Grand Canyon - Hualapai Nation Again Attempt River Access Permit Fees - Mountain Buzz

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Old 01-30-2019   #1
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Grand Canyon - Hualapai Nation Again Attempt River Access Permit Fees

GCPBA RiverNews 1/30/2019 - Hualapai Nation Again Attempt River Access Permit Fees

It has come to GCPBA’s attention that the Hualapai Nation is, again, pursuing permit fees for being in The Grand Canyon and using the left bank between river miles 164.5 and 273.5 (Hualapai Game and Fish Public Notice, January 1, 2019). While no disrespect is meant, or intended, we disagree in the strongest terms with the tribe’s position that they have sovereignty over any land below the high water mark.

It is GCPBA's opinion that the permit fee we all pay to Grand Canyon National Park to run the river covers camping, lunching, hiking and any other lawful activities from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead on either side of the river, at least up to the high water mark in all areas, and even higher where there are no tribal lands.

We take this position because of the description of the Grand Canyon as written in the 1975 Enlargement Act passed by Congress. We are strongly urging The Department of Interior and GCNP staff to take immediate steps to strictly and diligently recognize, respect, and enforce the 1975 Enlargement Act boundaries as intended by Congress.

One of the issues we have with the tribe claiming jurisdiction of Grand Canyon land is maintaining the integrity of the Park as it was intended to look, and the area of land that is to be protected. Another issue is that by encroaching onto Park land it is of grave concern to many that it will set a precedent for others to make the same claims and cause the Park to be broken into a series of permit areas that would be detrimental to the experience we all desire and to the integrity of the Park itself. While the fee may seem reasonable now, at $100 per trip, just last year (June 4, 2018 ) the fee was $100 per person (see our report of this here: Hualapai Land Access Fee).

If the tribe’s claim of jurisdiction is upheld or affirmed, what is to stop the tribe from increasing that fee to $200, $300, or more per person at some time in the future? Boaters would have no way to have their voices heard on the issue before it would be enacted.

Grand Canyon National Park belongs to all Americans and it should be available to them as a cohesive unit, unbroken and undivided, for its entire length for all to enjoy. The last thing anyone wants to see in the Grand Canyon is an increase of activity such as is happening at Quartermaster Canyon.

We would also like to take this opportunity to urge all river runners to report any contact with any tribal entity regarding permits to use the land on the left bank from river miles 164.5 and 273.5 to GCNP staff and to GCPBA. It is imperative that we document any interactions going forward so as to have a record of any Hualapai claims made on land owned by the American people.

GCPBA RiverNews is a service of Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association.

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Old 01-31-2019   #2
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Flagstaff, Arizona
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Hi All,

A few river runners have contacted me regarding the announcement above from the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA) claiming river runners need not purchase a Hualapai Tribe river camping permit.

To be clear, we at River Runners For Wilderness ( will continue to encourage all do-it-yourself river runners to abide by the Hualapai Tribe requirements for camping on their lands up to the water's edge. This includes purchasing a Hualapai Tribe river trip camping permit. Having a Tribe approved camping permit is especially important since the actual boundary between the Tribe and Grand Canyon National Park has yet to be defined in a court of law.

The Hualapai Tribe has every right to cite a river group for trespass if that group does not have a Tribal camping permit and is found camping by the river on tribal land. The NPS will not come to the defense of a river party who finds themselves in tribal court for trespass.

It is beyond me why any nonprofit group collecting dues from members would tell those members to disregard purchasing the Hualapai Tribe river trip camping permit. To do so subjects those members to possible arrest, confiscation of river gear, and transport to tribal court.

The Hualapai Tribe has graciously reduced the per person fee from $100 per person to $100 per group, or $6.25 per person for a group of 16 people. The one-time camping fee allows multinight camping on Hualapai Tribal land adjacent to the Colorado River.

The GCPBA states they are concerned that future rate increases may occur. The answer to that is to work with the Hualapai Tribe, not fight them. The announcement also states the 1975 Grand Canyon Enlargement Act supports their claim that a Hualapai Tribe camping permit is not required, yet they fail to state where in the Act this is stated.

Paying a camping fee to establish a river camp on the shores of a First Nation is nothing new. River runners who camp on river left while floating the San Juan River in southern Utah are required to purchase a Navajo Nation camping permit. Just because river runners have not been required to acknowledged Hualapai Tribal land in the past is no reason to continue that practice today and into the future.

