Amazon Delivers to Bottom of Grand Canyon, in a Unique Way

Company can't use its vans to reach workers at Phantom Ranch, but mules do the trick
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2023 1:35 PM CDT

You may be accustomed to seeing those ubiquitous dark-blue vans with the Amazon logo puttering around your town, especially around the holidays when package deliveries are at a peak. In the northwest corner of Arizona, however, a different mode of transport is employed: mules, saddled up with sealed boxes as they trek down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. There are no suburban neighborhoods nestled 9 miles below the South Rim, but there is the Phantom Ranch, described as a "historic oasis" where visitors can spend the night—and where Amazon delivers to the staffers who both live and work there. In a Wednesday blog post, Amazon deems the Phantom Ranch "one of the most remote places Amazon delivers [to]," explaining that the only way to get to the site is by foot, river raft, or the mules.

The equine hybrids typically deliver mail and such supplies as produce, TP, beer, and fixings for the ranch's steak dinners, as well as the Amazon packages, which are transported down four days a week. The packages are initially dropped off at a warehouse on the South Rim, then are loaded up onto the mules, who set off down the Bright Angel Trail just after sunrise to avoid traveling during the hotter parts of the day. It usually takes the two human pack leaders, each with a set of five mules, about four hours to descend to the bottom of the canyon, then another four or five hours to get back up to the top, an Amazon rep tells USA Today, adding that the delivery method is "one of the most unique ways customers can receive their deliveries."

Mules who regularly make the trip can pretty much get to their destination by heart. "The more you take them down, the more they memorize the trail," one of the mule packers says in a video Amazon features on the blog, showing the animals in action. "Most of the mules that we have at this point could probably walk the trail with their eyes closed." "The supplies that our mule team brings down are a critical part of making sure that life can exist down at the bottom comfortably and happily," says a spokesperson for the ranch's owner in the blog post. "Having a service like Amazon available to employees, especially in a place as remote as Phantom Ranch, is fantastic." (Read more stories.)

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