The Lonely Dell Ranch is located at Lees Ferry in Northern Arizona. Its location is remote in terms of there not being any nearby cities, but many smaller communities are within a short driving distance. Lees Ferry is a popular boat launch into the Colorado River, and for Grand Canyon boating adventures. It is also the end point for Paria River Canyon through hikers.
Lees Ferry was founded in the 1870s by Jacob Hamblin, who was working for the Mormon Church, colonizing Arizona. Hamblin was a western pioneer, Mormon missionary, and diplomat to various Native American tribes of the Southwest and Great Basin. He aided European-American settlement of large areas of southern Utah and northern Arizona, where he was seen as an honest broker between Mormon settlers and the Natives. He is sometimes referred to as the “Buckskin Apostle,” or the “Apostle to the Lamanites.”
The Colorado River and numerous canyons presented several logistic challenges for the church, until Hamblin discovered the mouth of the Paria River in 1858, of which he noted the good land. In 1871, it was decided to place the Arizona Road and Ferry in the vicinity. Hamblin returned, and dug an irrigation ditch where he believe a farm should be located, and named it, “Lonely Dell.”
John D. Lee, and his wives, Emma and Rachel, arrived in December of 1871. They worked the Colorado River ferry operation for the Mormon Church. Emma became the driving force behind the ferry operation and The Lonely Dell. John was often away visiting the gold fields, or tending to his various other wives and children. Lee’s time was however short-lived at the Lonely Dell. In 1874, John was arrested for his role at the Mountain Meadows Massacre, then executed in 1877. Emma stayed on at the ferry and ranch until 1879.
Warren Marshall Johnson and his families arrived after the departure of Emma Lee. They operated the ferry and ranch for the better part of thirty years. Much of what you see when visiting the site of the ranch is from this time period. Is in unfortunate that the original Lee ranch house was torn down in 1886 by Warren Johnson to build a framed home for his family. This house later burned, leaving only a foundation.
In 1935, the ranch was purchased by Leo Weaver and his wife Hazel. They hired a Hopi Indian by the name of Poli Hungavi, to build the “Paradise Canyon Ranch.” The Weaver’s operated the ranch as a lodge, and provided boarding to travelers. They stayed for four years before signing it over to Essy Bowers, who in turn sold the property to Gus and Romona Griffin the following year.
Today several old cabins, a root cellar, orchard and cemetery remain at the site. Access is very simple, and is only a short walk from the pavement.