Hualapai Tribe river permits may be obtained by calling the Hualapai Nation Game and Fish Department at 928-769-2227 or 928-769-1122 or by email at [email protected]

Cordially Yours, Tom Martin
Volunteer Council Member
River Runners For Wilderness
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Old 01-31-2019   #3
Boulder, Colorado
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Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act
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Old 01-31-2019   #4
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Flagstaff, Arizona
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Hi Jhimick, Thank you for posting the Act. There is much in the Act that defines the traditional use areas and boundary change as it relates to the Havasupai Nation in Havasu Canyon, but the Hualapai Tribe gets not one mention. Not one. Thank you again, Cordially yours, Tom
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Old 02-01-2019   #5
montrose, Colorado
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You guys recently posted a bogus "report" claiming that the high water mark coincides with a ridiculous flow of 860,000 cfs and you used that jacked up "report" to imply that rafters didn't need to purchase a Hualapai permit. As far as I am concerned, GCPBA has lost any reliability that I may previously have afforded it regarding issues within the Grand Canyon.

If you are willing to admit that you have sinned and attempted to mislead the river community, then perhaps you will regain some moral authority to discuss what land belongs to the Hualapai Nation and what belongs to the NPS, but until then, I will consider GCPBA as a propaganda organization that has no regard for common sense and facts.

Why am I so perturbed? I will tell you: In these times, facts have been consistently thrown to the wayside or mischaracterized to fit a person's or group's interests. Whether it's Trump, the Flat Earth Society, or GCPBA, it doesn't matter. Fake facts and fake science hurt our society. Regardless of whether you think your intentions are altruistic, you must admit that the tribe has a legitimate claim to lands on the left side of the river and those claims are most certainly not restricted to a your bogus claim that the high water mark extends 100 vertical feet from the river.

Come back to reality and restrict your claims of river runner's rights to camp on the sandy beaches and riparian vegetation on river left and
I will support your efforts. Continue to misrepresent the facts and challenge the tribe's sovereignty and I will have nothing to do with GCPBA.
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Old 02-06-2019   #6
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Thank you for the comments GCPBA received regarding our January 31 report of the Hualapai Nation's ongoing intention to require Grand Canyon river runners pay for a Hualapai river access permit for an area of land along the Colorado River that they claim as theirs. This is quite a divisive issue; opinions regarding requiring a Hualapai permit in addition to a Grand Canyon National Park river permit were on both sides of it.

Our report was too brief. We should have included more background information related to ownership claims of that land, regardless of the space it would have taken.

The issue arises from the 1975 Grand Canyon Enlargement Act and a subsequent 1976 Department of the Interior's opinion from it. It addressed the boundary between the Hualapai Nation and Grand Canyon National Park.

From the 1976 memorandum: "The Hualapai asserts that it owns at least half of the bed of the River adjacent to its upland reservation...By virtue of a (U.S. Government) Executive Order of 1883, the reservation was established at the high water level of the Colorado River."

Today, we still have a dispute between the Hualapai and the Department of the Interior, National Park Service (NPS), and Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) regarding the land boundary between Colorado River miles 164.5 and 273.5. The Hualapai believe that the land along those miles at the left side of the Colorado River is theirs.

However, they recently acknowledged to us that GCNP claims otherwise. Noncommercial river runners are told by the current GCNP noncommercial river trip regulations, "Between river miles 165 to 274 the river left side of the canyon above the historic high water line is Hualapai Tribal Land."

The Hualapai reject that claim, saying their own claim is correct, that they also own the land alongside the river.

For many years, during our meetings with the Hualapai and the NPS, GCPBA has been urging resolution of the boundary issue.

Regarding the Hualapai river access permit and fee, this has recently become an increasingly contentious issue between the Hualapai and what they claim are trespassing river runners.

July 11, 2017, at a GCNP public meeting, the Hualapai announced an intention to charge river runners a $30 per person, per night fee for camping on river left between miles 164.5 and 273.5. GCPBA met the Hualapai and discussed with them that it was a very unrealistic situation for river runners to accurately predict before a river trip launches the days they would be that far downriver, ready to camp for the night. This would not resolve their trespassing claim.

June 4, 2018, the Hualapai changed their river access permit fee to a flat $100 per person, for camping for any number of days. At that time, this was the same fee that GCNP charged every noncommercial river runner for a Grand Canyon trip. (GCNP is now at $110 per person.) The Hualapai also announced they would be patrolling that portion of the Colorado River, but did not elaborate on how they would do this and what the consequences would be for violators.

