The closure of U.S. Route 89 south of Page has cut that town’s most direct link to the rest of the state, forcing visitors to take a 45-mile detour to reach the picturesque southern bank of Lake Powell. The closure has had a profound effect on Page businesses, many of which rely on tourism. Korey Seyler works at Colorado River Discovery, a river-rafting company. Seyler spoke with Arizona Highways about how his business and the town are coping with the closure.
If you’re looking for a great way to get out of the heat, head up to Page and raft Glen Canyon — or visit the town’s other businesses, which could really use your help right now. For more information on Colorado River Discovery, call 888-522-6644 or visit http://www.raftthecanyon.com.
Tell us about Colorado River Discovery.
We offer full-day and half-day trips on the Colorado River through Glen Canyon. This area is incredibly scenic and beautiful, and it allows people to get on the river and see the canyon from a different perspective. We’ve been in business since 2007, and our owners have more than 70 combined years of experience on the river.
How has the closure affected your business, and what are you doing to mitigate those effects?
It’s had a large effect, not only from an operations standpoint but also in inconvenience to our guests. We used to take people down to Lee’s Ferry and bus them back to Page. Now, with the closure, the road trip from Lee’s Ferry back to Page takes three hours.
To avoid that much of a trip back, we now take rafters back upstream, through Horseshoe Bend. That allows people to experience Glen Canyon Dam, the petroglyphs and some of the other great views along the route. Unfortunately, we’ve also had quite a few cancellations because of the additional 45 minutes it takes to get up here.
Are other businesses in Page hurting?
Everyone is taking a hit. Page has seen tourism increases of 8 percent to 10 percent per year in recent years, and I would estimate this year has been about a 10 percent decline from last year.
Are you hearing a lot of complaints about the detour?
The biggest problem that we’ve seen with the detour is the use of technology to try to get here. Some people are blindly following their GPS or cellphones to try to get to Page, and they miss the detour. Then, once they reach the closure, it’s an even longer drive to Page because they have to double back.
What should people who haven’t visited Page know about the town?
I’ve been here for seven years now, but Page has been a hidden gem for a long time. There are an incredible number of activities here — Lake Powell, the Colorado River and the slot canyons, to name a few. Probably the most important of all of those is that Page is right in the middle of a “grand circle” of national parks — Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde and so on. You can use Page as a “hub” and be able to get to all those national parks fairly quickly.
The temporary route [Indian Route 20] will be open soon, and that will eliminate the extra drive time. The extra 45 minutes it takes to get here is worth it to be able to spend a night in Page. If you spend two days here, you’re going to see some incredible things.
For the latest updates on the status of U.S. 89, visit www.azdot.gov/US89.