Colorado River Historic High Water Level Within The Grand Canyon

This report was commissioned by GCPBA for the benefit of the private boater.  John Vrymoed, author of the report, is a registered civil and geotechnical engineer in California, now retired.  He is a published author on topics related to earthquake engineering and dam performance, has served on a panel of experts for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and has given presentations at various conferences.

Synopsis:  The purpose of this report is to define the Colorado River's high water level's location and thereby assist the private boater in recognizing the extent of the disputed boundary between Grand Canyon National Park and the Hualapai tribal lands.  The Colorado River historic high water level within the Grand Canyon is determined to be 80 feet above a base flow of 8,000 cfs between Lees Ferry and the confluence of the Little Colorado River, and 100 feet above the base flow from there to the Grand Wash Cliffs.

Read the full report here:  Colorado River High Water Mark Report

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GCPBA President’s Letter – December 2018

Greetings All, Time to catch up on what’s been happening...

The Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association had its annual meeting October 4-6 in Flagstaff, AZ. The officers for 2018-2019 are:

President:  Rich Harter
VP: John Vrymoed
Secretary: Blakely LaCroix
Members at Large:
Dave Mortensen
Helen Howard
Wally Rist
Rich Turner

Issues and Concerns

The boundary dispute between the Hualapai and US Government has existed for some time and has laid dormant for many years.  As many of you know, the Hualapai have recently made their position regarding the boundary’s location known, by way of a public notice, stating that a permit is required for use of the camps on the left side of the river between RM 164 and 273.  This is of particular concern to the Board as it affects our boating community.  We have written to the Park stating our concerns. While there have been no new developments the Board is keeping close tabs on what may happen going forward.  As of this date we do not know of any boater, private or commercial, who has been impacted.  To our knowledge, the Hualapai have not carried out their stated intent to physically monitor any violations.

Along that line, John Vrymoed, the Board’s Vice President, made a power point presentation to the Board and the NPS, identifying the location of the high water mark.  The US Government cites this as the boundary without physically identifying on the ground.  John is a retired civil engineer with extensive experience in in water resource engineering.  The Board and NPS employees were able to see our Vice President’s PowerPoint  presentation on the high water mark and it was very informative. We will try and post that on YouTube or another platform so you can better understand the boundary of GCNP. The Board commissioned John to write an engineering report, which we will make available to you in the near future.  Similarly, we keep in contact with the Grand Canyon Trust as our concern over the Escalade project has not diminished. 

GCPBA, along with a number of other organizations, signed a letter opposing the proposed defunding of the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center. The GCMRC is funded through the Western Power Administration – the proposed shift of $23 million to the General Fund was defeated. 

National Park Service Discussion

We discussed several issues with the Park Service such as having current printed copies of the regulations, and the 2 car limit per group at the ramp.  Some folks had accessed a non-NPS website to print out their regulations, which were outdated.  Others may have printed theirs at the time they were notified of a winning date – long before the actual launch.  To remedy this, the Permits Office will inform permit holders to print out the regulations one month before launch.   We printed a number of sets of regulations to be handed out by the rangers as needed.

We requested of them to allow that more space on the ramp be made available during shoulder and winter season for rigging and allow more than two cars per launch group be on the ramp.  They stated as long as the schedule allows, we will be granted more space to rig depending on the number of private trips launching. To be clear, this will be at the ranger’s discretion and as the schedule permits. We are also be keeping a close eye on any developments that may occur on that front.

On Saturday we had a presentation from Steve Sullivan from the River Permits Office.  I am ecstatic to report that, for the first time since the 2006 Colorado River Management Plan was instituted, we are projected to be at over 500 private trips launching for 2018! When the lawsuit was filed ~2000 we had 237 trips and used around 167, or roughly 67%. Today we are at 99%+ of 503 trips. While this is great news, we still feel there may be some room for improvement and we are studying the CRMP to see what, if anything, can be done going forward.

We had a spirited discussion with Steve about adding private trips at various times throughout the year.  His main comment was that it could not be done as an adaptive management of the current Colorado River Management Plan, but would require extensive research of how the trips would fit into the currently allowed Trips At One Time that the CRMP allows.  It could require a new management plan.

