BRIDGE BUILDING IN THE GRAND CANYON

Building a horseshoe-shaped skywalk, suspended over the cliffs of the Grand Canyon 4,000 feet above the Colorado River, obviously takes immense design, engineering and construction know how. It also requires an unbelievable amount of creativity, perseverance and teamwork.

No one company can lay claim to saying they alone built the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon Skywalk. It took the Hualapai Tribe (the landowners), a real estate developer, an architecture firm, an engineering firm and two construction companies – not to mention a lengthy list of subcontractors, construction products suppliers and a multitude of workers – to make this project a reality.

And, for some of those involved, they built more than a physical bridge. Several also built figurative bridges with those they worked with – giving life to new, enduring friendships.

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Awe and respect
Spending several years working on the job – in a location so remote that the nearest town was roughly four hours away – can bring people together and create lasting bonds. Three key players on this job, Architect Mark Rogers of MRJ Architects, Engineer Bill Karren of Lochsa Engineering and Project Manager Cliff Rogers, who was with APCO Construction during the early phases of the project, can attest to that.

The three men all live and work in Las Vegas. While they knew of each other through the city’s lively construction sector, it wasn’t until they became enmeshed in the creation of the Grand Canyon Skywalk that they become hiking and camping buddies…and true friends.

Besides the Las Vegas connection, all three share a real love and respect for the national treasure on which they worked to design, engineer and build the innovative and daring glass skywalk.

Rogers, an avid Grand Canyon hiker, never had been to the west rim on the Hualapai reservation and the site where the skywalk now sits before he began work on the project.

“When I first drove out there, it was an interesting feeling,” he recalls. “You think, ‘Where is this thing?’ You can feel the presence of it. You don’t see it until you are right on the edge of it. Then, when you look over the side, you are overwhelmed.”

Putting the “T” in teamwork
Rogers’ team members, Johnson and Karren, share this same sense of awe about the Canyon. They also share a determined respect for one of nature’s most magnificent wonders. All felt a responsibility to keep it as untouched as possible during the construction process.

This sense of responsibility – and the many hours of work the early stages of the project design and planning demanded – brought these three gentlemen together and gave them common ground to grow a friendship over the years. They quickly learned they shared common interests, and an effortless friendship grew between them, fostering a genuine sense of teamwork and camaraderie throughout the project.

“We obviously weren’t hired for our personal interests, so it was kind of strange that this project brought all of these main players together,” Johnson notes. “All of us have a shared interest in the outdoors and the southwest, and we became fast friends.”

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Lasting bonds
Now, more than six years after the skywalk opened to the public, this trio of construction professionals do more than just keep in touch through occasional phone calls or email conversations. They pack up their gear and head out for hiking in the spot that helped bring them together in the first place – the Grand Canyon.

“We still enjoy each other’s company,” Johnson says. “It was a good experience for everyone involved. It was a heck of a ride and adventure.”

Karren echoes this sentiment.

“The Grand Canyon truly is a special place. It means quite a bit to people. It means quite a bit to me,” he says. “It was downright exciting to be a part of this project and to get to know the people involved in it. Cliff, Mark and I became incredibly close. That doesn’t always happen on a project, but this one took tremendous teamwork…and brought us together.”

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