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Roadside “Cliff Dwellers” dwelling found along Hwy 89A on Dec, 25, 2008, near Page, Arizona.

Camera Data
Canon EOS Rebel XTi
F-stop f/5.6
Exposure 1/125
ISO 100
Focus 58mm

Historical Data

Before Cliff Dwellers was a vacation destination, travelers came because it was the only place where the Colorado could be crossed for hundreds of miles on either side. Captivated by the Vermilion Cliffs and endless blue skies, settlers chose to homestead in such an inimitable environment because it spoke to something deep within them. The Arizona Strip, with it isolation and solitude, offered a unique way of life for travelers seeking the mythological freedom of the American west. For Blanche and Bill Russell, the original homesteaders at Cliff Dwellers, this was no exception. They established a small trading post at Cliff Dwellers in 1920 after crossing the Colorado at Lees Ferry. Their original home still stands at the end of property. They established camp next to Soap Creek where they constructed the unique rock house for which the community received its name. The cowboys who drove cattle on the AZ Strip called the Russell homestead ‘Cliff Dwellers’ because of its proximity to the Vermilion Cliffs. There are no prehistoric cliff dwellings at Cliff Dweller. The tribes which inhabited the region constructed pit-houses or hogans.

The Russell family stumbled into a unique money making opportunity at Cliff Dwellers. In 1877, the Mormon Church constructed a temple in St. George, UT so followers living in Arizona could be properly married in a confirmed church. Hordes of Mormons flocked across the border and the Russell Family was there to cater to their travel needs. Later, the rock house and trading post were sold to Jack Church. Jack added his own individual touch to the location by bringing a bar to the original trading post. Needless to say, this change brought in new clientele. The young cattlemen who drove livestock for “Uncle Jim” Owens at the foot of the Kaibab Plateau became regulars at Cliff Dwellers. After these ranch hands finished driving cattle and bison on the AZ Strip, they would retire to the small rock house and partake in both the evening festivities and Church’s bootleg liquor. The next proprietor of Cliff Dwellers expanded their financial repertoire by starting one of the first river guide operations on the Colorado River.

historical data from

in Unique Buildings Of The World

Son of an avid reader of paperbacks and a manager of a photofinishing plant in Abilene, Texas.

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  • Brenda Dow
    Brenda Dowover 5 years ago

    Terence, what a wonderful historical read!!! Were the Bill Russell family your ancestors??? The image is handsome and vivid !!!! One of the reasons that I love RB is due to the artists way of paying homage to their subject… it makes it become so personal and special!!!! Thank you for sharing this with all of us!!!

  • Although my grandfather’s name was Bill Russell, from what I know about my family history, I am doubtful there is any relation. It was a really fascinating site and a wondrous find!

    – Terence Russell

  • Gary Gurr
    Gary Gurrover 5 years ago

    Great capture lovely colour in this image. Thanks for the historical data, very interesting.

  • Hey Gary, how did I ever miss your comment! Sorry, and thanks!

    – Terence Russell

  • stephaniek
    stephaniekalmost 5 years ago

    OMG………..this is too amazing!!! Nice find!! ;-))

  • – Terence Russell

  • Linda Sparks
    Linda Sparksalmost 5 years ago


  • Linda Sparks
    Linda Sparksover 4 years ago

    What a Kick! I just drove by there last week. It’s junkier now, but I took a picture anyway.

  • We were there in July, as well. There were some of the local people under the canopy selling wares, so I did not get a very good photo. This photo was actually taken on Christmas day, so it was wonderfully abandoned.

    – Terence Russell

  • steppeland
    steppelandover 4 years ago

    Awesome image, Terence! Congrats on your challenge win !

  • Karen Stackpole
    Karen Stackpoleover 4 years ago


  • Woepi
    Woepiabout 3 years ago

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