Water – GC Sources and Issues

I'd like to ask for information on shoreline/side canyon sources of
drinking water.  Is there presently an aggregated list of places where a trip can stop and fill up water jugs?  If not, what are the known, reliable places to do so?  Thanks.


Colorado River when running clean and green, Phantom Ranch of course, the high volume sources like Vasey's, Tapeats, Warm Springs come to mind and seem to be adequate for most of our trips.  Clear, Crystal, and Deer Creeks would also probably be OK.

This assumes the group has at least a six gallon container on each raft and tries to keep them full, uses river water for dishes with only a chlorinated rinse and doesn't let someone make off with the clear water to wash their hair.

All water no matter how high volume or clear should at least be chemically treated.  Some would also filter everything consumed but we have never found the necessity to do that. If it is used in cooking where temperature will be above 160 degrees it is probably OK without treatment if the water is clear enough to use.

BTW: During the Constituency Panel days the NPS would always report the sidestreams as being more polluted than the main Colorado. It better be high volume or well treated if out of a sidestream or some waterhole you find.


There is a very nice spring at the bottom of Lava Falls, river left, that we always use to fill the jugs. It is a good spot to use to fill while waiting for the other boats to run Lava Falls, and before heading to Tequilla Beach.

It was reported last April or May that this spring was gone, but I used it last June.

Jay Meierdierck


That's Warm Springs Jay.

The discharge into the river does wander around a bit on the slope there but the spring always seems to be active.


The springs have an extremely high arsenic level in the water river left at Lava.

Jim Moss


Sort of spooks me a little when a post like Dr. Jim's comes through -- after I drank copious amounts there, and filled all our water containers to the brim two years ago.

Maybe that explains all those aches and pains I attributed to old age.... 

Rich Phillips


It would be helpful to have a bit more info.  Did someone test the water?  What are the levels - ppb?  I find it warm and very unpleasant tasting so I don't use it, but what sources have been used to determine it's content/safety?

I've generally advocated using the river and filtering, but also have used Vasey's unfiltered and even water from the pool at the bottom of DeerC reek - filtered - fiqured the fall would kill anything 🙂



I agree more data is needed before declaring Warm Springs a health hazard. How much arsenic would be of interest to all here.

I've never noticed Warm Springs being warm although it is definitely above river temperature.  Probably around 70 degrees like most of the other Redwall and Mauv springs.

No one has ever complained about an unpleasant taste either.  Some of us have placed it directly in canteens with two drops of chlorine and downed it a hour or so later.  Perhaps the previous couple of weeks of chemical treatment with chlorine has disturbed our delicate palettes by then.


What about the spring at mile 155 on river right?  Maybe someone has mentioned this by a name?  As I recall this is a shower or falls that falls directly into the river, a short ways before Havasu right on the curve.  I have taken pictures of it but never stopped, and don't really know if you can stop there.

The Stevens Guide identifies two springs in that area and a small camp.  I've never stopped at the camp either and as I'm typing this I can't recall a wide enough area to camp at that close to Havasu (just over a mile upstream).

Jay Meierdierck


I've heard that called Buckhorn Springs.  The group I was with in 1981 stopped at the ledges just upstream and we all went for a hike to the top of the shower and back into the drainage a bit. Not that memorable a hike as I recall.

There is a pretty good camp  a mile or so upstream of Havasu on river right.  I've camped on the ledges there a couple of times when there was just Susan and I.  Drifter and the other GC commercial guides bring groups in there just above the small riffle.  Spent a pleasant afternoon talking to Drifter one time when the ARZRA folks arrived to camp there.


RE:  The spring at 155, If it's the same place, and I think it is, there's a picture of the Dusty Dozen (1934 Hatch-Swain-Frazier-Eddy) cooling off in that spring in my book RIVERMAN, p. 46.  But I was told it was called Big Horn Spring by Mark Smith, brother of Ron Smith, and that's how I captioned it.  In the first edition I had it mislabeled as Vasey's Paradise, but Mark set me straight for the second edition.

