The first thing that strikes me about the town of Page, Arizona is that there are a lot of churches. In just one short, 250-metre stretch of street, I count eleven different denominations: First Baptist Church; Lake Powell Nazarene Church; First Assembly of God; Page Community United Methodist Church; Page Navajo Congregation; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses; Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church; St David’s Episcopal Church; First Southern Baptist Church; and Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. This must say something about the residents of Page, but I’m not quite sure what it is. And I don’t stick around to find out. Page is not my destination, merely the closest staging-post to the place I have come to visit: Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River.
Horseshoe Bend lies roughly five miles southwest of Page on Highway 89. There is an unmissable carpark directly off the highway, and then the viewpoint itself is an easy stroll of little over a kilometre along a clearly-marked, sandy track. It is impossible to get lost. Just follow the crowds.
Despite the close abundance of people, Horseshoe Bend is breath-taking and, like all the best flirts, it doesn’t disclose its final reveal until the very last minute; walking the sandy track there is no suggestion of the magnificent view, which lies ahead, that is naively assuming you haven’t already primed yourself from the ubiquitous photographs of the site on social media, books and TV.
Horseshoe Bend is a deeply––and we are talking very deep––incised meander of the Colorado River, carved into an otherwise predominantly flat landscape. It is hard to appreciate the scale of the natural feature without some human-sized point of reference. Boats on the river below look insignificant. The canyon edge is unprotected and, with such a crush of humanity jostling and selfie-ing for the best view, slightly intimidating. More fun is to scramble across the layered, orange rocks, which surround the area, and find a more exclusive viewpoint for yourself.
The residents of Page are fortunate to have this wonder of nature on their doorstep. It is enough to make anyone pause in contemplation of the divine.
© E. C. Glendenny
Travel writer, E. C. Glendenny, gets a bit spiritual in Arizona.