by Jack Andrews
With gratitude to Steve Wingate
for his own efforts at finding this cave and our combined effort to solve this mystery.
An Analysis on the Probable Location of an "Underground Citadel"
Alleged to be in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, Arizona,
according to a "Phoenix
(Arizona) Gazette" front page news story dated "April 5, 1909"
Exploration and Imagination with Jack Andrews and Susan Anway:
I have known of this location since 1972.
I have held the secret since then.
I feel it is the proper time to reveal the location.
Jack Andrews June 27, 2001
A front page story which ran in the "Phoenix
(Arizona) Gazette", a major Arizona newspaper of the era, dated April 5,
1909, began with the headline, "Explorations in the Grand Canyon"
"Mysteries of the Immense Rich Cavern being brought to Light" "Jordan is
enthused" "Remarkable finds indicate ancient people migrated from the
Mr. Kincaid claimed to have seen "stains in the sediment" on the east wall of the canyon gorge he was traveling through. He most likely landed his boat, and made his way up the east side of the canyon, and over a "shelf", then walked past "steps" to the "mouth of a cave" entrance. He went inside the entrance and discovered hallways, rooms, "mummies" "copper objects" and various other "artifacts" along with what appeared to him at the time to be "hieroglyphics" of an "Egyptian" or "Oriental" type.
This is just a brief description of what he found and saw.
The rest of the story goes on to relate how the Kincaid carried a few artifacts back to Yuma Arizona and then sent them off to Washington (presumably to the Smithsonian, although he did not say that specifically) who then went on to further investigate the site under the supervision of "S. A. Jordan" and a group of archaeologists a "group" that eventually was to amount to 30-40 persons.
It is important to note here that S. A. Jordan
was NOT named as a Smithsonian employee. The article only
says he "supervised" the explorations.
I will quote G. E. Kincaid's own words on
the location as published in the "Gazette" story and add my
reasons under each quote for my interpretation of his words and how they
describe what I deduced to be the location back in 1972 and still believe is
the location today.
G. E. Kincaid
I agree that the location would have been difficult to reach in 1909, and also, would be difficult (although less difficult than in 1909) to reach today. The location below the cave itself, is in a deep river gorge (Marble Canyon) accessible by either arriving there in a boat or float trip, or on foot from the rim of the Little Colorado river gorge, on the Navajo reservation. One could also hike from the Tanner Trail, or down the North Rim Nankoweap trail, cross the Colorado River (illegally) and walk the east bank to a point across from Kwagunt Rapids.
The most practical hike would involve some scrambling down steep areas of the "Hopi Salt Trail" in the canyon gorge of the Little Colorado River, then hiking several miles westerly to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers in the Grand Canyon proper. (Marble Canyon)
Then the trip would necessitate a relatively level hike along the Colorado river in a northern direction for several more miles. In 1909 these options would have been considerably more difficult, either boating to the location in a hard shell boat (as Kincaid did), or hiking there on foot. The rigid boats of the period around 1909 were much more hazardous in the Grand Canyon's rapids than their modern equivalents, inflatable rafts.
Also, in 1909 trails
to the site would have been less known and less frequently traveled, making
a hiking trip to the location much more hazardous. One could, in theory
attempt a rim down climb to the area near the cave.
"The entrance is 1,486 feet down the sheer canyon wall"
G. E. Kincaid
Cliffs such as this are common in Marble Canyon and vertical cliffs are also common near the river in this area. Kincaid's 1,486 feet is also an important elevation marker in determining the location of this site.
I have been to the area above the three mile stretch of the canyon, where the cave most likely exists, and as you can see from the photo below, the cliffs just below the rim are very steep and impassable on foot.
Original Photo Courtesy Steve
Wingate copyright 2000
"I was journeying down the Colorado river in a boat, alone, looking for mineral. Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon..."
G. E. Kincaid
This usage of the word "down" has been confirmed by my conversations and correspondence with river runners, historians and in particular, Colorado river runners. Kincaid then goes on to use the term "up the river." "Up" the river is the opposite of "down" the river and generally construed to mean "against the current of the river" This has also been confirmed by the above sources.
