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RRFW Riverwire Update On Grand Canyon River Trip Length Change

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RRFW Riverwire - Update On Grand Canyon River Trip Length Change
June 18, 2014

In January, 2014, River Runners For Wilderness alerted its members to four proposals to the 2006 Colorado River Management Plan that Grand Canyon National Park officials were considering. One proposal would shorten do-it-yourself river trip lengths. New information indicates the problem may be caused by concessions river trip scheduling issues.

The proposed changes included shortening the noncommercial maximum trip lengths from 21 to 18 days for the last half of April and increasing the maximum trip lengths from 18 to 21 days for the last half of September beginning in 2015. This proposal was being made to "help with TAOTs" (Trips At One Time) and would exempt trips already scheduled.

The National Park Service presented one year's worth of data showing that for four days in the spring of that year, the number of river trips in the 226 miles of canyon between Lee's Ferry and Diamond Creek exceeded 60 trips, reaching up to 64 trips for two consecutive days.

The Park recommendation suggested decreasing do-it-yourself river trip lengths from 21 to 18 days from April 15 to April 30, in an effort to decrease the Trips At One Time (TAOT) in the first two weeks of May. No consideration was given to changing the number of concessions trips launched per day to adjust for the four day overrun.

In December of 2013, River Runners For Wilderness wrote Grand Canyon National Park expressing a number of concerns about the Park's proposal to shorten self-guided river trips in April. In order to get a better understanding of the issues, River Runners For Wilderness (RRFW) requested copies of all correspondence regarding the issue of campsite competition. RRFW also asked for information on the number of trips in the Lee's Ferry to Diamond Creek section of the Grand Canyon since 2007. You can see a copy of RRFW’s letter here:

Five months after requesting the above information, Grand Canyon National Park sent two replies with data on the number of trips in the canyon at one time. The following is a review of the National Park Service responses.

The first reply contained copies of all three pieces of correspondence the NPS received regarding the issue of campsite competition. The first correspondence is a series of letters involving a complaint about a concessions motorized tour boat trip taking a self-guided rowing trip's intended camp at Granite Park on April 11, 2012, well outside the two weeks when NPS identified Trips At One Time exceeding 60, and in the TAOT data provided, the TAOT target threshold of 60 was never exceeded in the month of April.

The second correspondence is an e-mail asking the NPS to not shorten trip lengths in April. The third is a series of e-mail correspondence between a Park official and an individual, correspondence written after RRFW requested all correspondence on campsite competition. You can see all three pieces of correspondence here: pages_FOIA.pdf

Grand Canyon National Park sent River Runners for Wilderness partial data on how many river trips are in the Lee's Ferry to Diamond Creek section of the Grand Canyon at any one time since 2007.That information is available here:

The Trips At One Time data for the last eight years provided by the park was lacking the river concessions launch numbers for the summers of 2008 and 2009. No explanation was given as to why these two years’ worth of data was absent.

A review of the TAOT numbers show the desired ceiling of 60 trips at one time between Lee’s Ferry and Diamond Creek were exceeded multiple times throughout the summer months, not just in the second half of April as identified by the NPS 8 year review. In the five years of data provided, TAOT levels were exceeded a total of 58 days in the months of May, June July and September. Only 28 days of the 58 days exceeding 60 TAOT are in the target time of May 1 to May 15. The TAOT data indicates that spikes in concessions launching causes the TAOT to be exceeded.

Park officials also sent a reply with information on the use of potential alternate trip leaders. After the park first began to track how many river runners used an alternate trip leaders in 2013, the data provided shows that apart from the first month this data was tracked, 5% or less of each month’s trips use the PATL option. You can see this correspondence here:

River Runners For Wilderness encourages all interested individuals to write the Park directly with your concerns about these issues. We encourage you to include a copy of your correspondence be sent to your Congressional Representative as a way to increase your chances of receiving a reply to your concerns. Your letter should be addressed to:

Superintendent David Uberuaga
Grand Canyon National Park
PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023-0129

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