Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower up close


At a point high above an elbow in the Grand Canyon where the Colorado River shifts from south to west sits the Desert View Watchtower. Find out why it has become a favorite with sightseers.

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Desert View Watchtower designed by Mary Jan Colter
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At 7,522 feet above sea level, the Desert View Watchtower roof is the highest point on Grand Canyon’s South Rim
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Just look at that stone work! A total of 85 steps lead visitors up the inside of the tower to awe-inspiring views of the Grand Canyon and a magnificent mural on the ceiling.

DSCF0430.jpg The base of the Watchtower is arranged within a large circle with the tower to the north. Inside the base structure, the main space is called the Kiva Room, roofed with logs salvaged from the old Grandview Hotel. The rustic looking ceiling is a facade concealing the roof structure that supports the popular observation deck above. A magnificent stone fireplace serves as secondary feature only to the large picture window directly above.


Desert View Watchtower facts:

  • Completed in 1932, the four-story structure was designed by American architect Mary Colter, an employee of the Fred Harvey Company.
  • Watchtower roof is the highest point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at 7,522 feet above sea level.
  • Visitors can see the Colorado River, the Painted Desert, the San Francisco Peaks, Marble Canyon.
  • There are 85 steps from the bottom floor to the top.
  • Inside is a tapestry of ancestral people in petroglyphs, paintings and symbols by various artists.
  • Designated a United States National Historic Landmark as part of the Mary Jane Colter Buildings collective nomination on May 28, 1987.

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Interior ceiling Desert View Watchtower
Watchtower is composed of a circular coursed masonry tower rising from a rubble base, which was intentionally designed to convey a partly ruinous appearance.

Original furnishings included in the site’s historic designation still adorn the Kiva Room. The bottom floor of the tower contains a gift shop, while the upper floors serve as an observation deck from which visitors to the national park can take in the stunning views.

Tower trivia

  1. On the building’s exterior are intentional flaws designed in by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter. One is a Balolookong, the Pueblo Indian snake spirit on the exterior wall.
  2. In 2008, two tourists were banned from all American national parks for one year after using white-out and permanent marker to correct the punctuation on a sign on the watchtower, which was painted by Mary Jan Colter.

Desert View Watchtower is a must-see for anyone cruising the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

Here’s your map to the Desert View Watchtower:

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