Posted by: Frame To Frame - Bob and Jean | December 10, 2016

Blanche Russells Rock Houses In Marble Canyon

Blanche Russell Rock House in Marble Canyon in Arizona, U.S.A.

As Bob and I cruised along the black tarmac, the air literally shivered with the heat.  In the distance, at the base of the Vermilion Cliffs, a mirage appeared complete with stone houses rising up out of the desert sands….or so we thought.  This was one of Blanche Russells Rock Houses that was constructed during the Great Depression.

hwy 89 near lees ferry, arizona, usa 2

Lees Ferry was but a speck in our rearview mirror when we were thrown into disbelief,

Blanche Russell Rock Houses in Marble Canyon in Arizona, U.S.A.

but the unusual collection of stone houses was not a figment of our imaginations.  In fact, numerous massive boulders had been incorporated into modest shelters to provide protection from the sun, and the buildings blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.  Taking advantage of the popular roadside location were a couple of Navajo individuals who had set up a small business at roadside in the shade of some of the over-sized rocks.

Blanche Russell Rock House sitting in Marble Canyon in Arizona, U.S.A.

Our inquiries were met with a fantastic story that seemed downright unbelievable given the inhospitable surroundings and unforgiving sun.  In the mid-1920’s, a traveler by the name of Blanche Russell was passing this way with her husband, Bill, when their car broke down.  Sightseers were few and far between in those days, so Blanche, being a determined and resourceful lady, made use of some old planks and tarpaper to erect a simple lean-to against one of the Balancing Rocks.  It was to be their shelter for the night.

Various stone structures at the Blanche Russell Rock Houses in Marble Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A.

The Vermilion Cliffs of the Paria Plateau, like all areas of the Chinle formation, have been shaped by earth’s indecisive nature.  From shifts in the earth’s crust to erosion by churning sea water and manipulation by turbulent fresh water, over the centuries, the sandstone has been changed and eroded leaving behind a plethora of crevices, caves and overhangs.  The fantastic barrenness of the desert floor is now littered with massive boulders that have been tipped from their previous lofty perches to stud the burned-out and washed-bare sand.  It is no surprise, then, that travelers and residents have turned to these natural features as a source for temporary or even permanent shelter.

Source:  Blanche Russells Rock Houses In Marble Canyon, Arizona


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