Virgin River Management Plan - UT - Mountain Buzz

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Old 10-11-2010   #1
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, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
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Virgin River Management Plan - UT

The National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management are developing a Comprehensive River Management Plan for the Virgin Wild and Scenic River.
As paddlers, our input on what makes the Virgin River and its tributaries outstandingly remarkable will help protect this river system for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Between now and December 6th, we need your input!


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Old 10-11-2010   #2
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jun 2004
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This is your chance to let the NPS know your views on kayaking in the Zion Narrows, so get your comments in. My comments:

The permit system and regulations reptaining to the kayaking the Virgin river Narrows have clearly been developed based on misinformation about the nature of the activity and serve no purpose other than to make it more difficult for qualified persons to enjoy it. As I see it, there are two primary problems. First, based on the input of people who apparently know very little about kayaking, the park has instituted a policy of not issuing permits for this section if the flow has exceeded 600 cfs in the prior 24 hours. 600 cfs is in fact more of a minimum flow than a maximum flow in the narrows. The incidents that have occurred there have not been the result of excessive flows, but rather the result of paddlers not having enough time to complete the run due to LOW FLOW before the confluence with Deep Creek. The N. Fork Virgin has a strong diurnal flow cycle that may vary over 200 cfs per day. As such, the 600cfs maxiumum leave an almost non-existent flow window for paddlers to use this stretch. The whitewater on this section is not difficult and should not be subject to a maximum flow. The park must trust kayakers, like other user groups such as climbers, to exercise some degree of personal responsibility for their own safety. Setting arbitrary cut-offs that makes this section almost impossible to use serves no purpose except to make this wonderful place innaccessible. Secondly, kayakers should be able to get permits through e-mail or fax. Almost all problems that have occurred in the Narrows have been due to the length of the run and inadequate time. By requiring permits to be issue in person, the park dictates a LATER START TIME thus dramatically increasing the chances of problems in the canyon. This policy cannot be justified by the rationale that rangers to meet kayakers to ensure that they are prepared because the park has no way of making such a determination. A ranger cannot differnentiate a prepared kayaker from an unprepared one simply by meeting them. Any such vetting rationale could be just as easily served by a telephone conversation. In summary, I urge you to consider the practical effects of the regulations currently in effect and remove those regulations (600 cfs cut off and in person permit issuance) which makes this special place more dangerous and difficult to use. Thank you.
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Old 10-11-2010   #3
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600 is not enough!
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Old 10-11-2010   #4
denver, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
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My response:

I would like to see major changes to the access and permitting requirements.

The current 600 cfs cutoff presents a major obstacle to kayaking the Zion Narrows. 350 cfs is the generally accepted minimum flow. With diurnal variations of ~200 cfs, this produces an allowable flow range of only 50 cfs. Examination of gauge readings from the past ten years shows that this cutoff effectively bans kayaking the Narrows on all but a handful of days. The major obstacle to kayaking the Narrows at low flows is the time consuming approach to Deep Creek. When combined with the requirement to get a permit in person, there is no margin for error. This time pressure has led to several rescues as darkness set in while people were still within the canyon. Opening the run at higher flows would significantly reduce the chance of repeating these costly rescues.

The Zion Narrows is suitable to kayakers of intermediate through expert skill level. Even at flows more than double the current cutoff, the river is rated as class IV. The main danger comes from the run's remote location, not the difficulty of its whitewater. The National Park Service currently allows unfettered access to several canyons with similar remoteness and much more difficult whitewater. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison would be a prime example. Furthermore, the NPS places no restrictions on other activities that pose similar risks and also produce costly rescues.

I hope that the NPS can reach out to the kayaking community to find a solution that balances access to this national treasure with safety concerns.
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Old 10-12-2010   #5
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Cedar City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1963
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The 600 cfs cutoff level was the result of consultation with local kayakers as to the level at which a safe rescue could be effected.

A very strong team ran the Narrows at 900 cfs, said it was "all they wanted".

Diurnal flow on the North Fork streamgage is not reflected on the upper 9 miles of canyon. That tributary's drainage is south-facing and lower elevation and runs off early. It is a rare year when there is good flow at the put-in during peak flows.
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