We were informed by the Lees Ferry personnel that the trash/recycle situation there was fast becoming untenable and we offered our assistance on that issue. It seems to be resolved for the time being but the rangers asked us to convey a couple of items for your consideration. Most importantly among those items was to ask all river runners to bring as little packaging as possible to the put in. While I know many of us shop for last minute items on the way to the Lee’s Ferry, and can’t easily dispose of recyclables and trash before arriving. It would make the Ferry an easier place to navigate if we could minimize what we bring that needs disposal of any type. It would also speed up your checkout if everyone had their ID ready, as well as all mandatory river items out for inspection prior to the ranger arriving.  It will expedite the check-in if all the required items are grouped together in one place as opposed to the ranger moving from boat to boat.

We are hoping all of you have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season and may you all get the trips you want next year.

Rich Harter

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GCPBA RiverNews 10/6/2018 – Grand Canyon Noncommercial River Trip Regulations Are Updated

Grand Canyon National Park recently updated their noncommercial river trip regulations.  The new regulations are dated October 2, 2018.  River trips are required by the Park to have a printed copy of the regulations with them at all times.  Regulations dated earlier than this are not sufficient.  The new regulations can be viewed and printed at this link:

River trips without the current regulations will have delays during the river trip orientation with the Lees Ferry ranger.  The river trip permit holder has the responsibility of ensuring that all participants comply with the terms and conditions of the river trip permit as stated in the Noncommercial River Trip Regulations.

Included in the new regulations is language GCPBA discussed with the Park about various topics, noted in Appendix B on page 31.

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Noncommercial River Trip Regulations Are Updated

Grand Canyon National Park requires that every river trip have with them a printed copy of the current Noncommercial River Trip Regulations.  The river ranger at Lees Ferry will check this.  Click "Continue reading" to access the pdf file for printing the regulations here: Noncommercial River Trip Regulations

The river trip permit holder has the responsibility of ensuring that all participants comply with the terms and conditions of the river trip permit as stated in the Noncommercial River Trip Regulations.

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GCPBA RiverNews 7/3/2018 – Hualapai Reverse Decision To Issue Citations

GCPBA has been reporting on the intent of the Hualapai Nation to require Grand Canyon river runners buy permits to be on land along the left side of the Colorado River from river miles 164.5 to 287. The Hualapai claim the land as theirs. The National Park Service disputes that claim.

Read about it here: Hualapai Land & River Access Permits Followup

The NPS has a different interpretation of the location of the boundary between U.S. and Hualapai land, claiming the boundary is at the historic high water mark from before Glen Canyon Dam was built.

We have been in contact with the Hualapai, and with Grand Canyon National Park, about their plans to require permits for camping and hiking in that area and to issue citations from July 9 to 13 to river runners who access that land without a Hualapai permit.

Today, July 3, we received the following email from the NPS:

"The Hualapai Tribe has recently issued a public notice regarding its requirements for a Hualapai River Access Permit to allow hiking or camping on Hualapai Tribal lands while on a river trip through Grand Canyon National Park.  The Tribe has also announced its intention to conduct patrols related to these permit requirements.

"The NPS supports the Hualapai Tribe's authority to enforce its boundary and manage its tribal lands above the historic high water mark.  However, the NPS maintains its position that below the high water mark is National Park Service land.

"We are in communication with the Hualapai Tribe on this issue."

Fourteen minutes later, this email arrived from the NPS:

"The Hualapai Tribe just informed us that they would not be doing any permit checks the week of July 9th."

There was no comment regarding the boundary dispute. It remains an issue for future resolution.

GCPBA appreciates the communication between the NPS and the Hualapai Nation to discuss and work out the issues of the land boundary and Hualapai land access permits. We will continue to discuss this with GCNP.

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GCPBA RiverNews 6/27/2018 – Hualapai Land & River Access Permits Followup​

As you may recall, two weeks ago GCPBA reported that the Hualapai Tribe is trying to institute a permit fee of $100 on river runners for using river left from mile 168 down to mile 287. (Read our RiverNews that announced this here: Hualapai Land & River Access Permits/).   They are also planning on doing enforcement patrols using Hualapai Fish and Game law enforcement officers to make contact with river runners between July 9 and July 13 to ensure the permits are purchased.

