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Landmark Ranger Station Along Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park to Get Facelift


More improvements are in store for the River Ranger Station at the bottom of the Grand Canyon near Phantom Ranch. Top photo shows the cabin in 1949, bottom photo is how it currently appears. NPS photos.

As noted in Ranger Confidential: Living, Working and Dying in the National Parks, housing for rangers is not like staying in the Hilton...or even a Super 8. Still, the historic river ranger station in Grand Canyon National Park is in a fantastic setting. And this summer it'll get some upgrades.

Located near Phantom Ranch, the cabin originally known as the "Packer's Cabin" was built back in 1933 by Civilian Conservation Corps crews. The River Ranger Station was built as living quarters for park personnel stationed at Phantom Ranch and served as, what is believed to be, the original ranger station. A second ranger station has since been constructed at a site closer to Phantom Ranch that now serves as the main ranger station, residence and clinic.

But the River Ranger Station continues to be used as a residence for park staff including river rangers, canyon rangers, backcountry staff, and trail crew during their patrols and while working in the Phantom Ranch area.

Like other structures at Phantom Ranch, the original portion of the River Ranger Station is a gable-roofed structure with field stone corners and wood frame walls with board and batten siding. Originally a 12-foot by 14-foot structure, a bathroom and bedroom were later added to the building nearly doubling its size. The building was remodeled in 1979 by the National Park Service and Youth Conservation Corps. The latest improvement was a new roof in the summer of 2003.

Next week more improvements will be made when crews from the Coconino Rural Environment Corps and graduates of Coconino County’s Youthbuild Program head down to the cabin.

Much of the reconstruction efforts under this project will include interior renovations; re-siding the newer additions to give a similar appearance to the original structure; replacement of inefficient non-historic aluminum framed windows with energy efficient architectural casement windows; and new dry wall, electrical components, insulation, and rodent-proofing.

Crews from CREC, a program of Coconino County Community Services that serves the conservation needs of communities throughout Coconino County, and across Arizona, through partnerships, will work under the guidance of National Park Service craftsman. Along the way, they'll learn the techniques of restoring historical structures. Joining the CREC crew will be graduates from Coconino County’s Youthbuild Program, a federal initiative that provides job training and education for disadvantaged youth.

“Engaging youth and young adults in service on public lands is an important strategy for accomplishing agency conservation goals and providing valuable workforce development opportunities," said Dustin Woodman, the program manager for the Coconino Rural Environmental Corps. "Partnerships such as these enable area residents to gain valuable stewardship ethics and work experiences and help to advance their future career and educational goals.”


Despite the constant "door knocks" from visitors and the ill hikers vomiting on my porch, I have fond memories of the River Ranger Station. Around 1996, several of my employees installed new carpet and painted the walls for me (At that time the Corridor District Ranger stayed at the RRS whenever working at Phantom Ranch.) and I was quite comfortable there. I wrote reports on a government computer on a desk in the kitchen and occasionally had free time to relax on hot summer evenings by sitting in a swing on the front porch and taking surreptitious sips from a water bottle filled with tequila. Off duty of course. Although a ranger can never count on being off duty for long while in the Inner Canyon.

Once I was cleaning up the area behind the station and stepped on a rotting board buried under some cottonwood leaves. A rusty nail went right though the sole of my Teva and penetrated deep into my foot. My employee Pat Suddath hiked in the next day with some medication and I suspect that he too much enjoyed the opportunity to give his boss a tetanus shot.

Several times I used the ranger station oven to bake a southern style cobbler made from the exotic Himalayan blackberries I had picked at Indian Garden.

Dear haunted hiker, now that is a nice story of an amazing place. If ever this cabin might be considered for the National Register of Historic Places, please make sure your experiences find their place in the official report. And I mean it.

Yep, constant door knocks....but, what a magical place to work! As a park interpreter at Phantom Ranch, I gave geology talks by sitting in the creek, in uniform, and pulling out rocks that had migrated from various parts of the upper canyon...then talking about where they came from, and how they were formed.

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