GCPBA RiverNews 3/27/2017 – Grand Canyon Noncommercial River Trip Regulations Are Updated

Grand Canyon National Park recently updated their noncommercial river trip regulations.  The new regulations are dated March 9, 2017.  River runners are required by the Park to have a printed copy of the regulations with them at all times.  They can be viewed at this link:


Included in the new regulations is language GCPBA discussed with the Park about stow away motors once again being allowed to be carried on trips, for use only below Separation Canyon.

The trip will not be classified as a motor or hybrid trip.  The regular maximum non-motorized, noncommercial oar trip lengths will apply.

You can read about GCPBA's announcement of stow away motors being allowed again here:


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GCPBA RiverNews 2/26/17 – Glen Canyon Dam HFE/Adaptive Management Report

GCPBA RiverNews 2/26/17 - Glen Canyon Dam HFE/Adaptive Management Report

Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association board member John Vrymoed was on a Grand Canyon river trip during the November, 2016, high flow. His experience during it led him to contact the people who manage Glen Canyon Dam to give them his comments and input of how it could be improved for private boaters. He attended their Adaptive Management meeting in January.

His report is below. We thank John for taking time to attend the meeting on behalf of GCPBA and private boaters.

How I Ended Up in a Meeting with a Group of Grand Canyon Scientists
by John Vrymoed

While I was camping at Matkat Hotel, 149 miles from Lees Ferry in Grand Canyon, I went down to the river’s edge in the early morning hours to see how our boats fared at the end of the ramp-down period of the November, 2016, High Flow Experiment (HFE). (The river flow went from about 9,000 cfs to 36,000 cfs, then back down to 10,000 during one week's time). It was not a pretty sight. One boat was completely out of the water on a flat portion of beach. My Big Daddy Cat was precariously cantilevered on a massive boulder, four feet above the water line. Others fared a little better, having come to rest on a steeply sloped portion of beach and were easily pushed back in the water. Needless to say, it was slow getting going that morning.

The high flow, having started on Nov 7, 2017, reached us while we were camped at Lower Bass. We sat out that first day of the HFE and hiked. Never having experienced a flow of 36K, we were all a little apprehensive that following morning. What’s Specter Rapid going to be like, or Bedrock, or Deubendorff? Much to our relief, all the rapids were made easier. Not so for the group behind us, who had two boats flip in Crystal.

While unloading/reloading the boats at Matkat, I became aware that the ramp-down rate was too fast, as it didn’t allow for the newly deposited sand to adequately drain. As a result, the slope was caving, losing what sand had just been deposited. This phenomenon was noticed as we went down that day; the steeper slopes had rivulets as water flowed back to the water line, with portions of the slope caving.

If the high flow releases are an experiment, why not lower the ramp-down rate and perhaps increase the already beneficial aspects of the HFE's? Being a retired geotechnical engineer, I felt strongly enough about this to author a letter for the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association to send to the US Bureau of Reclamation, suggesting that a slower ramp-down rate be considered for future HFE's.

This trip piqued my interest in HFE's, as well as making me curious of the purpose and results of all the “science” trips many of us have encountered while going down the river. To satisfy my curiosity, on behalf of the GCPBA I decided to attend the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Annual Meeting held on January 24, 2017, in Phoenix. I’m glad I did. I’m a long time boater and am conversant with the NPS requirements for noncommercial boaters, negotiating the rapids, the number of groover cans needed per person for X number of days of a river trip, etc. This was a chance to learn about all the other aspects that I’ve always ignored and had not cared about.

HFE's: Whether or not one is done is dependent on the available sand to be moved as a result of sand deposited by flows in the Paria River and Little Colorado River. An HFE results in a monetary loss due to no electricity being generated at Glen Canyon Dam because HFE water has to be released through the bypass tubes. How much of a loss depends upon the number of generators online at that time.

Also, I didn’t know that there are about 10 cameras installed throughout the Grand Canyon river corridor to monitor beach erosion. I had heard references of cameras and assumed they were monitoring us boaters.

A good synopsis of beach building was provided during the poster session. This information was put together by Katie Chapman, who is a student at Northern Arizona University. This work was done under the auspices of the United States Geological Survey. Beach Building Poster

Humpback Chub: Is the size of the population of this native fish affected by water temperature, available food supply, or predation? Predation by trout or by mature humpbacks? Or, are they not being caught, which is easier in the Little Colorado River than the Colorado River. A lively discussion ensued regarding which factor most influenced the health of this odd looking fish.

Vegetation: Well, we all know that there is more vegetation now than there used to be. What was interesting were the comparison photographs taken during the Stanton survey in 1889 with those recently taken in the same exact locations. If interested, type “Stanton repeat photography” in your browser. As an example, it is interesting to see what Parashant looked like in 1889.

