Grand Wash Bay is located about 4 miles south of the historic Tassi Ranch in the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. When considering that the journey to Tassi Ranch requires well over 50 miles of bumpy dirt road driving, doing the extra few miles to the big bay will make the trip all the more worthwhile. The best part is Grand Wash Bay offers primitive camping, so the venture can be planned as an overnighter excursion, which is like a sigh of relief for those who drive 4x4 vehicles with extra stiff suspensions. There are few places more peaceful than Grand Wash Bay for allowing the contents to settle after a long bumpy ride, so the overnighter option actually is quite appealing.
A previous article features the Tassi Ranch and plenty of precautionary information was presented that will help ensure a safe return. In fact, an entire series of articles about Gold Butte and Grand Canyon Parashant can be found in the Arizona and Nevada index pages, so it is easy to become familiar with both the travel route and the environmental conditions. There are plenty of items to be aware of in this vast wilderness area and the most important is the realization that you will truly be on your own. Very few people tour this remote park and there is practically no hope for rescue if things go terribly wrong, so it is best to prepare ahead of time, pack extra supplies and proceed with caution. Charting the travel route on a map or GPS is essential and fuel management is critical to ensure that there will be no need to do the very lengthy hike back to civilization.
The short 4 mile road from the Tassi Ranch to Grand Wash Bay begins by climbing out of the canyon to the high ground where the entire Tassi Spring desert oasis will come into view. There is an unmapped fork in the road near this spot, but both branches of the road meet a short distance ahead. The dirt road then traverses the high ground all the way to the north branch of the bay, so there will be plenty of majestic desert mountain views to soak up along the way. The high road also parallels the Grand Wash to the end point, which is quite an intriguing desert dry wash to see. Rounded boulders that weigh several hundred pounds are strewn all over this dry wash, which is an indicator of how strong the flash floods can be. If heavy rains are in the forecast, the high ground definitely is the safest place to ride out the storm in the Grand Wash area.
Toward the the end of the ride, the towering buttes surrounding the bay will appear, as well as the lush dry lake bed. The water from Lake Mead use to extend well into the Grand Wash many years ago and the northern branching arm of the bay by the roadside was the first to dry up as the lake water levels receded. This end of the bay is now a haven for wildlife, so be sure to pack a powerful lens for the ride.
At the end point there is an old cove that sits higher than where the lake water level used to be. This flat barren cove platform is surrounded by tall trees and several stone fire rings can be seen. Back in the old days before global warming caused several decades of severe drought, this was a popular spot for weekend local sports fishermen, but those days are long gone. Now this bayside dispersed camping area only appeals to daring 4x4 enthusiasts that seek to escape from the modern world.
This may be a disappointment, but Grand Wash Bay actually is now totally dry because of Colorado River water depletion. Accessing Lake Mead from here will require hiking a few miles south through the bay, which is basically the impossible dream because of the thick vegetation. The views from the Grand Wash Bay cove campground now only reveal a sea of dry desert brush along with the old lime stained waterline painted on the canyon walls. Even though the water in Grand Wash Bay is long gone, this is still an appealing place to be. The thick vegetation in the bay provides cover for small critters and the local red tailed hawks have a field day hunting in this place. Deer, elk and bighorn can be seen grazing in this area year round and all it takes is a little winter rain to trigger a colorful spring season wildflower bloom.
The dead silence of Grand Wash Bay certainly has a way of cleansing the soul, but a quiet moment here is not guaranteed to last. Because of the mountainous terrain and the mix of extreme heat and cold high elevation temperatures, high winds can kick up without warning just about anytime. A storm front passing through can make the windy conditions even worse, because the silt in the lake bed gets churned up into a raging dust storm. I photographed an approaching dust storm that was moving quickly in my direction across the bay and the pictures show just how bad the conditions can be when such an event occurs. The COVID mask sure did come in handy that day and the tight fitting sunglasses helped too. For this reason, be sure to pack some desert dust protection for a Grand Wash Bay venture, just in case the high winds kick up!
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