Roy Webb


It would be nearly impossible to water up at the falls river right 155.2 because of the current.  I've tried several times to "hang" there without much luck.  A light boat (kayak) would make it easy.   Besides, it almost certainly has high TDS since you can see that it is sourced from the hanging gardens/travertine area high up on the cliffs above.  The little water fall at Ledges is a similar situation where it is obvious that the water has high TDS.

Depending on how hard you want to work for it, water can be had at Fence Fault.  However, since Vasey's is just downstream and most groups still have "put-in" water it is not likely to ever be a frequently used water source.

An excellent tool for collecting water at Fence Fault, Beecher Springs, Spring Ck and similar places is a bilge pump.  The pump allows you to be very selective where you get your water since you can aim the input.  Since I always gather water into a poly-bucket before putting it into a jug I use the pump to suck up sediment and "floater" organics in the bucket.

Another trick that I'm sure most people are aware of is skimming water from deep water sources.  Usually, the top  to  of deep water sources (e.g. the river, Deer CK) contains less sediment and "floaters".  Using a poly-bucket to skim this top layer will result in less frequent filter cleaning.  Likewise, if you are using a filter, hold the intake as high as possible in the bucket and when the bucket is down to dregs (bottom 2"-8" depending) start with a fresh bucket.   Holding the intake as high as possible is especially obvious when using alum.

Off the top of my head, depending on need, water can be had at Clear Ck, Matkat, Elves Chasm, Fern Glen and National.  But since better sources are nearby these are not likely to be frequent sources.

Ron Radzieta


In August/September 2003, the river was running as red as its name.  We filled a tandem canoe at that spring and put it on a raft.  Then we stopped below Son of Lava and all got to wash our hair in clear water.  What a luxury!

There is a very nice spring at the bottom of Lava Falls, river left, that we always use to fill the jugs. It is a good spot to use to fill while waiting for the other boats to run Lava Falls, and before heading to Tequilla Beach.

It was reported last April or May that this spring was gone, but I used it last June.

Jay Meierdierck


Serving on the Black Canyon City Water Improvement District board, I realize that most of the water sources in Arizona have arsenic. We recently spent a bit over a half million to bring our water system into compliance with federal regulation changes.

So the question always becomes how much arsenic is in the water not whether it is there or not.

Try this  link:  http://www.gcrg.org/bqr/8-2/water.htm


The water supply springs that I'm aware of are:

Mile 32, Vasey's Paradise

Mile 88, Phantom Ranch

Mile 181, River Left

Mile 204, Spring Canyon

Mile 215, Three Springs Canyon

The spring at mile 181 is right at water level on river left and is underwater if the river is over 9,000 cfs.  The GPS coordinates are N36 10.951  W113 06.849.

As of last September the warm water spring at Lava was no longer flowing where you can get to it in a raft.  It is now running into the river half way down the rapid and is just a stream flowing between the rocks.  There's no good way to fill water containers.

Jim M


I am in Hawaii right now and can't access info.  Most of the samples for lab analyses I have personally collected over a period of years were for the headwaters of Havasu, Indian Gardens, and Blue Springs; however, as Bob L. has pointed out, there are data for other springs in the published literature, though not a lot of data (especially data for varying conditions).  I know an NPS hydrologist who has tabulated much of this data and I'll see if I can get an updated spreadsheet from him for posting here.

Although it is true most of the side streams have elevated amounts of this or that, the drinking water limits for those constituents are developed with very high safety factors.  The key is whether the health effects are acute or chronic and whether you have a sensitivity to it.  In the short span of a river trip, you generally don't need to worry about ingesting a constituent that has only chronic effects unless they are *****ulative (stay in the body), you are exposed to it routinely in your normal environment, or you happen to have a sensitivity to it.  I am only talking about typical concentrations in remote streams that may exceed the federal standards (blah, blah, blah insert qualifiers, here).