These terms would not generally be confusing in everyday conversation about a boat moving along a river, but I clarify them here because they are critical terms in determining Kincaid's stated location of the cave. The Colorado river runs from a northeastern location in Marble Canyon, in a south and southwestern direction, down through the Grand Canyon proper. The current runs from north to south in the area Kincaid describes.
So I will assume with some accuracy
that Kincaid was traveling "down" the river through the Grand
Canyon, in a south to southwestern direction. I will also assume
that when he stated "up the river", he was referring to a location against
the current, or north to northeast of his given reference point. ("El
Tovar Crystal Canyon")
The name, "El Tovar" originated historically from "Don Pedro Tovar", one of the Spanish explorer Coronado's captains, who in August of 1541 was sent to explore the Cebolla "country", located in the province of Tusayan. (north eastern Arizona near the Hopi lands) Tovar found the "Moqui" (Hopi) villages whose inhabitants informed him that there existed a "great river" several days journey to the north. (The Colorado of the Grand Canyon) Tovar reported this back to Coronado who sent Captain Cardenas to "seek the great river".
Cardenas eventually reached the river and
the great cliffs of the Grand Canyon (yet to be named "Grand").
Some of his party tried to cross the great gap of the canyon and failed,
unable to get down the sheer walls and steep slopes of the canyon.1
Cardenas has thus been granted the historical distinction of
being the first non Native American ("European") to see the Grand
In the Phoenix (Arizona) Gazette article of April 5, 1909 it is stated that Kincaid "brought the story" of the "underground citadel" "to the city" (Phoenix and the Gazette) "yesterday" (April 4, 1909) after having "discovered" the site "several months ago".
This would imply that Kincaid discovered the citadel in 1908 or 1909. I now know that he most likely discovered the site in October of 1908. It is possible then that he knew of the El Tovar Hotel (opened in 1905) and could have been referring to the hotel's name in reference to "Crystal Canyon".
The mouth of Crystal Canyon (Crystal Creek actually) should be visible from a window of the hotel, or somewhere near the hotel (a rim viewpoint) and Kincaid simply used the Hotel as a reference point that readers of the Gazette could relate to, since the hotel was a brand new feature and a prominent place to stay at the rim.
The middle to upper reaches of the Crystal Creek canyon area should be visible from El Tovar Hotel (see map below) .
In any case, the only other modern public structure currently anywhere near Crystal Creek is Phantom Ranch, and that was built in 1922 several years after Kincaid's discovery and the appearance of the Phoenix (Arizona) Gazette article.
The El Tovar hotel seems to be be the nearest publicly known reference point to Crystal Creek (canyon) that the readers of the Gazette could relate to, and it was probably used in that regard, by Kincaid as a reference point for the general public.
The importance of "El Tovar Crystal Canyon" is that it most likely refers to Crystal Creek and it's surrounding canyon. In an extensive search of the Grand Canyon area, referring to historical journals, several historic and modern maps, hiker's guides, rangers, Grand Canyon historians, Grand Canyon Place Names and numerous other sources, I am unable to turn up any reference to "El Tovar" Crystal Canyon.
The only other location that comes near to the name "Tovar" is "Tobar Terrace" further west in the Grand Canyon, but "Tobar" Terrace is bordered on the east by "Blacktail Canyon" and on the west by "One Hundred and Twenty Two Mile Creek". Both names are not even remotely near the name "Crystal Canyon" referred to by Kincaid in 1909.
Various sources agree that the reference most likely refers to the canyon in which Crystal Creek flows, a side canyon off of the Colorado river in the heart of Grand Canyon.
I agree that Kincaid was most likely referring to "Crystal Creek" and it's associated canyon at mile 98 on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, especially since "Crystal Creek" is commonly labeled on Grand Canyon maps, and maps dated to the period when Kincaid traveled the river.
1903 map showing Crystal Creek.
This map would have been
available to G. E. Kincaid
Designated points along the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon are referred to with numbers such as "mile 98" above.
