A couple of miles before the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, Tapeats sandstone makes its first appearance, forming dark grayish-brown stratified cliffs and ledges that intermingle in places with Bright Angel shale.
On river right at mile 61 the turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River (LCR) join the deep green Colorado. Because there are several sites significant to the Hopi Indians as well as the historic cabin of Ben Beamer, no camping is allowed near the confluence except by rangers and others who have special research permits. Fishing is also restricted here because the warmer waters of the Little Colorado host several endangered fish species, including the humpback chub.
River runners often ferry across the Colordao to explore Beamer Cabin, Ancestral Puebloan ruins that the prospector “remodeled” after coming to the canyon in 1889, and to play in the warmer waters of the LCR. Sometimes, the LCR’s flow is just right for a waterslide. It’s also fun to hike a mile or so along the Tapeats ledges that form the LCR’s banks, trying out mud pools for beauty packs or foot soaks.
Just past the confluence, the Great Unconformity appears. Think of an unconformity as pages missing from the geological record. In this case, between Tapeats sandstone and an underlying layer of Vishnu schist, the unconformity is a gap of hundreds of millions of years. The missing pages of the Grand Canyon Supergroup have all but eroded away, still visible in this section of the canyon as colorful strata that have been uplifted and tilted, forming the soft, low hills of Unkar Valley.
On June 30, 1956, about a mile southwest of the confluence, a TWA Super Constellation and a United DC-7 collided at 21,000 feet, killing 128 people and scattering debris on both sides of the river. The Park Service had most of the wreckage removed in the 1970s, but river runners may see remnants of the horrific crash reflecting in the sun on the slopes of Chuar Butte, near mile 65. (A memorial for the crash victims stands in the pioneer cemetery on the South Rim. This incident was one of a series of crashes that prompted Congress to pass the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, creating the Federal Aviation Agency and giving it control of U.S. airspace.)
Below the great curtain of rock known as the Palisades of the Desert, the river begins to swing west toward Unkar Valley. At Unkar Delta, the ancestors of today’s Hopi Indians, known as Ancestral Puebloans, or Anasazi, established a village and raised corn, beans, and squash in nearby plots.
The warmer inner canyon temperatures meant a longer growing season, and the villagers moved between rim and river according to the season. In the summer, villagers would return to the Walhalla Plateau on the North Rim . (To protect the delta’s fragile archeological resources, camping is prohibited here. If you are exploring on foot, please stay on the trails.)
Below Comanche Point, the highest point along the Palisades, Tanner Rapids marks the mouth of the tributary Tanner Canyon. The Tanner Trail  leads 10 miles from here to the rim at Lipan Point , one of many prehistoric Indian trails later adapted by miners and pioneers. Before the Colorado River was dammed, it was possible to cross to the other side during seasons of low water, climbing up to the opposite rim via what is now the Nankoweap Trail . In the late 1800s, this route was a favorite of horse thieves who traveled back and forth between Arizona and Utah.