River Runners for Wilderness presents this report of conditions for those river trips traveling below Diamond Creek in Grand Canyon National Park. This update covers the Colorado River from Diamond Creek at river mile 226 to South Cove at river mile 297.
Lake Mead Level and End of Current
As of June 28, 2010, Lake Mead's water surface stood at approximately 1089 feet above mean sea level, 136 feet below the lake's maximum elevation of 1225 feet.
The drop of eight feet in the reservoir level since January of this year has re-created two nick point rapids, in the Devil’s Cove and Gregg Basin area upstream of the South Cove take-out. These two rapids are rated as Class III on the I to V International Scale of River Difficulty.
As of June 26, 2010, river runners traveling downstream of Diamond Creek will come to the end of river current at approximately river mile 294.5. This is roughly three miles from South Cove. While there is good current all the way to the Iceberg Reef area, river runners are advised to keep an eye out for sandbars and other navigational hazards in Iceberg Canyon.
The Hualapai Nation does not allow vehicles to be parked at Diamond Creek overnight. The Hualapai Nation strongly requests that river runners schedule their Diamond Creek put-ins and take-outs before 7 AM or after 10 AM, as this time is used to launch downstream Hualapai River Runners river trips.
The Hualapai Diamond Creek road access fee is $60 per person (shuttle drivers and river runners) and $60 per vehicle. This fee applies whether arriving or departing from Diamond Creek. A Hualapai Tribal tax of 7% is now added to the $60 cost, for a total of $64.25 per person/driver. These fees are expected to continue to increase this year. For fee information contact the Hualapai Tribe River Running office at (928) 769-2219.
New Rapids and Other Hazards
At river mile 275.5, the river current is still being deflected off of a submerged cliff on river left and forced into vegetation on river right. Care should be taken here to avoid floating into strainers along the right bank and right third of the main river channel.
Pearce Ferry Rapid is a must-scout Class V nick point rapid at river mile 280.8. Nick point rapids are formed where the Colorado River bed traverses over exposed rock outcrops.
All the river current goes straight into a reverse wave as the river runs into a hillside at full force and makes a sharp right turn. Meanwhile, bedrock islands have formed at the throat of the rapid.
Night floating through this area is NOT recommended. Scouting on river left is recommended, and wearing lifejackets is a must.
At Pearce Ferry Rapid, there is an exposed rock ledge in the center right of the rapid, and at lower water levels, a new rock is emerging as an extension of this rock ledge in the center of the left tongue.
Due to increased down-cutting of the left channel, the right slot is now a four foot drop. The right chute is still open and allows lining options if river runners are not confident in their skills to navigate the left channel.
The channel on the left side of the ledge leads into what is now called “Lava West”, a series of very large holes, with a strong secondary hydraulic below these holes and a series of exposed rocks in mid channel at lower water levels.
This rapid continues to change and will no doubt impact upstream channel flows in the near future as the rapid down-cutting continues. Areal photos taken June 27, 2010 of this rapid are at the RRFW Pearce Ferry Rapids Gallery
There is a minor riffle at the Driftwood Island nick point between miles 286.5 and 287.0. The Devils Cove nick point at river mile 292.3, and Greg Basin nick point at 293.0 are Class III rapids at this writing. Please approach this area with caution as conditions can change quickly depending on the level of Lake Mead. Areal photos of the Devils cove and Greg Basin nick point rapids are at the RRFW Devils Cove and Gregg Basin Rapids Gallery.
New Pearce Ferry Take-Out
The Pearce Ferry take out ramp is operational, with dirt take out areas either side of a middle concrete ramp. The concrete ramp is for removing watercraft by trailer. Two parking areas are adjacent to the take-out, and two portable bathrooms are in the upper parking lot.
According to NPS officials, very few river runners arriving from upstream are continuing on past the ramp for the float to South Cove. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is still not allowing river runners to launch at Pearce Ferry Ramp for the day run to South Cove.
Aerial photos taken June 27, 2010 of the Ramp are at the RRFW Pearce Ferry Ramp Gallery.
The first good campsite below Diamond Creek is on river right at the foot of Diamond Creek Rapid. There is a nice camp on river right at 231 Mile.
Bridge Canyon Camp at 235.3 mile and Gneiss Canyon Camp at river mile 236 are in good shape, as is Bridge City Camp just above river mile 239. Separation Canyon Camp at river mile 239.8 is still a good camp on a large gravel outwash. The camp at mile 243 is still useable.
