Deer Creek Narrows Closure in Grand Canyon - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-21-2012   #1
Curtiso's Avatar
Riverton, Utah
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Deer Creek Narrows Closure in Grand Canyon

Received this report this morning.

(06/19/12) - GRAND NPS Closes Deer Creek Narrows to Visitation

Both non-commercial and commercial river trips are being told at the
Lees Ferry participant orientation meetings, prior to launching on
Colorado River trips, that the Deer Creek narrows is closed to public
visitation. The "narrows" is a winding, water sculpted section of Deer
Creek drainage below the area known as "the patio" and above the Deer
Creek Falls.

No one is allowed to enter that area for recreational or other purposes.
The falls are also closed to rappelling.

It seems that the area was closed without any prior public notification
or hearing. Wally Rist, President of the Grand Canyon Private Boaters
Association, has been working to discover the rationale behind the
sudden closure of the narrows to public visitation. As Rist points out,
the area has been visited by explorers, river runners and hikers since
Canyon visitation began more than 143 years ago, with virtually no impact.

Although there has been no definitive reason given, and no official
announcement of the closure other than at the Lees Ferry orientation
talk, it's believed that safety concerns and protection of culturally
sensitive sites influenced the decision to close the narrows.

GCPBA President Rist has written to GCNP Superintendent Dave Uberuaga
asking for clarification of the rule and an explanation as to why this
closure took on such sudden importance, questioning the lack of public
participation in the process and asking for the NPS to reconsider their


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Old 06-21-2012   #2
Boulder, Colorado
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I have spent a lot of time thinking about this in the past 24 hours. There is a lot of damage to the sandstone at the entrance to Deer Creek Narrows from the Patio due to numerous ropes being used over the years. The tribes have identified this as a cultural resource and it is being damaged by recreational user groups including rafters, but also hikers and canyoneers. The NPS has identified a problem and solved it. The park superintendent does an excellent job of balancing the demands of a diverse set of interests. I know the rafting community is frustrated because they were not consulted on this decision, but what would we say? The tribes get to say if it is a cultural resource and any ranger can go out there and snap a couple photos and see that it is being impacted by ropes. The closure is specific to the problem and not overreaching to close the Narrows entirely. If you are comfortable climbing in and out of the Narrows without a rope then you are still free to go in there.

The text of the closure is:
Deer Creek Drainage, river mile 136.9, right bank of the Colorado River
Rappelling or ascending and descending on ropes, webbing or other climbing and rappelling devices whether natural or man-made, withing Deer Creek is prohibited. This restriction extends from within the watercourse of the creek beginning at the Patio (northestern-most part of the Deer Creek Narrows) and extending to the base of Deer Creek Falls.
(This restriction is necessary for the protection of a significant cultural resource)
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Old 06-21-2012   #3
Evergreen, Colorado
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As I understand it, the are not just closing the narrows to rope use, but to all access regardless of how you enter them. Specifically "that the Deer Creek narrows is closed to public visitation." "No one is allowed to enter that area for recreational or other purposes."

The language you are quoting does indeed close it to rope use, but this would be above and beyond that.

I guess I'll have to take that off the list of things to see on my September trip.
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Old 06-21-2012   #4
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I can't tell you what a drag this is to me. We did a bunch of canyoneering on our March trip, including going into the Narrows. A few of us put the waterfall on our to do list for our next trip. Then a few days after us some dopes left the rope, but I suppose that isn't all of it.

Keith, what's this about kids? Next thing you know you'll stop boating....
Living in Montana, boating in Idaho
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Old 06-21-2012   #5
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The present version of the regulation seems to cover only the use of ropes. However, GCPBA has been advised that groups launching at Lees Ferry are being told that all access -- even without ropes -- is forbidden in the narrows below the Patio. We also have been told that the current published prohibition is going to be expanded to reflect what people are being told at the Ferry.

As the news piece says, GCPBA has written the Park Superintendent asking for an explanation of the sudden closure, and reconsideration. Hopefully, the illegal acts of a single group are not the reason for -- and won't result in -- permanent restrictions for the rest of the boating community.


Rich Phillips, Secretary
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Old 06-22-2012   #6
Billings, Montana
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Well, this is my first post so I hope it goes OK. I checked the Grand Canyon website and found this document.

This is what the text says

Updates and Closures
Climbing and/or rappelling in the creek narrows, with or without the use of ropes or other technical equipment, is prohibited. This restriction extends within the creek beginning at the southeast end of the rock ledges, known as the “Patio” to the base of Deer Creek Falls. The trail from the river to hiker campsites and points up-canyon remains open. This restriction is necessary for the protection of significant cultural resources

The use of ropes is immaterial. I am concerned that the reason given for the closure is government speak for we closed it because we think we can. The park service would do themselves a favor if they elaborated on the situation at the falls that led someone in a position of authority to make the decision that they did. A decision like this, with no real explanation, leads me to ask what's next? There are plenty of sites in the canyon that are way more "culturally significant" whatever that means, and also way more impacted as well. When will they be closed?

The park service needs to remember that the vast majority of the people who recreate in the canyon have a real love of the place, and a real reverence for it as well.

Considering the large numbers of people who visit the canyon each year, it is very well protected. The reason for that is the most people try to do the right thing. The system is self policing. The rangers can't be everywhere. If people start to believe that the restrictions are unduly burdensome or overly restrictive, then compliance will decline and the regulations will be self defeating.

That said, I have had nothing but great experiences in the Canyon, and have found all the park service employees I have dealt with to be professional and courteous. I hope that someone in the park system will do the right thing in this case and provide a more complete explanation for why this action was taken.
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Old 06-22-2012   #7
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Hi Kris,

Well put in every respect. The questions you raise regarding the Park's rationale are what GCPBA asked in its letter to the Superintendent.


Mr. David Uberuaga, Superintendent
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 8602386023

Dear Dave,

Brian Bloom has confirmed that the Park plans to close the
Narrows at Deer Creek to visitation. The stated reason is to protect a significant cultural resources said to exist there.

At present, it is not clear exactly what cultural resource is in need of such drastic and urgent protection . Regular visitation has been allowed there for more than 60 years. We are unaware of any pattern of disrespect or resource degradation. This unilateral action could set a precedent and raises a concern that other areas, such as Nankoweap and Havasu, could similarly be restricted to visitation. If implemented, this decision could eventually impact important boundary disputes with various tribes.

GCPBA and other interested river organizations have an abiding interest in, and a long history of, maintaining responsible visitation to this area, as well as the entire Canyon. We and they represent a wealth of experience and knowledge, which could provide very valuable input, and other possible resource protection alternatives

We recognize that the final decision rests with you. However, we ask that you consider delaying its implementation until the 2013 season. This would allow you and your staff to have had an opportunity to obtain further input from GCPBA and other interested parties.

As always we are available to be of whatever help we can.


Wally Rist, President



As an aside, the regulatory language you quote is evidently a revision of the prior publication, which only prohibited use of ropes. On an initial inquiry about the apparent discrepancy, we had been told that a clarification would be issued in the near future. So it seems that it has now come out.

Have a good one.

Rich Phillips, Secretary
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Old 06-22-2012   #8
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Durango, Colorado
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So glad I got to rappel those falls with my Bride on my 8th anniversary to the day!

Sad, like so many other cool things (ie the Virgin Narrows) that are now closed!

Best I can do is send the polite letter that I just did to Dave U.
I've never boated before, but I have posted a lot on Mountain Buzz!
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