Mooney Falls, Az
Mooney Falls is the tallest falls located on the Havasupai reservation at 190′, but the trail can cause most people some anxiety. Visitors will have to walk through blasted out tunnels, use chain guides, steps that have been carved into the rock, and even climb down a ladder that was built in the late 1800’s. But the trip is well worth it, with wild grapes and incredibly steep walls, Mooney Falls has sometimes been called a garden.
Mooney Falls is named after a miner who fell to his death here in 1882. There are several versions of the story, including one where Mooney was suspended on a rope half way down the cliff unable to go either up or down. The following story is purported to be from one of the members of the mining party that accompanied Mooney, Alphonso Humphreys.
Alphonso Humpreys wrote:
I well remember the trip that Mooney fell. We had been down in the canyon about three days when Mooney fell and was killed, and we had no way to get down to bury his remains till eleven months and a day.
The day Mooney fell we were all down in the canyon except Beckman, and when we returned to camp there was no levity among us. Beckman noticed that, and not seeing Mooney he asked about him, and Doheny told him he fell and was killed. The next morning before any of us was up he went down to the cliff to see if Mooney had moved. He untied the rope and tossed it down with his boots and said, this is all the funeral I can give you this time. Mooney, before starting down on his rope had pulled off his boots and asked me to lend him my belt which was a wide one. I have never seen the belt to this day, but Mooney’s boots showed us the way to go down and bury him. We noticed the boots on an Indian. We asked him how he got the boots. To make a long story short, Young went with the Indian, who showed him the way he went down – a dangerous trip along a crevice in the wall of the canyon part of the way. Young wouldn’t try that trail, but the Indian showed us some little caves, and we made the tunnel thru the cliff.
(It is interesting to note that there is no mention of Mooney hanging from the rope for three days, a twist to the story that may have been invented by GW James in his book “In and About the Grand Canyon” pub. 1907.)
The next year the miners returned along with Mat Humphreys and found the Indian again who showed them a small cave leading into the overhang along the south bank. They made the cave larger and blasted out a slanting tunnel, made the steps, and suspending one of the party on a rope, set the iron spikes in the cliff below the tunnel. Mat Humphreys did the drilling and said that he almost stood on his head while doing so.
The miners buried Mooney’s preserved, lime-encrusted body on the little island below the falls, but one of the elder members of the tribe told me that a flood had exposed the remains and Mooney was reburied up on a ledge on the west side of the canyon. The exact location is currently unknown.