Stanton Repeat Photography

A survey of 832 private boater's experience in Grand Canyon indicated the following:

* On their trips, 75% experienced a flow 13,000 cubic feet per second
* The most preferred flow was 22,000 cfs
* The least preferred was 5,000 cfs

The preferred flows where found to have a net economic value. When asked, the folks surveyed were willing to roughly pay $700 above trip costs to have a flow of 22K as opposed to 5k. Interesting.

A good aggregation of info regarding HFE's, fish, etc., and the science behind, it is available at: Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management. This page is the Wikipedia version of all the science related topics. Check it out.

Well, something good did come out of having to unload my cat, lift it off the boulder, and reload it. I’m now more educated about one of my favorite places. Conversing with the scientists doing the studies, I was able to convey that this private boater cares and appreciates their work.

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GCPBA RiverNews 1/15/17 – Stow Away Motors For Diamond Down Allowed Again!

GCPBA has just received excellent news from Grand Canyon National Park regarding the use of a motor on the flat water of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon from below Separation Canyon to the Pearce Ferry takeout.  Here is our announcement:

The Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association would like to extend our thanks to Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Chris Lehnertz for an important adaptive management change she made to the Colorado River Management Plan.  This change is very meaningful to noncommercial Grand Canyon river runners wanting to use the Pearce Ferry takeout rather than the Diamond Creek takeout.

GCPBA requested of the Park that noncommercial river trips again be allowed to stow a motor on a boat at the Lees Ferry ramp, to be used only below Separation Canyon on the flat water stretch of the Colorado River.  We are now allowed to do so.  Clearly Supt. Lehnertz heard us, and she approved and implemented the following change.

The new regulation reads, “Non-motorized trips launching from Lees Ferry in the motorized season may stow or pack motors from the launch but are prohibited from using them above Separation Canyon for any reason. Trip leaders must declare and acknowledge to the Lees Ferry Ranger that there is a motor and must sign a motor waiver form provided by at Lees Ferry by the Ranger. All equipment and registration as such for a motor vessel must be present.”

We have been talking with the National Park Service about this issue since 2006, when the Colorado River Management Plan was last revised.

New noncommercial river trip regulations that resulted from the 2006 revision did not allow stow away motors.  After a conversation GCPBA had in 2006 with Grand Canyon National Park personnel, the regulations were rewritten to allow for them.

However, approximately 1-1/2 years ago, GCNP reversed this, putting back the "no stow" regulation.  This was due to reported violations of the regulation; motors were reportedly being used above Diamond.  Some violations were observed by river ranger patrols.

GCPBA immediately challenged this change and advocated for a reversal.  After discussions with the previous Superintendent and Chief Ranger in 2015, and Supt. Lehnertz and current Chief Ranger Matthew Vandzura during 2016, including at GCPBA's October, 2016, meeting with GCNP personnel, we have secured the reversal.

GCPBA member John V. was another voice in achieving this change.  His letter to the Park echoed our sentiments about this matter, and was no doubt helpful.  It included, "I'm now physically taxed to row the miles from Separation to Pearce".  (This is approximately 40 miles, and can be against upriver winds).  "Picking up a motor (at Diamond) is not practical and is costly,... in the $700 range".

GCPBA greatly appreciates Supt. Lehnertz and Chief Ranger Vandzura for hearing our request and implementing this change.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Park and encouraging further improvements and opportunities for private boaters to enjoy "the trip of a lifetime" on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon.

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GCPBA RiverNews 9/25/16 – Grand Canyon’s New Granite Springs Rapid

Boaters beware!

GCPBA has learned of a change in Granite Springs Rapid at about mile 220.5, just after the popular mile 220 camps.  This stretch of the river with "minor" rapids between mile 220 and Diamond Creek is often taken for granted by boaters as an easy six miles to the Diamond takeout, but no longer should that be so.

Reports are that debris washed down Granite Springs Canyon during a flash flood, narrowing the river at the mouth of the canyon and depositing boulders in the river.  At various flows there is a very large hole just right of center of the rapid, hidden about halfway down the wave train.  It is not very visible at the entrance to the rapid.  Be aware if you scout from your boat at the approach!

This hole has flipped 16' and 18' boats and washed people out of other boats.  It is suggested by boaters who have seen the hole and the new rapid that we should look at running the left side of the rapid, although that, of course, can also change at any time.

You can see it here, on Youtube, nearly flipping a raft and giving people an unexpected swim:


From another perspective, this is a wonderful example of how dynamic the river is, how it can change at any time.

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GCPBA RiverNews 6/29/16 – Grand Canyon Night Skies To Become More Spectacular

The article below is from TECHLY. Maybe we'll be able to see many more stars at night from our river camps.

