for National Geographic News
Members of a Native American group based in a remote part of Arizona are hoping to entice more tourists by inviting visitors to step off the edge of the Grand Canyon.
The 1,500-member Hualapai tribe announced last week that the Skywalk—a giant, 30-million-dollar steel-and-glass walkway—will open to the public in March 2007.
The Skywalk will jut out 70 feet (21 meters) from the canyon rim, allowing tourists to go for a stroll with nothing between their feet and the Colorado River—4,000 feet (1,220 meters) below—except for four inches (ten centimeters) of glass.
The Hualapai, or "People of the Tall Pines," are working with the Las Vegas, Nevada-based Destination Grand Canyon to market the Skywalk and draw in valuable tourist dollars.
Many other tribes have turned their government-sanctioned right to run casinos into a major revenue source. But the Hualapai's remote location has undermined their efforts to host gambling.
Few tourists were willing to make the drive to the reservation with Las Vegas so close. And once they did, said Hualapai tribal member Robert Bravo, they didn't stay long.
"Ninety-four percent were coming out of Las Vegas. They'd throw a couple of nickels, a couple of dimes here and there. They're all on a time schedule."
Bravo, who serves as operations manager for the tribe's tourist hub, says other tribes can rely on gaming to support their people, but the Skywalk is the answer for the Hualapai.
"This is what's going to feed our tribe."
Grand Roll Out
California businessman David Jin was first inspired to build the Skywalk in 1996 after taking a tour of the canyon (see Grand Canyon photos).
According to the Associated Press, the Hualapai tribe will own the Skywalk, but Jin will collect up to half of the money from ticket sales for the next 25 years.
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