What you see…
Looking atthe pictures one can’t help but let out an awe-inspired gasp of delight andwonder. The Skywalk is literally hanging over a cliff, some 3,600 feet above the Colorado River Valley, which means it rises higherabove the ground than the world’s tallest skyscrapers. Its glass-bottomed, horseshoe-shaped walkway extends 70feet out over the rim of the Grand Canyon and is supposedly capable of supportingthe weight of 71 fully loaded Boeing 747 jets. An engineering marvel – that’sfor sure.
The Skywalkis located on the West Rim of the Grand Canyon and undisputedly, offers aone-of-a-kind chance (barring the helicopter tour) to hover above the rockychasm and peek into the void through a crystal clear glass flooring 2 ½ inches thick. Each panel of glass is toppedwith a protective layer that can easily be removed and replaced by handwhenever it gets scratched and disturbs vision.
The projectwas rolled out at a cost of well over $30 million on the ancestral lands of theHualapai Tribe, who blessed the site and signed a revenue-sharing contract withDavid Jin, a Las Vegas based developer. Ittook 2.5 years to complete the structure, which has drawn over 1.8 million tourists ever since the Tribal Council, Jin and Buzz Aldrin,among others, made the ceremonial first walk on March 20, 2007.
… is notalways what you get
The thingis, however, that all too many visitors lose their enthusiasm once they get a first-handexperience of the Arizonian wonder and either award it with a modest ‘beenthere, done that’ status or much worse, call it the greatest rip-off ever.
To be fair,the idea behind the Grand Canyon Skywalk is truly mind-blowing, but it alsoblows a sizable hole in your pocket. The total cost crosses into triple digitsin the wink of an eye as it includes 70$for entrance in the Grand Canyon Park and an extra 32$ Skywalk admission charge tobe covered on the spot. And you’re only allowed to stay out on the pathway for a couple of minutes…
Thegreatest absurd of all, though, is that personal property, including cameras,is not allowed on the Skywalk. If you want to have the experience captured, youmay ask the staff to take the photograph of your party … and shell out $30per print.
Getting thereis a bit of a challenge as well. The Skywalk can be accessed either from LasVegas (a 120-mile drive) or Kingman, via Highway 93, and if you don’t have your owntransportation, you’ll have to take a shuttle bus, which mean additional expenses. If you dodrive, don’t be surprised to find out that the final 14 miles of the road areunpaved and bumpy, easily qualifying as an off-road experience (it may actuallybe cool if you don’t drive your personal vehicle, but make sure your rentalcompany is O.K. with that).
Finally, themonumental construction has not escaped the attention of environmentalists, whoconsider the project detrimental to the pristine beauty of the Canyon and assertthat people can get an equally fabulous view without the Skywalk.
TheHualapai themselves are not without doubts either. Whereas some see it as anopportunity to deal with a daunting unemployment rate and poverty within thereservation, others believe the project profanes the sacred land and fearfuture overdevelopment.
In allfairness, let’s not bash the whole idea. Maybe you get just as good a viewwithout the Skywalk… but the ability to look down and see almost a mile below (letalone the awareness you’re standing on a thin pane of glass) is cool. It’s justthat the execution of the project has gone a little off the rails and shouldperhaps be tweaked. What do you think?