The Grand Canyon’s magnificent skies are set to become even more incredible

by Ronan O'Connell
June 28, 2016

It scarcely seems possible, but the Grand Canyon is about to get even more spectacular.

One of the most visually astonishing places on the planet, this natural wonder soon will have some of the most amazing night skies in the US thanks to a plan to remove light pollution in the area.

In a joint operation by the US National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association, the Grand Canyon National Park has been declared a provisional “International Dark Sky Park”.

This means great effort will be taken to ensure the public lighting in the park does not pollute the natural light, allowing visitors to get even clearer views of the night sky.

IDA Executive Director Scott Feierabend said the plan could help to ensure “the Colorado Plateau remains a protective harbor for some of the best night skies in the country”.

The IDA founded its Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to try foster the concept of reducing light pollution in areas with incredible night skies, with a lot of these areas located inside national parks across the world.

Under the plan, thousands of light fixtures within the Grand Canyon National Park will be upgraded to varieties which offer sufficient ground-level illumination without significantly reducing the clarity of the night sky.

IDA says that about 43 per cent of the lighting within the Grand Canyon National Park meets their criteria and does not need to be changed. The aim is to have a 100 per cent adherence rate in time for the 100th anniversary of the park in 2019.

The Park’s deputy chief of science and resource management, Jane Rodgers, is excited to see the impact of the program, saying, “Grand Canyon offers a spectacular night sky that visitors come from all over the world to experience.”

If it can achieve 100 per cent compliance, the Grand Canyon will become one of eight national parks on the Colorado Plateau which are classified as Dark Sky Parks.

GCPBA RiverNews is a service of Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.
Join and Support GCPBA. Visit our website www.gcpba.org.
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GCPBA Comments on Back Country Management Plan EIS

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GCPBA response to LTEMP draft EIS

Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA) was founded in 1996 to provide a voice for the noncommercial  boating community in the Grand Canyon. Our organization is currently comprised of approximately 440 paid members, and more than 4000 internet subscribers. We are a non‐profit 501(c)(3) organization, whose stated purpose is to:

Promote, encourage, and advocate for the interests of the non‐commercial boating community on the river, particularly (but not limited to) access issues involving the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

Our membership is directly affected by, and cares strongly about, the environmental, cultural, and recreational resources of the Grand Canyon (GC) river corridor, which are inherently impacted by Glen Canyon Dam operations. Therefore, on behalf of our membership -  as well as all future river corridor users, GCPBA offers  the following  comments on the Long Term Experimental and Management Plan(LTEMP, or the Plan) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) now under consideration.

GCPBA Board members attended all the scoping meetings.  We submitted written comments  November 15, 2011.  On January 10, 2012, Grand Canyon River Guides, Grand Canyon River Runners Association,  Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association, Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association,  and American Whitewater all signed a joint submission.

Since that time Grand Canyon Trust has joined in with our “cooperative coalition” and submitted scoping comments as well.  We are all pleased that  Alternative D (Preferred Alternative) substantially reflects the many comments and concerns we all expressed.  Therefore,  GCPBA is in support of Alternative D (Preferred Alternative).  GCPBA  is hopeful that the Final EIS will not water down the beach preservation and building, nor the environmental  protections.

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GCPBA RiverNews 11/6/15 – Unused Grand Canyon Noncommercial Launch Dates Are Rescheduled, Not Lost

The Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association would like to extend our thanks to Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga for an important adaptive management change he made early this year to the Colorado River Management Plan.  This change is very meaningful to noncommercial Grand Canyon river runners seeking a permit to launch a river trip.

GCPBA requested that unused noncommercial river trip launch dates during a year be rescheduled, rather than lost.  We wrote to the Park:

"We would like to discuss and perhaps develop a method for rescheduling unused noncommercial trips.  With the 2006 CRMP, noncommercial river runners achieved long awaited gains in the number of trips allowed to launch.  They are very valuable to us and highly sought after, as every year’s river trip lottery application data shows.  Unfortunately, sometimes for reasons beyond their control, permit holders must cancel their trips.  Sometimes these trips cannot subsequently be awarded to anyone else to use on the original launch date.  Unused noncommercial river trip launches, for any reason, perhaps could be placed back on the launch schedule, on dates later in the same year, chosen at the River Office’s discretion so that the Trips At One Time parameter is not exceeded."

Clearly Superintendent Uberuaga heard us and other members of the public, and he approved and implemented the following change early in 2015.  The announcement from April 3, 2105, says:

"Up to 20 unused noncommercial launches (last minute cancellations) will be added to the subsequent year’s list of available dates and made available through lotteries to the public. Launches will be scheduled in the subsequent year near the date of the original planned launch.  Noncommercial launches canceled more than 30 days in advance will continue to be distributed through a lottery system for the original launch date. This change will apply to last minute cancellations and no-shows."

