Grand Canyon Facts


Ultimate Survival Skills

Live on $20 a day

Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls, Havasupai WaterfallsMooney Falls is the tallest of the Havasupai waterfalls tumbling over 190' into a large blue pool which is perfect for swimming. Getting to the base of Mooney can be tricky, and requires some patience.

Extreme caution is urged when making this descent. The trail to the base of the falls winds down the shoulder of the cliff towards the west canyon wall, and is marked with a worn sign. After a few dozen feet, the trail enters a short tunnel as it continues downward. These tunnels may have been natural caves initially, but have at the least been expanded by man and steps hewn into the rocks. The tunnel emerges onto a ledge where there is a great view of Mooney Falls at about 120' from the bottom. There is a chain in place which should encourage visitors to be safe, as a fall from here would be fatal.

The trail ducks into a second tunnel that emerges about 80' above the canyon floor. From there, it is a steep descent along roughhewn steps and there are chains anchored into the rock face to provide hand holds. The chains guide you down to about 15' above the ground, where there are usually two wooden ladders for you to use to traverse the final gap. Caution needs to be exercised at all times as the chains and ladders are constantly sprayed by mist from the waterfall.

Guided Grand Canyon Hiking Tours
Guided Havasu Falls Hiking Tours

Mooney Waterfall at Havasupai
Mooney Falls in the Grand Canyon
Mooney Falls Ladders

What's in a Name?

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.

Mooney Falls Warning(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.

Below Mooney Falls

The creek below Mooney Falls is surrounded by wild grape vines and is often referred to by visitors as a garden. It is a beautiful area of the canyon and the creek boasts several nice cascades and wide pools.

The ladder below the falls was built in the late 1800s leading to a mine entrance. Originally the lower part was of wood and it became something of a feat for the young men of Supai to climb the ladder and jump into the creek. In 1954 a rung broke on the wooden portion of the ladder causing severe injuries to a youngster. To prevent a similar accident in the future the BIA Agent at the time had the lower section of the ladder removed, but the metal upper reaches of the ladder can still be seen today.

Those hiking to Beaver Falls must pass down the Mooney Falls trail, then follow the creek downstream three miles until they reach Beaver Falls at the conflux of Beaver and Havasu Canyons.