Page, Arizona – A Very Special Place
I lived in the small, isolated town of Page, Arizona for sixteen years before moving to Goodyear, Arizona. It was there that I began my adult life as a young bride, was first introduced to American living, and made lifetime friends. It is where my husband and I brought our two children into this world. This small oasis, surrounded by a sprawling desert of sandstone and sagebrush, is bordered in the north by the vast reservoir of Lake Powell and in the south by the Navajo Nation. It is a town where tour buses spill out German tourists armed with cameras; where Californians arrive wearing bikinis, shorts, and Oakley sunglasses; and where Japanese visitors park in inappropriate places on Main Street to read their maps. Local teenagers hang out at R.D.’s burger joint, and pick-up trucks packed with Navajo families arrive at Safeway to stock up on groceries. Page is small-town USA, where neighbors actually talk to each other, and people often don’t lock their doors at night. When we moved, I left part of my heart there.
The people of Page welcomed me with open arms when I moved there from Australia in 1988. I was a young bride and it was my first time living away from my family and friends. I had no idea of what to expect in this new country, but I anticipated a good life and that’s exactly what I found. The people were friendly and interested in me and I quickly felt support and friendship. Today it is no different. The small town of Page fosters an intimate environment. When a person goes to the post office to pick up their mail or to the grocery store for a gallon of milk they are likely to bump into a friend or neighbor. Friendly “Hellos” are apart of every outing.
The city of Page is situated on top of Manson Mesa. From this place of prominence, it overlooks beautiful Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, towering red cliffs, and miles of lonely high desert. It is an isolated town on the Northern border of Arizona, about 120 miles from any larger city. Page is home to approximately 7,000 people, a community of Native American, African American, Hispanic, Caucasian and other races.
Page was created in 1957 to house the workers and their families during the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. After the dam was completed, the town steadily grew to its existing population. Today, there are several sources of income for the people. The Glen Canyon Dam is a water powered electrical generating facility, which has the capacity to generate 1,288,000 kilowatts when fully online. The Navajo Generating Station is a coal-fired steam plant with an output capacity of 2,250,000 kilowatts of electricity. These two power-generating plants, located just out of Page’s city limits, are the largest electrical generating units in the western United States and together they employ a large percentage of Page’s residents. Another big employer is the Page Unified School District. It is made up of two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Tourism is Page’s life-blood. Ideally located within easy driving distance to a number of interesting locations in Arizona and Utah, Page is a favorite place for summer vacationing, hosting nearly three million visitors annually. Hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions employ many Page residents.
There are many interesting things to do and see close to Page. Just off Manson Mesa is beautiful Lake Powell, the second largest man-made lake in the United States. It is 186 miles long and has 1,960 miles of shoreline, which is longer than the entire west coast of the United States. It is truly a wonderful place; crystal clear blue water, sandy beaches, and red-rock canyon walls that tower above the water. With the advantage of a watercraft, you can access places that are quiet and solitary. It is easy to lose yourself in the beauty of the surroundings. Also located just off the mesa, on Navajo Nation land, is Antelope Canyon, called the ‘skinny caves’ by the locals. The canyon has been sculptured by a seasonal stream that flows into Lake Powell. Most of the watercourse is wide and sandy, though in some places it is narrow and confining, just wide enough for a body to pass through. Towering above the hiker are majestic red sandstone walls highlighted in ambient sunlight. There are numerous hikes both on and below the mesa, and the rugged high desert with sandstone outcroppings that have been carved by the hand of nature offers picturesque scenery. Popular destinations like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, or Bryce National Monument and Zion Canyon in Utah are an easy two-hour drive away from Page. After a day of exploring, visitors can return to the city to the comfort of a variety of hotels and interesting restaurants. There are parks, a bowling alley, a theater and a golf course.
Page lies on the edge of the Navajo Indian Reservation, and Navajos make up approximately twenty-eight percent of Page’s population. They call themselves the ‘Dineh’ meaning ‘the people,’ and they are the largest tribe of North American Indians. They are a friendly people, and food is used as a welcoming or expression of thanks. The women often cook from memory, measuring out ingredients with their hands. Once, one of my Navajo friends showed me how to cook Navajo fry bread! She used a few handfuls of flour, a pinch of baking soda and salt, and kept adding milk mixed with water until the consistency ‘felt’ right. For a girl who was used to measuring with special tools and following a recipe book, this was foreign to me! My friend was patient and eventually succeeded in teaching me how to cook this delicious Navajo bread. Many older Navajo women still wear traditional clothing consisting of flowing velvet skirts and turquoise and silver jewelry. Many Navajo men still wear their hair long, twisted into a short ponytail and wrapped around with cloth. On Friday evenings, during the warmer weather, one can watch Navajo dancers dressed in traditional clothing including knee-high moccasins, dancing to their traditional music in the park. The Navajo people are proud of their culture and fight to keep it alive while living in a modern world.
Page offers excellent vacation opportunities and wholesome small town living. Its isolation, scenic beauty, proximity to natural attractions, cultural diversity, and friendly people make Page a unique town that every Arizonan should have the privilege to experience for themselves. This is why I call Page my Arizona hometown.