After this, GCPBA again contacted the Hualapai to discuss their revised permit and fee intention. We didn't do so with the purpose of wanting them to eliminate their requirement for a river access permit with a fee. We did so to inform them that as the land ownership is in dispute, and with what GCNP regulations tell river runners, river runners might still choose to refuse to acquire one of their permits and pay another fee in addition to the river permit fee already paid to GCNP. River runners are told by GCNP that GCNP's noncommercial river trip permit is for camping along the entire length of the river.

They listened and acted. January 1, 2019, the Hualapai issued another river access permit fee change, this time to $100 per trip, covering everybody on the trip for their entire time along Hualapai's claimed land along the Colorado River. We thanked them. This is a much more agreeable fee structure, one river runners would be likely to pay should they choose to, even with the land ownership in dispute.

To be clear, GCPBA recognizes that ownership of that land along the Colorado River is in dispute, but we follow GCNP's regulations and the legal opinion that the Hualapai land is above the historic high water line, not along the Colorado River.

GCNP intends to protect the Grand Canyon in an undeveloped condition, unlike the Hualapai's Quartermaster helicopter area and their Skywalk, and a developer's recent attempt for approval to build a tourist tram on Navajo Nation land down to the river, near the Colorado River and Little Colorado River confluence.

Every noncommercial river trip should make its own decision of whether or not they want to buy a permit from the Hualapai.
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Old 02-06-2019   #7
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To the GCPBA, Please stop putting river runners in harm's way. Until this border issue is settled in Federal Court (called an adjudication hearing, typically lasting years or decades), please join River Runners For Wilderness and encourage river runners to be safe and get the Hualapai Tribe camping permit. It costs a cup of designer Starbucks coffee per person for a group of 16 people for multiple nights.

If you insist on posting more about this issue, please acknowledge you are mis-quoting and mis-attributing two key historical documents. Let's cut to the chase:

1) The GCPBA cites a 1976 National Park Service field solicitors opinion as the basis of the GCPBA claim. This is not the Tribes claim. The GCPBA quotes that 1976 NPS lawyer's opinion as stating: "By virtue of a (U.S. Government) Executive Order of 1883, the reservation was established at the high water level of the Colorado River."

2) The 1883 document does not say what the field solicitor claims. The 1883 document states the reservation line starts “at a point on the Colorado River” then south, east, and north, finishing by going “north thirty miles to the Colorado River; thence along said river to the place of beginning”. “To” and “along” – that’s it.

Nothing about middles or water marks, high or low.

Jeff Ingram, who helped write the 1975 Enlargement Act, goes further. Ingram writes "But consider this: Lieutenant Palfrey of the Engineers Office, who wrote the Reservation description and drew the line on the map and signed it, went down Peach Spring Canyon, then Diamond Creek to the river. So he stood there, or sat on his horse, and looked at the river. It was June. Did he look out and fasten on the middle of the river as necessary for Hualapai prosperity? Did he look up and about, to discover how high the river might come? I don’t think so. I think he just thought of the river flowing along as a nice boundary line to mark off all those acres running south from there, thousands of acres where the Hualapai had lived for generations. And so he said the line would run from then around and on up to the river, then back along it. Along its edge. He could have said “middle” or “high water”, if he wanted; but it sufficed to describe a line “to and along” the water’s edge – a good marker for the survey that was to come."

For additional reading on NPS borders, see

Most cordially yours, Tom Martin

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Old 02-06-2019   #8
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By the way, I'll try to get the Field solicitors opinion up on line for everyone to read. Till this gets adjudicated in court, get the Hualapai Tribe camping permit and have a trouble free river trip. Camping permits for river runners may be obtained by calling the Hualapai Nation Game and Fish Department at 928-769-2227 or 928-769-1122 or by email at [email protected] Happy river trails, Tom Martin
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Old 02-06-2019   #9
Boise, Idaho
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Tom, thank you for that response!
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Old 02-06-2019   #10
Boulder, Colorado
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Ugh. I've become increasingly disgusted by the continuing effort by the GCPBA to disrespect and undermine the sovereignty of the Hualapai Nation, now by outright encouraging trespassing to fit their baseless claims. While supposedly advocating for a community of river runners, they are rather acting as renegades with disinformation campaigns such as this and recent fallacious claims of "historic" high water marks predicated on junk science, which only otherwise serves to inflames tensions between all stakeholders. It makes me wonder why they should even be involved at all in in any discussion between the tribe or managing gov agencies, considering these hostile actions. However, I do have faith in the real community of honest, respectful river folks they will speak up and against this unethical behavior, further isolating this group of entitled mouth-breathers and their baseless propaganda. As it's been pointed out, this camping permit remains a trivial expense in the Grand scheme of things and its an important source of revenue for a First Nation that has very limited sources of economic prosperity.
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