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.

Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners | Leave a comment

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 gcpbamail@gmail.com 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

Posted in GCPBA News | Leave a comment

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

Posted in GCPBA News | Leave a comment

GCPBA RiverNews 7/20/2017 – Grand Canyon Revives River Unit After Harassment Investigation

As we reported in a RiverNews on July 16, Grand Canyon National Park is developing a plan for the Park’s return to administrative river operations.  

This article about it, copied below, is from the Arizona Daily Sun, July 13, by Emery Cowan.  After it is the information from one of the poster displays from the July 11 Community Conversation with Superintendent Lehnertz.  It shows GCNP's timeline for the implementation of that process.

Read our report of the Community Conversation meeting here:


Sixteen months after Grand Canyon National Park abolished its river unit in the wake of a federal sexual harassment investigation, the park has drafted a new plan for how to reconstruct those operations. Before it was axed, the river unit supported a variety of river trips, from those related to canyon patrols to others needed for resource monitoring, preservation and research.

At a community meeting Tuesday evening, park employees made the first public presentation of how river operations could be organized and managed. All aspects of the changes still need approval by the park superintendent and Park Service regional office.

The reforms would make river operations an independent work group within the park that is overseen by a newly created administrative river operations manager who answers directly to the superintendent. Previously the unit was housed in the visitor and resource protection division.

The new organizational structure shortens the chain of command between the river group staff and the superintendent, which reflects an effort to improve communications and make sure potential issues can be relayed more directly and more quickly to the top, said Rachel Bennett, environmental protection specialist with the park. Bennett was among a group of eight people from across the park who served on the team that drafted the changes to river operations.

Communication, chain of command and follow up were highlighted in the January, 2016 Inspector General’s report on sexual harassment at Grand Canyon that set off the abolition of the river district and the park’s improvement efforts. The government investigator concluded that harassment complaints were not properly reported nor investigated after employees filed them with park supervisors.

Additionally, the park is proposing to expand oversight of river operations by the superintendent’s office and a new interdisciplinary team that includes members from the river district and other divisions of the park, Bennett said. The independent group’s responsibilities will include evaluating trip participants, reviewing post-trip reports and reporting any concerns to the superintendent. It will also help in hiring river group staff and developing policies and procedures related to river trips.

The plan includes several suggested policy changes as well, including a mandatory review of what went well and what could be improved on each trip, a more standardized uniform policy and better communication of clear expectations about trip conduct and the consequences of poor conduct.

“That's where we see the park needs to continue to work,” Bennett said of the last point.

The team working on the changes to river operations aims to have a final recommendation to Park Superintendent Chris Lehnertz and the Park Service’s regional director by August and the interdisciplinary team selected by late summer.

On Tuesday evening, park officials received some questions about how complaints from non-park employees will be handled in the future. Bennett said the park is working on a new tracking system that could be used for employee and non-employee complaints about other Park Service employees.

Bennett said her team is also looking at ways for the boating community to help monitor the park’s river operations. She acknowledged that the sexual harassment issues at Grand Canyon affected not only park employees but those working for private companies that contracted with the Park Service.

Dan Hall, one of the authors of the letter to former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that set off the federal investigation, agreed on the need for the park to create a method for outside oversight and feedback. That could take the form of a committee of non-park stakeholders that consults with park officials on an annual or semi-annual basis, he said. Many in the river community have been around much longer than most park employees and have valuable institutional knowledge, he said.

While acknowledging the hard work and dedication of park staffers, Hall said he hasn't seen any sort of attempt by the park to open up its process to what he called “real checks and balances.”

Christa Sadler, who has been a river guide in the Grand Canyon for 30 years, was also a supporter of outside monitoring and feedback.

She added that she'd like see personnel working with the river unit who understand and are supportive of the missions of research, education and resource-related trips.

“That was one of big problems we had was people who were running the river district who were law enforcement rangers and that was all they cared about,” Sadler said.

As far as whether the park’s changes will do enough to address the sexual harassment and workplace hostility that sparked the investigation, Sadler said that’s a much larger issue.

“That is going to take something different than just reorganizing the river unit,” she said. “It’s going to take a sea change in the way we see our fellow workers, the way we look at power, the way we see the relationship between men and women. It’s a much bigger cultural thing.”

RIVER OPERATIONS POSTER DISPLAY from Community Conversation event with Grand Canyon National Park Supt. Lehnertz, July 11, 2017

Grand Canyon National Park’s River Operations will serve and strengthen the mission of the National Park Service through the protection and stewardship of natural and cultural resources, and through the education of and advocacy for employees and park visitors.
River Operations Employees and all NPS employees on river trips will achieve their mission by:

  • ·         Practicing the highest standards of professionalism, and
  • ·         Using best management practices and current scientific research.

