and "5", and especially with the possibility of water in the streambed tanks, there is no good reason to follow the upper contours of the Tonto through Copper Canyon.

On 12 Apr 93 (a very wet year) pools and trickles were present in the lower bed. The mine shafts mentioned in GCT-I page 46 are encountered a short distance down the bed. Bass would not have had to look very hard to find his copper strike; the vein of ore rises vertically along the east wall. Foundations, timbers, camp and mining implements are scattered through the area. The easy slope near here probably provided a connecting trail up to the route to the ferry. Signs of old trails, prospects, and claim markers are everywhere. A short distance from the copper strike a pool in a slot of the narrow bed ended an attempt to reach the river. Just before this, a tunnel on the left suggests a plan to bypass the narrows going through the wall of this sharp bend. Opposite, an old trail ascends to a prospect high on the slope. The twisted, ancient rock of the bed can be studied for hours.


The river is a convenient source of water at the shore opposite Shinumo Creek. In Copper Canyon there are several rock tanks in the upper granite, but there is no reliable spring. Harvey B. describes using the mine shaft as a well; in 93 water was flowing out of the shaft. The slope to the river downriver from the mouth of Copper Canyon is believed to be accessible. Access to water in Copper Canyon is an important, but uncertain factor in a round trip from Bass Trail to Elves Chasm.


Routefinding is quite difficult and there is no track at all in several sections. The area is remote and obscure and not recognized as a route.


The Shinumo to Copper route is not a shortcut, but it can be interesting to establish contact with an old and nearly forgotten path. There are many sites of historical interest well worth spending time to explore.


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