Arizona January 25, 2016
You’ll Never Guess How Mail Is Delivered To This Tiny Arizona Town
Ever feel that your mail never arrives soon enough? In an age of instant gratification and promised two-day shipping, waiting more than five days for a much anticipated package to arrive can feel like it’s being delivered by turtles. But what about by mule? That is actually still a reality in a secluded part of Arizona.
Located in the depths of the Grand Canyon is Supai, a tiny town with a population just over 200 people and located approximately eight miles from any main roadway, making this one of the most remote towns existing in the United States.
Inhabited by the Havasupai people for millennia, the people saw both their people and their ancestral homelands dwindle in the centuries following European settlement in the area. The Havasupai were forcibly removed and displaced in the 1920s following the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad and the dedication of the Grand Canyon as a national park. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, the Havasupai won several cases that eventually enabled them to return to at least a portion of their homeland.
The main method of travel in and out of this town? Hiking the eight miles on foot, although riding a helicopter or mule are faster options but with a catch. Helicopters cannot always navigate the high winds that often gust over the canyon walls, which makes mule riding a more reliable option and the primary reason the US Postal Service chooses a slightly slower version of the Pony Express method to deliver mail to Supai.
Each delivery is arduous: the mail carrier drives approximately 70 miles daily from the Peach Springs Post Office to the canyon rim, then rides three hours one way into the canyon. Each mule carries around 200 pounds of food, toiletries, postcards, letters, and other packages before making their way back up the canyon with outgoing mail and refuse.
This is dedication. Not only is it an impressive feat to go through this trek on a daily basis but it also enables and empowers an Indigenous culture to thrive in the 21st century. Just like the creed of the Postal Service, mail is delivered to Supai no matter the weather: neither rain, snow, nor the high summer temperatures stop the deliveries from taking place. In fact, mail has only been
in the last two decades.
Want to see the mules in action? Check out this short video that shows one half of the mule train trekking in supplies to Supai.