RRFW Riverwire – Pearce Ferry Rapid Update - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-05-2007   #1
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 920
RRFW Riverwire – Pearce Ferry Rapid Update

RRFW Riverwire – Pearce Ferry Rapid Update
September 5, 2007

In 2003, RRFW Riverwire reported that the normally tranquil waters of the Colorado River at the end of the Grand Canyon near Pearce Ferry, Arizona, were beginning to become turbulent near Pearce Ferry, the takeout for river trips traveling past Diamond Creek. Since then, the rapid has continued to form at this location.

This reach of the Colorado River, just past the western boundary of Grand Canyon National Park, is controlled by the water level of Lake Mead. When the lake is near full pool, a large lake with no current greets river runners departing the end of Grand Canyon.

With the ninth year of drought continuing, the unusually low level of Lake Mead has caused the Colorado River to down cut into the sediment deposited in the upper reaches of the lake.

The river is now flowing with strong current near Pearce Ferry and no longer follows its historic channel of 70 years ago, before the waters of Lake Mead covered the area. The new channel is flowing over low gravel hills approximately one mile north of Pearce Ferry. The rapid is forming where the river is cutting through a saddle between two of these hills.

Pearce Ferry rapid has formed where the river makes a sharp ninety degree turn. A large rock sits in the middle of the rapid, with a strong eddy on the left side of the rock. A fast channel has developed on the river right side of the rock, and is the route of choice at this time for river runners.

This rapid now poses a threat to river travel, as a boat could wrap on the mid-stream boulder. Night floating through this area is not recommended.

Concessions jet boats are still up-running this rapid with ease, but use the right channel and can not see approaching downstream traffic at this location. Jet-boats are sounding their horn as they up-run the rapid to warn downstream rafters of their approach.

This area has the potential to form a more serious rapid—possibly even a waterfall—as lake levels continue to drop, much as falling lake levels in Lake Powell formed the 15 foot falls at Paiute Farms on the San Juan River. The Fatt Falls waterfall renders the lower section of the San Juan River unrunnable. Projections are that Lake Mead will continue to drop for at least the next 8 months.

Photographs of this new rapid taken by Duwain Whitis on Saturday, September 1, 2007, can be seen at the online version of this Riverwire at Pearce Ferry Riverwire.

A more in-depth review of the formation of this rapid and its future difficulty may be found at the following web site, which is not affiliated with River Runners for Wilderness:
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Old 11-26-2007   #2
Fishtail, Montana
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 2
Pearce Ferry Rapid

The initial drop at the "new" Pearce Ferry Rapid had accelerated headcutting during Nov 07 and moved upstream 25-30 feet. This resulted in a 0.50 ft drop in the upstream water surface elevation.

On river right there is now a 3 foot vertical side pour-in on a slight diagonal upstream for 35-40 ft. In the last few days it appeared to be curving toward river center. Just downstream of the curve and about 10 ft in from the side pour there is a nice "hump" wave that likely indicates a large rock.

The river left part of the drop is now very ledgey out for 50-60 feet on about a 45 degree angle. This leaves a clean entry tongue of about 50 feet.

The turbulence in the RL eddy changed on a daily basis with no correlation to the slight flow changes (I was there around noon every day).

The major drops on either side of the mid-channel rock also seemed to change daily; mainly at the strong reverse flow eddy on the left of where the left channel hits the cliff straight on.

These left eddys continue to undercut the high sand bank on that side. It has calved of at least twice since the 4th for a total of seven feet.

This would be a great place for someone to set up a somewhat scientific
survey grid and record this rebirth of a living section of river.

I ran left of the rock on the 8th in an unloaded 19 ft touring kayak and got a bit wetter that expected (no swim) in a hole along the cliff. It does deserve scouting.


Note: I was camped at Pearce Ferry and hiked the 1.7 mile daily from 21-26 Nov. Contact me if you are interested in directions to the trail.
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Old 11-26-2007   #3
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 920
Hi Mike, this is VERY Cool! Do you have an updated photo you could mail? If you could post your photos at the [email protected] group, that would be great! You gotta join the group first to post photos, if you don't mind. Thanks again for the update! Yours, tom
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