GCPBA wants to make it abundantly clear that we disagree with this action. We believe that it is in violation of Grand Canyon National Park boundaries and provisions of the 2006 Colorado River Management Plan that the Hualapai were involved in forming. We have sent a letter to GCNP Superintendent Chris Lehnertz regarding this issue, asking for any information or clarification the Park can provide.

There are some actions that need to be taken if a trip encounters tribal law enforcement while on the river. First, and foremost, be polite. There is no reason to escalate any interactions beyond civil conversation.   Nothing will be settled on the river.   Second, avoid going above the high water mark at any camps. While the high water mark may not always be apparent, it will almost always be far enough off the bank to allow a large enough camp for any size group. Third, report any contact by the Hualapai to GCNP. We would also like to hear about any interactions so we can follow up with the Park and store all documentation in one place for future reference. Last, if anyone observes upriver travel, air traffic, or any other behavior that is against Park rules it is imperative that it be reported to GCNP as soon as possible. We would also like to hear about it as well.

We contacted the Hualapai Game and Fish Department and asked questions. We actually called them twice and spoke with two different people. Each time we were we unable to get information of:

How the Hualapai would get to the river left camps in order to check people for permits.

What they would do if someone claimed they were following the NPS boundary claim, asserted a right to be there, and refused to identify himself.

How the Hualapai would ensure that someone issued a ticket would show up in their tribal court to answer for the charges.

What would happen to someone if they didn't appear in tribal court.

The NPS has not yet made it clear if and how they intend to challenge the Hualapai boundary claim and their intent to issue citations on land the NPS claims as theirs.

Finally, have a great trip, enjoy yourselves and, above all, be safe and healthy.

Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners | 1 Comment

GCPBA RiverNews 6/10/2018 – Hualapai Land & River Access Permits

The Hualapai Game and Fish Department sent out the following notice on June 4th:

Public Notice:  Hualapai River Access Permit Checks Upstream Of Diamond Creek (RM225)

The Hualapai Tribe will be conducting river access permits the week of July 9, 2018 through July 13, 2018 on the Colorado River upstream of Diamond Creek.  Hualapai Tribal boundaries began (sic) at RM 164.5 to RM 287 river left.

Prior to your launch date please request a Hualapai River permit from Hualapai Game and Fish Department at 928/769-2227/1122 or by email:  A Hualapai River Access Permit will allow for hiking or camping on Hualapai Tribal lands associated with your Colorado River Trip.  A Hualapai River Access Permit does not allow for any backcountry hiking.

River Access Permits:  $100 per person.
Launch or take-outs at Diamond Creek (advance permit request) $55 per person, per vehicle and per driver.
Launch or take-outs at Diamond Creek (day of arrival) $60 per person, per vehicle and per driver.
For additional information, please contact Hualapai Game and Fish Department at 928/769-2227/1122 and or email at

(end of notice)

GCPBA reported in July, 2017, that Hualapai Chairman Damon Clarke and his associates spoke to us of an intent to require a permit "for all hiking, camping, and sightseeing on tribal lands at river left between miles 164.5 and 273.5" so they can keep track of who is where and when.  We now have their intent in print.  At that time they intended a $30 per person, per night fee.  River runners scouting rapids at river left would not need a permit.

The Hualapai permit requirement applies to private and commercial river runners.  The Hualapai have not made it clear how they intend to check for permits and enforce this.  It is not clear what the consequences would be for river runners who are ticketed for violations.

The Hualapai Nation land boundary has been in dispute for many years.  Their claim is that their land extends to the middle of the river.  The National Park Service (The U.S. Department of the Interior) says their land stops at the historic high water mark, from when the river was undammed.  The NPS has not openly challenged the Hualapai claim.

Grand Canyon river runners have recently been told at the ranger orientation of this issue, but have not specifically been told not to hike or camp on the disputed land.  Essentially, we have been told to make our own decisions regarding what we want to do at those river miles.

GCPBA will continue to discuss this issue with Grand Canyon National Park personnel.

