Designed by Mary Colter, Desert View Watchtower is a masterpiece of atmosphere and ethnohistory. Rising 70 feet above the rim, the Watchtower combines prehistoric masonry style overlying a hidden steel frame built by railway engineers.
Colter traveled the Four Corners area by touring car and small plane to study towers built by the Ancestral Puebloans, which some archaeologists believe are observatories. Her tower, built in 1932, is a re-creation of prehistoric structures.
The tower’s interior presents a visual and symbolic history of Southwestern cultures. At the base of the circular tower is a mural of Tiyo and the Hopi snake dance, painted by Fred Kabotie. Upper stories feature designs from the Mimbres culture and ancient cave paintings.
Construction details include a kiva-style ceiling made with logs salvaged from the former Grand View Hotel as well as petroglyphs on exterior stonework. The second-story observation deck offers views of Comanche Point, the Colorado River, and the Little Colorado River Gorge.
Eastern views encompass Navajo country, including Cedar Mountain, the Echo Cliffs, and the edge of the Painted Desert.