The future River Operations will be primarily NPS-led with some support from contractors.  Objectives for mission-driven work on the Colorado River include:

  • ·         Supporting public access through private, commercial and non-commercial permits
  • ·         River safety and emergency response
  • ·         NPS employee river knowledge, skills and abilities
  • ·         Stewardship of natural and cultural resources
  • ·         Education and youth involvement
  • ·         Logistical support for infrastructure maintenance and repair
  • ·         Strengthening tribal relationships

Timeline for Implementation of River Operations:

  • July 2017 – input from employees, Community Conversation, and Park Senior Executive Team input
  • August 2017 – Finalize recommendations for Regional Director and Superintendent decision on river operations
  • Late summer 2017 – River interdisciplinary team selection from Park staff
  • Fall 2017 – River IDT reviews all 2018 river trip requests and sets up calendar with approved trips.
  • Winter/Spring 2018 – Hire River Operations staff
  • Fall 2018 – Annual evaluation of NPS river operations
  • 2017 – 2020 – Transition from primarily contracted NPS trips to primarily NPS-led river trips.  Contracts will continue to be utilized for some full NPS trips and services related to trips such as food buys, shuttles, and/or boat operators.
Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners | Leave a comment

GCPBA RiverNews 7/16/2017 – Hualapai Nation Announce Intent to Require Permits for Camping

Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Chris Lehnertz held a Community Conversation on July 11 in Flagstaff, Arizona.  This was the first meeting of an expected three per year.

Superintendent Lehnertz was joined by about fifteen park staff members at the event.  Its stated intent was to "focus on the Colorado River where park staff will share information on the Park’s preliminary planning for future administrative river operations, on upcoming business opportunities for an administrative river operations to support the park, and long term stewardship for the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park."

Prior to the meeting Lehnertz said, “We have plenty of issues and projects that require official public meetings and public comments. We would like to slow down a little, meet people and start regular community conversations to visit about the Park and listen to our nearby communities.”

Hualapai Nation Chairman Damon Clarke was also in attendance, with associates.

GCPBA board members Helen Howard and Rich Turner were among approximately 85 attendees interested and concerned about issues regarding Grand Canyon National Park and Colorado River activity.  This is their report of the meeting.

During the meeting, park staff spread out across the room, and we were invited to move around and talk to them about our interests/issues dealing with their areas of expertise.

Of major importance to boaters in Grand Canyon was a very serious speech by Chairman Clarke about the "No Trespassing, Permit Required" signs recently posted at National Camp.

This relates to an ongoing dispute regarding the boundary line between Grand Canyon National Park and the Hualapai Nation.  The National Park Service claims it is at the historic high water line of the Colorado River on shore.  The Hualapai claim it is at the middle of the river.

The short talk by Chairman Clark indicated that they were fed up with  people misusing/abusing the land, and showing disrespect by leaving graffiti, trash, and vandalism.  He said that the signs being taken down so fast was a sign of this disrespect.  He would not elaborate when pressed for more information.

One of his associates was much more willing to talk.  She emphasized that they are not closing places to visitation, but referred to a handout that stated a permit would be needed "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 there and when.  She said that river runners scouting rapids at river left would not need a permit.

It would take at least two weeks to process and send a permit to reserve a camp.  The Hualapai intend a $30 per person per night fee for camping only, not hiking.  She seemed to imply that as long as people have permits, and treat areas with respect, they will be allowed in.

It must be noted that it is an extremely unrealistic situation for river runners to accurately predict before a river trip launches the day they would be that far downriver ready to camp for the night.

Furthermore, GCPBA contacted dozens of Grand Canyon private river runners via email.  We asked for their opinions of camp conditions.  None responded with comments of any appearance other than footprints that people had been there.

GCPBA also spoke with Mike Kearsley, who is part of the group developing the plan for the Park’s return to administrative river operations.  He had a series of charts outlining the process and direction things are going to go.  There will no longer be a river unit like the old one.  Everything will be controlled by the Superintendent or someone from her office.  This process will be approximately three years in the making.

Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners | Leave a comment

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:


Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners, Publications | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners, Publications | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners, Publications | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners | Leave a comment

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.
We are on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1424392787831584

Posted in GCPBA RiverNews - Current and archived news concerning river runners | Leave a comment