For example, federal limits for constituents that have a cancer concern are based on the amount (from health effects studies) calculated to increase the risk of getting cancer to 1 in a million for
an average adult drinking 5 liters per day for 70 years (I'm not a risk
assessment expert and these numbers may vary, but this is what I
remember from my last Superfund Site).

One of the concerns about arsenic in drinking water is that it is thought to increase the occurrence of lung cancer in smokers.  Total
dissolved solids content (TDS) by itself is not a primary drinking
water standard, but does affect the taste (and makes the Baileys curdle!).

Since most people don't know what they are sensitive to, or what they are exposed to on a daily basis, it is safest to filter and treat water from the mainstream.  Although the overall load (mass) of constituents of concern in the mainstream is probably higher than in side streams (due to irrigation return flows, stormwater runoff from cities, sewage effluent, Rich peeing upstream, etc., etc.), dilution reduces concentrations to very low levels.  Filtering and treating reduces those levels even further.  Sediment load in stormwater runoff is a big factor that can change this relation.

Having said all that, I usually take water from selected sidestreams sans filtering if they are clear.  I used to not treat either, but with the virus scares the last few years, I do treat.  We usually carry
two 5-6 gal containers per boat 16' or larger and fill up at Vaseys,
Phantom, Tapeats/Deer Ck, and wherever else it is convenient and a
Redwall-Muav aquifer system stream (regional aquifer).  We pump/filter/treat from the river when in need and between springs.  I have relied on Ledges in the past, but it has not gotten flushed very well (either at surface or subterranean) during the drought, and has elevated arsenic and TDS.



I should add that I do filter from side streams unless I am at the headwaters or the spring itself.  So I do filter at Tapeats and Deer Ck.



I would say I agree with you on your water sources and they match my stops and refills.  I don't have my notes in front of me, so I don't remember the mile number, but there are a couple of falling seep springs that I also use on river right, in addition to the ones already mentioned.  I always K-filter water from side streams or the river, however I have never treated any water from these seeps and I have never treated water from warm springs.  Guess I have been lucky since I nor anyone in my groups have never gotten the bug(s).

I appreciate the information and the feedback from you knowledgable people and I will rethink my water collection stategy.

Skip Caldwell


Three Springs is a clear low volume source. Mile 216. You can stop just upstream and hike up and over on a developed trail, probably NPS, to the pools for water. Definitely treat it. Pictographs above the pools.


Hi Bill,

Turns out I have some additional information on my bookshelf, in the form of the Whitis/Martin river guide -- as compiled by a GCPBA life member, no less:

1)  Fence Fault Left, RM 30.3 left, low water only

2)  Vasey's RM 31.9 right

3)  Hanging Springs RM 34.4 right

4)  Nankoweap RM 52.2 right

5)  Lava canyon RM 65.5 right

6)  Clear Ck RM 84.2 right

7)  Phantom Ranch boat beach RM 87.5 right (treated water)

8)  Monument Creek RM 93.4 left

9)  Hermit Creek RM 94.9 left

10) Crystal Creek RM 98.1 right

11) Shinumo Creek RM 108.6 right

12) Elves Chasm RM 116.5 left

13) Stone Creek RM 131.8 right

14) Tapeats Creek RM 133.7 right

15) Deer Creek RM 136.2 right

16) Below Backeddy seep RM 137.3 right

17) Kanab Creek (urp) RM 143.5 right

18) Olo RM 145.5 left

19) Matkat RM 147.9 left

20) Ledges Camp RM 151.5

21) Havasu? Not me buddy

22) Lava Well (inaccessible to oar rigs presently)

23) Becher Spring (tastes of sulphur) RM 181.2 left

24) Spring Canyon 204.2 right (short walk up the draw)

25) Three Srings RM 215.6 left

26) Travertine Canyon RM 229 left (odd taste)

27) Spencer Canyon RM 246.0 left

28) Quartermaster, but hard to reach

29) Riverside warm spring at about RM 269.5 right

30) Cave Canyon Rm 274.6 left


Rich Phillips

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