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GCPBA RiverNews 1/19/2018 – Grand Canyon To Remain Open During Government Shutdown

GCPBA had a conversation with Matt Vandzura, chief ranger at Grand Canyon National Park, Friday morning, January 19, 2018, regarding consequences for private river runners should a government shutdown happen later that day.

He said to us that the word from Washington is, "National parks will remain accessible to the American public."  River runners will still be allowed access to the park to launch their trips that they had been planning for perhaps more than a year.  Activity at the launch ramp, including the ranger check of the required boating and camping gear and an orientation talk, would be "business as usual" at Lees Ferry.

This is a stark contrast from the situation starting October 1, 2013, when a government shutdown happened and GCNP was fully closed, preventing river runners from accessing their launch ramp at Lees Ferry.  The access road was barricaded and guarded by armed law enforcement.  Dozens of river trips were canceled with river trip participants congregating above the barricades, hoping for news of an open park before the shutdown was lifted October 17.  Permit holders who had their trips canceled were later offered to choose a preferred new launch date within three years.

GCPBA thanks Ranger Vandzura for taking the time to speak with us.

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GCPBA President’s Letter – December 2017

Greetings All,

Time to catch up on what's been happening. As many of you know, the Navajo had a council meeting on the Escalade project in November, and I am happy to report that the vote was 16-2 against. This doesn't signal the project’s end, it is just the latest defeat for the developers. This project will never be fully dead and we may need to fight more battles. GCPBA contributed financially to Grand Canyon Trust in 2016 and 2017, which allowed them to continue their public outreach throughout the Navajo Nation.

We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to Roger Clark and Grand Canyon Trust for taking the lead in helping the Navajo People determine what is in their own best interest. Additionally, Helen Howard of our Board took 14 Navajo Elders to the Council meeting in Window Rock so they could register their opposition to the project. Helen did this on her own time and money … Thank You, Helen!

On Dec. 3, 2017, GCPBA's Vice President, John Vrymoed, filed a complaint with Grand Canyon National Park regarding the Hualapai River Runners doing an upriver run. John’s group took pictures and videos of two Hualapai motorized craft about three miles upstream from Diamond Creek. As is well known, all upriver traffic, starting from Separation Canyon to Lee’s Ferry, is prohibited. In 2014, the Hualapai asked then Superintendent Uberuaga for approval to run trips upriver. The request was withdrawn before the Superintendent could respond. I have spoken with other boaters who tell me they have seen upriver runs as well. If any of you have any pictures, video or direct eyewitness accounts of upruns, please forward them to me at with as much detail as possible and I will forward them to the appropriate NPS personnel.

This is a serious issue and is related to the recent posting of the “No Trespassing” signs at National Canyon by the Hualapai. The core issue being the disputed boundary of tribal lands, which affects all river runners. GCPBA has written to the Park expressing our concerns and have asked them to enforce the long standing historic high water mark as the boundary. The Hualapai maintain that boundary extends to the middle of the river. The Board is following this issue closely as it not only concerns the Hualapai but other issues as well, such as the Navajo Escalade project. We will keep you informed on future developments regarding this issue.

It must be noted that the River District has started river patrols once again and will continue them into the foreseeable future on a regular basis. I have been informed that on the first patrol there were a number of citations written for no PFD worn while on the river, campfires built directly on the beach with no firepan or blanket, drinking while boating (we are awaiting clarification of the circumstances of the citations), and several for drug possession and drug paraphernalia possession. All permit holders should be aware of the rules, regulations, and laws that govern their trip and assure that all of them are followed by all trip participants. There is no excuse for not taking proper safety precautions and for not protecting the Canyon that we all love so much.

I hope everyone enjoys reading our Facebook page and I encourage you to share your thoughts, videos, pics, or whatever else you feel is appropriate. It is a great source of knowledge and positive energy. I trust that everyone had a great Thanksgiving and wish all of you a great Holiday Season…….. and, may we all get the trip we want in 2018.

Rich Harter
GCPBA President

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GCPBA Letter to GCNP Superintendent Regarding Grand Canyon Boundary

Please click on the below link to read GCPBA's August 2017 letter to Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Christine Lehnertz regarding the boundary between GCNP and Native American Nations.

8-17 Boundary Letter to Super

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