For most Grand Canyon river runners, Lees Ferry is where the river rafting adventure begins! Lees Ferry marks the official starting point of the Grand Canyon National Park and mile 0 of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. This historic river crossing is full of timeworn structures and relics, which can attest to the vital role it played in history.
John Doyle Lee was sent by the Mormon Church in 1872 to establish a Ferry crossing on the Colorado River. At the time, this chosen spot at the confluence of the Paria River, was the only point where one could cross the Colorado River for over 260 miles in either direction. Although this crossing was vital to early Mormon settlers, many speculate the real reason Lee was sent to this remote location was to avoid the law. At the time, many believed that Lee played a major role in the Mountain Meadow Massacre.
If you meander up the Paria River from the Ferry you will eventually run into Lonely Dell Ranch. This was the homestead for Lee and 2 of his 19 wives. The buildings are still standing and the orchard is still producing juicy peaches to this day. Eventually Lee fled this location to avoid the law once again, leaving his wife Emma to operate the ferry. With increasing traffic and a realization of how important the Ferry was to early Mormon settlers, the Church decided to purchase the Ferry from Emma. They sent Warren Johnson and his family to take over operations. Johnson and his sons continued operating the Ferry from 1873 to 1896, and the Ferry continued to operate till 1928.