Immediately upon approval unused five launch dates from March, 2014, onward were added to the 2015 launch calendar.  Eleven unused 2015 dates have been added to the 2016 launch calendar.  Launch dates that are canceled from now through the end of 2015 and remain unused will be released in a future lottery.  All unused dates that were rescheduled to the next year were offered in secondary lotteries, including the one that ended October 15, 2015.

This is expected to go on indefinitely.  Further details of the implementation of the plan to reschedule unused launch dates will be coming soon.

GCPBA greatly appreciates Superintendent Uberuaga, River Permits Program Manager Steve Sullivan, and other Park personnel for hearing our suggestions and implementing these changes.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with the park and encouraging further improvements and opportunities for private boaters to enjoy "the trip of a lifetime" on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon.

GCPBA RiverNews is a service of Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.
Join and Support GCPBA.  Visit our website www.gcpba.org.
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Groovers on the Grand

So am I correct that one can use a rocket box by itself as a groover on the Grand? No insert is required?

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GCPBA RiverNews 1/23/15 – Grand Canyon to Replace Portion of Trans-Canyon Pipeline at Phantom Ranch

GCPBA RiverNews 1/23/15 - Grand Canyon to Replace Portion of Trans-Canyon Pipeline at Phantom Ranch

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Grand Canyon National Park will begin replacing a portion of the Trans-Canyon Pipeline at Phantom Ranch beginning on Monday, January 26, 2015. Ortega Plumbing and Heating of Albuquerque, NM has been awarded a contract for replacement of this section of the pipeline. The project area will replace up to a half mile section of the Trans-Canyon Pipeline (TCP) including pipeline from the lower Campground Bridge north to the Phantom Ranch Cantina and a short section around the NPS mule corral.

Beginning on Monday, January 26th, construction crews, supplies, and heavy equipment will start to be transferred from the South Rim to staging areas near Phantom Ranch. To help reduce the number of flights, a Type 1, heavy lift helicopter, will be utilized to assist with moving materials to the construction site. The heavy lift helicopter will be in use for approximately two weeks or until the equipment transfer is complete.

It is currently anticipated that construction will be complete by the end of July 2015. During this time period all hikers and backcountry users should expect to encounter detours, possible delays, and closures while traveling near the construction zone. Visitors should follow all posted signs, detour routes, and verbal instructions of personnel on-site.

Hikers and backcountry users should be prepared treat creek water while in the inner canyon. Construction will require intermittent shutdown of the pipeline temporarily shutting down the drinking water system along the corridor trails. All hikers should check in at the Backcountry Information Center, prior to starting their hikes, for up-to-date information on trail conditions, construction detours, and water availability.

Phantom Ranch, the Cantina, and the Bright Angel Campground will all remain open during construction. Visitors to the Phantom Ranch area should be aware that work may take place between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on any day of the week. Moderate daytime noise and dust impacts are expected due to the construction activities and associate equipment use.

Individuals who have campground reservations and have questions about impacts of construction work on their trip should contact the Backcountry Information Center at 928-638-7875. Guests with advance reservations at Phantom Ranch should contact the Xanterra Central Reservations at 1-888-297-2757 with any questions about their reservations.

The Trans-Canyon Pipeline was built in the mid-1960’s and feeds water to Grand Canyon National Park from Roaring Springs. 16 miles in length, the aging pipeline is constructed of 6-8” aluminum pipe that over the past decade has suffered numerous leaks, fissures, and breaks. Full replacement of the TCP is currently estimated at $100-150 million dollars. This current project replaces only a very small section and addresses immediate issues where breaks occur frequently with the highest risk to visitors and facilities at Phantom Ranch.

Since 1978, major pipeline breaks have occurred anywhere from five to 30 times annually and the frequency of breaks continues to increase as the pipeline ages. A flash-flood in 1995 caused extensive damage to the pipeline, shutting it down for 28 days while it was repaired. During that time the park implemented emergency water hauling measures and trucked in 23 million gallons of water (85 trucks per day) from outside sources at a cost of approximately $5 million dollars. More recently multiple breaks along the TCP in late June 2013 required the closure and evacuation of guests and employees from Phantom Ranch. This past December another large break required the temporary closure of Phantom Ranch for several days while crews dealt with weather related delays in repairing the pipeline.

Every effort is being made to minimize impacts to park visitors and residents during this important infrastructure improvement. Questions about the Phantom Ranch pipeline replacement project should be directed to Greg MacGregor at 928-638-7360.

For additional information about hiking at Grand Canyon National Park, please visit www.nps.gov/planyourvisit.htm

Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski

Public Affairs Office

Grand Canyon National Park

GCPBA RiverNews is a service of Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.
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