Havasupai: The Post Office At The Bottom Of The Grand Canyon
By | February 18, 2020
Everybody needs mail, even if you live in a canyon
Sure, everyone is emailing now and Amazon is mostly running the shipping game, but people in the United States still need the USPS to live their day-to-day lives. That includes Supai Village, the community located within Havasu Canyon that houses the Havasupai tribe, but they have unique challenges. The only way that they can get mail, much of their food supply, or anything else they can't get from within the canyon walls is if it's delivered via mule to the bottom of the Canyon. Other shipping services would scoff at the idea of hiring an equine employee, but neither rain nor snow nor unconventional transportation requirements can stop the post office. This remote post office at the bottom of the Grand Canyon looks like a preserved chunk of the Wild West because that's basically what it is.
Most of the people who live near the bottom of the Grand Canyon rely on a team of mules that spends hours walking down to Supai Village six times a week. It's just like the route your own mail carrier follows, but it's dustier and it takes a little longer. Currently, there's no other mule-led mail route in the country, and according to Daniel Piazza, chief curator of philately at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, it may be one of the only mule mail delivery systems in the world.
So why mules? It's just not feasible to use any other means. Helicopters have been known to land in the area, but that's too expensive to do on a daily basis. The only thing that makes sense is to deliver the mail via mule.
Mule mail was much more common in the early 20th century
Humans have been delivering mail by various means since the first letter was written, from birds to balloons to dogsleds. While mules aren't the fastest creatures, they are the best animals for walking letters and packages down the winding paths of the Grand Canyon. They've been making deliveries since at least 1938, when they were first photographed traipsing into the Canyon, and they've been delivering the mail to Supai Village for generations since. The mules also make deliveries and pickups for a local lodge called Phantom Ranch, a tourist hotspot on the north side of the Colorado River. Every letter and postcard from the area is stamped with the words "mailed by mule."