The Grand Canyon Childhood of Bill Bass Jr.
Bill Bass Jr. is the son of one of the most well-known historical figures of Grand Canyon, William Wallace Bass. Bill Bass Jr was born in 1900 and was raised at Grand Canyon. His family, including his three sisters, is one of the first Anglo settlers to claim that honor. Bill Jr. first did the South Bass trail as a 1 ½ year old and later as a 5 year old on a horse, accompanied only by his 9 year old sister, Edith.
“I don’t remember when I first saw the Canyon – you see, for me it has always been there. I envy people their first look at it. I never had that.”1
Bill Bass Jr. Growing Up in the Grand Canyon
Bill Bass Jr. had a hobby of rolling rocks off the rim, hoping that they would tumble through the Kaibab Limestone, the Toroweap Formation and over the vertical cliff formed by the Coconino sandstone. In addition, he would go over to Supai and live with the Havasupai Native Americans for a couple of months. While in the village, his mom canned peaches, and he would play with Jesse, his best friend. He also helped his dad in the gardens on Shinumu Creek, tending the figs, peaches, apricots, corn, tomatoes, grapes and melons. Later, he would also work in the asbestos mine that his dad had in the area. Oh my, how the lives of modern young people have changed from the days of Bill Bass Jr.!
“…we had a rather lonesome life, but it wasn’t really lonesome because we had so much to think about all the time – we gathered wildflowers, we found arrowheads, we built imaginary farms and ranches with barns and corrals. Wild buckwheat stems would be our mares, another plant the stallions, small sticks of different colors our colts. Yucca stems that had moisture in them would be our cows. We lived at the Canyon, we loved the Canyon, we appreciated it all…”
When Bill Bass Jr. was 16, he learned to drive. He went to work showing tourists the South Rim in cars. He tried to teach his parents to drive, but his dad just pulled back on the steering wheel to stop and hit a tree. His mom would just look around the country side and didn’t watch where she was going. Consequently, his parents never did learn to drive.
Grand Canyon River runners and hikers know the area as Bass Camp at river mile 108 where adventurers explore Shinumu creek and the surrounding environs. Arizona Raft Adventures happens to stop at Bass Camp a few times each summer. We stop in for a half-over to explore Bill Jr.’s old stomping grounds. A half-over is a term referring to using an area for lunch and then spending a long afternoon to explore the surrounding area. Grand Canyon backpackers routinely hike the South Bass Trail. The South Bass Trail is a hike connecting the South Rim to the Bass Camp at the River. On the north side of river, the North Bass Trail continues to the North Rim. Therefore, if a backpacker should choose, they can use a pack raft to cross the river and continue on.
Primarily composed by Alan Fisk-Williams – grand canyon river guide extraordinaire. 1.) Sunshine and Solitude by Stephen Mauer, Pruett Publishing Company Boulder Colorado.