Lonely Dell Ranch (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area)

Weaver Ranch House, also known as "Paradise Canyon Ranch." Built in 1935 by Poli Hungavi, a Hopi Indian. This is the most modern structure at the Lonely Dell.
Weaver Ranch House, also known as "Paradise Canyon Ranch." Built in 1935 by Poli Hungavi, a Hopi Indian. This is the most modern structure at the Lonely Dell.

Weaver Ranch House, also known as “Paradise Canyon Ranch.” Built in 1935 by Poli Hungavi, a Hopi Indian. This is the most modern structure at the Lonely Dell.

 

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.”

Jeremiah "Jerry" Johnson Cabin - Jerry, was the son of Warren and Samantha Johnson. The cabin is believed to have been built in 1925.

Jeremiah “Jerry” Johnson Cabin – Jerry, was the son of Warren and Samantha Johnson. The cabin is believed to have been built in 1925.

 

Jeremiah "Jerry" Johnson Cabin - The backside of the cabin. Numerous relics have been laid out for visitors to look through.

Jeremiah “Jerry” Johnson Cabin – The backside of the cabin. Numerous relics have been laid out for visitors to look through.

 

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.

Samantha Johnson Cabin - Warren Johnson built this cabin in 1881. His second wife, Samantha Johnson and their children lived in it until 1887.

Samantha Johnson Cabin – Warren Johnson built this cabin in 1881. His second wife, Samantha Johnson and their children lived in it until 1887.

 

Samantha Johnson Cabin - In 1897, James Emett converted the cabin to a school-house.

Samantha Johnson Cabin – In 1897, James Emett converted the cabin to a school-house.

 

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.

The Orchard - The last private landowners planted this orchard in 1965.

The Orchard – The last private landowners planted this orchard in 1965.

 

The Cemetery - Twenty-Five residents and travelers were buried in this cemetery between 1874-1933.

The Cemetery – Twenty-Five residents and travelers were buried in this cemetery between 1874-1933.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

  • David Taylor

    Good article. Nits: Graph one, line one, ‘there’ not ‘their’. graph two. ‘whom’ might be grammatically correct, but ‘who’ would be better. Graph six, ‘in turn’, not ‘in return’, I’m pretty sure.

  • pat

    I knew about this place, but had no idea how much I didn’t know about it!
    Nice photos also Jim. I love the history…