Colorado River Management Plan - Talking Points

July 2002. Preserve and protect wilderness character of the Colorado River unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness.

The NPS asks "What would we choose to have the river be like in the future." Twenty two years ago the Park Service, with overwhelming public support, proposed the Colorado River in Grand Canyon for Wilderness designation. Until Congress acts on the proposal, the agency is required to provide the same level of protection for "proposed wilderness" as congressionally designated wilderness. What should the river be like in the future? Tell the Park Service the river should be forever Wilderness!

Park Values

The Park Service again asks, "will natural and cultural resources be in the same condition they are today or will they be different in the future?" Laws applicable to Grand Canyon National Park demand protection of natural and cultural resources. The agency should protect all of the great Park's intact biological communities, natural process, and archeological treasures.

The Experience

The Park Service wants to know what river trips should be like. Tell the agency to provide recreational opportunities consistent with the preservation of the river's natural and cultural resources and wilderness character. Tell them to provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and a primitive recreational experience without the use of motorboats.

The experience offered should reflect the unique character of the Grand Canyon, our country's longest whitewater wilderness. The roar of a rapid, the quiet trill of a canyon wren, and relaxed conversation, in concert with the river's flow are part and parcel of the wilderness experience. Such tranquility should not drown in clamor of crowds or the racket of an outboard motor.

Who Should Go?

Currently, the general public, citizens who don't need the corporate river outfitters, must wait up to 20 years to obtain a permit to run a river trip on their own. Profit obsessed concessionaires control over 70% of river access and offer expensive river tours generally costing more than Caribbean cruises of comparable length. These pricey trips remain beyond the reach of most Americans, including youth and educational groups. Tell the National Park Service to reform its current concession services and provide fairer access and affordable trips to include a broader representation of citizens.

Distributing use throughout the seasons would reduce crowding and congestion along the wilderness river. Providing fair and affordable access would not decrease the number of river runners, but it would increase our opportunity to enjoy an experience only the Grand Canyon wilderness can provide. Tell the Park Service to provide us with a qualitatively better experience, a wilderness experience.


Motors are generally prohibited in wilderness, as they should be. Motorboats are not as safe as oar-powered craft, nor do they provide economical trips as claimed by some river concessionaires. They simply generate higher profits for the corporations by crowding more people on noisy boats rushing through the Canyon. Tell the Park Service to remove motors from the river.


The use of helicopters should be limited to life and health-threatening emergencies, or essential administrative imperatives. Each season over 10,000 recreational passengers fly on or off the river by helicopter, creating a noisy, potentially hazardous carnival atmosphere within the Canyon's wilderness. All of this activity occurs near the base of Whitmore Trail, a mile-long trail offering alternative hiking and mule access the rim. Tell the Park Service to eliminate noisy, intrusive helicopter passenger exchanges.

Dam Operation

Glen Canyon Dam, located upstream of Grand Canyon National Park, dramatically impacted the Park's river corridor. Flow release decisions made by the interdisciplinary Adaptive Management Workgroup, ultimately constrained by electric power interests, have not always protected Grand Canyon's natural and cultural values. For example, the populations of endangered species, such as the humpback chub, continue to precipitously decline. The National Park Service must assume greater involvement and responsibility for dam operations. Tell the Park Service to not pass the buck to agencies with less preservation conscience "for their consideration."