GCPBA RiverNews 2-9-14 – Hualapai River Runners Propose, then Postpone, Plan to Launch Upriver Trips

GCPBA RiverNews 2-9-14 - Hualapai River Runners Propose, then Postpone, Plan to Launch Upriver Trips

Hualapai River Runners recently announced, and then suspended for the present, its intention to conduct river trips that would run upstream from Diamond Creek in Grand Canyon.  The Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association has made it clear to Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga and GCNP Chief Law Enforcement Ranger Brian Bloom that we are opposed to any uprun plan.

The below news article by Felicia Fonseca contains background information.

Hualapai Plan for Upriver Trips Runs Afoul of Grand Canyon Regulations; Tribe Postpones Launch

by Felicia Fonseca, Feb 6, 2014

The Hualapai tribe has shelved a plan to run rafting trips upriver in the Grand Canyon after it ran afoul of the National Park Service.

The tribe's reservation in northwestern Arizona extends for more than 100 miles along the Colorado River and includes the only road to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But the National Park Service governs the waterway, and its regulations prohibit upriver travel on most of it.

Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said the agency learned through a news release of the tribe's plan to take passengers about 3 miles upriver from Diamond Creek year round. The Hualapai's plan to launch five boats upriver per day also would have exceeded the limit on river trips.

"This is a regulation that applies to all river users, and it would be in direct violation of the regulations in the book," he said. "We'd rather not get to that point of trying to deal with enforcement but actually convincing them this isn't safe and it isn't a good visitor experience."

Dave Cieslak, a spokesman for the tribe, said late Wednesday that the tribe would hold off on its plans until it talks with the Park Service.

"For decades, the Hualapai tribe has worked closely with the National Park Service to provide an unforgettable experience for thousands of visitors to the Colorado River," he said. "We respect the Park Service's concerns and will postpone the launch of these new tours while we review the regulations and discuss our various options."

The Hualapai's daylong whitewater rafting trips that launch downriver from Diamond Creek are unaffected.

Hualapai River Runners manager Earlene Havatone said the tribe has done upriver excursions in the past and simply planned to reintroduce them on March 15.

The tours were billed as a cultural experience. Passengers would leave from a tribal lodge in Peach Springs and travel down a primitive road to the river's edge where they would board a motorized raft and travel upstream about 20 minutes to a lava cliff with petroglyphs. Havatone said passengers would learn about the Hualapai's encounters with the U.S. cavalry, traditional trading partners on the river and other cultural tidbits.

"A lot of people don't have that opportunity," she said. "It's an authentic experience."

The Hualapai's announcement of the river trips baffled groups representing both commercial river trips and self-guided trips. John Dillon, executive director of the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association, said upriver travel above Separation Canyon, where two tributaries enter the river from the north and south about 40 miles from Lake Mead, clearly is prohibited by the Park Service.

"We're not allowed to deviate from that plan," he said. "We can't just think of an idea we'd like to do and do it. I think that's where everyone had pause."

(End of article)

GCPBA board member Rich Phillips said, "This violates a long-standing internal Park regulation (dating to the 1960's) against uprunning above Separation Rapid."  GCPBA will insist that GCNP enforce the regulation.

In a letter dated February 7, GCPBA President Wally Rist wrote to GCNP Superintendent Uberuaga opposing the Hualapai proposal:

Dear Superintendent Uberuaga,

As a follow up to my earlier inquiry on this matter, I am writing as President of Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association to register our opposition to any prospective upstream boating in the Colorado River above Diamond Creek...This proposal should be promptly met with head on opposition before it can re-emerge.

GCPBA believes that any such upstream travel would constitute a serious breach of the Colorado River Management Plan and certain federal regulations. We also believe such activity would significantly impact the wilderness character of that portion of the river as well as violate a longstanding traditional prohibition against upstream travel above Separation Canyon.

Another point to consider is that the stretch of river from about mile 219 to mile 224.5 is one of the most crowded in the canyon...Trips running upriver would (increase crowding in that) area and at the takeout. That makes the area immediately upstream of Diamond Creek critical for managing all river running in the GC.

Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association will absolutely and vigorously support Park and DOI action opposing this and any similar activity by anyone, not just the Hualapai River Runners. We believe that if this activity goes forward, it may lead to other CRMP infringements throughout the river corridor and possibly elsewhere in Grand Canyon National Park. The impact of these types of exploits can do nothing but have a severe negative impact on the character and quality of river running in Grand Canyon, as well as have major detrimental consequences for the Canyon ecosystem. We are hoping that quick preventive action by the Park will influence the tribe to permanently drop consideration of this prospective trip offering.

Thank you for your continued willingness to work with GCPBA on matters of mutual interest. Please be assured of our cooperation in this important matter and understand that we will insist on rigid enforcement.

(End of letter)

The full letter can be read on the home page at www.gcpba.org.

GCPBA board member Earl Perry noted, "Many river trips are on that stretch of the river every day, positioning themselves to either use the Diamond Creek area as a takeout in the morning or passing it on their way to the Pearce Ferry takeout."

Upriver runs will also present safety problems on the river.  GCPBA has learned of firsthand uprunning stories where, for example, " We were going down a rapid at the same time a boat was coming up.  The up river boat was totally out of control and hit a wave and quickly veered across the rapid almost striking (another) raft."  (C. Wolfson).

GCPBA will continue to monitor this situation.  We appreciate Superintendent Uberuaga's willingness to work with GCPBA on matters of mutual interest.

GCPBA RiverNews is a service of Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.  Join and Support GCPBA.  Visit our website www.gcpba.org.  We are on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/gcpba

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