There is a large camp at mile 246.3 river left on cobble at Spencer Canyon. This camp has a solar composting toilet. The Surprise Canyon Camp at river mile 248.7 is large and on a gravel outwash of Surprise Canyon. This camp is prone to flash flooding. Camping is also available at mile 250.0 on river right.
A narrow but long camp is along the right shore at Burnt Springs Canyon at mile 259.8 river right. There is a small camp for a small group at mile 261.2 on river left. Campers at these camps will note a heavy volume of helicopter activity.
A large mid river sand bar offers camping at mile 265.5. This camp, with a view of the glass skywalk up the side canyon here, is susceptible to complete and unanticipated inundation at any time, especially during the upcoming monsoon season.
There is a camp on a sandy beach at mile 271.0 on river right. A small and long camp has formed on river left at mile 274. There is a large beach camp at 279.0 on river left, large enough to accommodate two river parties at either end of this camp. There is a nice camp at mile 280.0 on river right just above the Pearce Ferry Ramp at mile 280.15 on river left.
There is a large sandy camp just below the Pearce Ferry riffle at approximately 281 Mile on river left. Numerous beaches exist on river left from 281 Mile to 283 Mile. New large sandbar camps without shade have formed in lower Iceberg Canyon around river mile 291 to 294 on both sides of the river.
There are many camps on Lake Mead above South Cove on the Arizona side of the reservoir above and below Sandy Point, just below 295 Mile. Pocket camps are also found in the southern end of South Bay, just a half mile from the South Cove take out.
National Park Service rangers note that no camping is allowed at the Pearce Ferry and South Cove ramp and take-out areas.
Pearce Ferry and South Cove Takeout Information
The brand new Mead View SCAT (toilet wash out) machine is operable at this time. It is illegal to leave unattended toilet cans at this location.
River runners are asked to be patient and understanding in the de-rig area at Pearce Ferry as public rafters, Hualapai, and river concessions rafters are all taking out in the same area. River runners are encouraged to maintain as small a take-out footprint as possible, and to de-rig as quickly as possible. Early morning take-outs are recommended in the high use seasons of late spring, summer and early fall, to beat the heat and crowds. Daytime temperatures in the heat of summer can reach 115 degrees.
The NPS is still suggesting river runners avoid night floats due to the existence of rapids, the potential for collision risk with other watercraft and or submerged trees. A new navigational hazard includes a cable exposed in the sediment bank at mile 266.85 on river left that runs at an angle down into the river at the Bat Towers.
All night float trips, as per US Coast Guard regulations, must have a person on watch with a lantern or flashlight ready to warn oncoming boats. Any boats with a motor running at night (only four stroke motors allowed), whether tied together as a single craft or running as separate craft, must have navigation lights displayed red/green on the front and a white 360 degree light at the stern (back of the boat visible 360 degrees).
Helicopter and tour boat activity continues to increase near Quartermaster Canyon. An operational fleet of eleven to twelve powered pontoon boats operate out of two floating docks between 262 and 263 Mile. These pontoon boats conduct 20 minute boat trips for helicopter passengers from Grand Canyon West and Las Vegas. These boats ply the section of river around 262 Mile daily, with intense helicopter activity in this area sunrise to sunset.
River runner trash can be deposited at the Cerbat Landfill on the drive to Kingman on highway 93. The landfill turnoff is at mile marker 60, and the landfill site is 2 miles north from 93 up the Mineral Park road. Landfill hours are M-F 7 to 3, Sat 8 to 3, closed Sunday. Landfill fees are $29.75/ton cash or local check only, with a minimum load fee of $5.85 for 300 pounds or less.
For Homeland Security purposes, all trailers and box trucks are being inspected on either side of Hoover Dam. Box trucks and trailers need a clear aisle down the middle of the load for visual inspections of 80% of the load. Inspectors may re-route any or all of your group at their discretion. The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge is scheduled to open in November of this year, and will have no security check stations.
For river runners traveling east, the Stockton Hill Road paved all the way to Kingman. The turnoff for the Stockton Hill Road is a quarter mile south of the dirt and washboard Antares Road to Antares on Highway 66.
The Wildcat Hill Solid Waste Treatment Facility in Flagstaff allows river toilet clean outs and provides a large grated dump port and ample water for cleaning out containers. There is a $1 per container fee.