These points reference a distance on the Colorado river
from Lee's Ferry, Arizona, a common starting point for many Colorado
river float trips. Crystal Creek. The most likely candidate
for Kincaid's "El Tovar Crystal Canyon", and it is at is at
G. E. Kincaid,
Remember that "up the river" is "against the current" and in the Grand Canyon, this means up toward Lees Ferry. Mile 56 is at Kwagunt Creek or Kwagunt rapid, in Marble Canyon.
Map of Grand Canyon National
Park showing Kincaid's "42 miles" as a red line on the river.
Marble Canyon got it's name from Major John Wesley Powell, who in August of 1869, wrote in his journal about "cliffs of marble" which contained "a great number of caves".
It is important to note here Powell stated that Marble Canyon contained "a great number of caves". The "citadel" Kincaid speaks of in his story is in a "cave".
Since Powell's time many caves have been noted or discovered in the Marble Canyon area, including Stanton's Cave, a large cave in the Redwall formation at mile 31.7 and an important archaeological site. 5
Stanton's cave in Marble
Canyon, Grand canyon, Arizona
"Marble Gorge" Canyon or gorge in Colorado river between mouths of Paria and Little Colorado, so named by Major Powell 1869.
We have cut through the sand stones and limestones met in the upper part of the canyon and through one great bed of marble a thousand feet in thickness. So we call it 'Marble Canyon. It is 651/2 miles long.
"Powell" Dellenbaugh writes:
Decision U.S.G. 1
G. E. Kincaid
The 5.5 mile (or so) stretch
of the Colorado River in Marble Canyon
"Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon, I saw on the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation..."
G. E. Kincaid
Several of Kincaid's observations are very important here.
Modified image by Jack
Further south and west in the Grand Canyon the "Inner Gorge" of the Colorado (1200-1900 or so foot high) cliffs along both sides of the river, are made up of the Vishnu Schist, a 2 billion (or so) year old formation, dark brown in color of extremely altered sandstones shales and limestones, intermingled with lava flows.
The dark smooth rock of the Vishnu Schist is the result
of metamorphism, altered (in this case) by the tremendous pressure of lying
(originally) under nearly 12 miles of formations, crushed folded and melted
into it's present highly altered state.
It is not a formation known for caves. Kincaid said he saw "stains in the sedimentary formation about 2,000 feet above the river bed".
In the Inner Gorge area of the Vishnu Schist, if Kincaid looked up, he would have see only the edge of the Vishnu Schist at about 1200-1900 feet, and not have been able to see much if anything of the horizontal Tonto Platform, just above the Inner Gorge, which would have been out of his line of sight (horizontal).
He would not have seen
"stains in the sedimentary formation", since the Vishnu Schist id
hardly "sedimentary". He also would have also been located incorrectly on
the river, since he would not be even near "42 miles up the river from El
Tovar Crystal Canyon" (Crystal Creek and canyon), if in the Vishnu Schist
area of the Inner Gorge.
The more horizontal "Tonto Platform" can be seen just below the 3898 foot elevation marker (lower right) as the area containing the name "Tonto Trail" If you look north across the river where it says: "Clear Creek Trail" you will see the "Tonto Platform" again, as a broad more horizontal formation. (topo lines further apart)
The area shown as "Granite Gorge" ( says "GORGE") is the "Inner Gorge" "Vishnu Schist" formation, next to the river.
It is also true that views in Marble Canyon, at river level are somewhat limited, due to the steep walls of the redwall formation, just above the river.
But at mile 56 on the Colorado River, in Marble Canyon, there is a large gap
in the vertical walls that would allow a clear view up to the 2000 foot
level near where Kincaid said he saw "stains in the sediment".
If we subtract 2,760 (river at ground level) feet from 6050 feet (rim at top) we have 3,290 feet as the actual height of the canyon at Kwagunt, from river to rim.
Remember that Kincaid said,
He also said:
If we add Kincaid's two figures, 2000 feet and 1,486 feet we come up with 3,486 feet as Kincaid's height from the river to the rim.
That figure is only 196 feet in variation from the actual
height (river to rim of 3,290 feet) at the present day location!!
Considering that the rim and river elevations vary almost 200 combined feet
in that 6 mile stretch of canyon, it is evident that Kincaid's
measurements are highly accurate in to the area in which he stated that he
saw the cave.
References and notes