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 the Pearce Ferry Ramp at river mile 280 and Pearce Ferry Rapid at river mile 280.5.
Lake Mead Level and end of Current
As of August 19, 2012, Lake Mead's water surface stood at approximately 1116 feet above mean sea level, 109 feet below the lake's maximum elevation of 1225 feet.
The rise of twenty feet in the reservoir level since March of 2011 has not impacted the Pearce Ferry Take-out Ramp. There is still strong river flow past Pearce Ferry Ramp and the rapid immediately below. As of August 19, 2012, end of current was still in Gregg Basin at roughly river mile 293. There are no active nick point waterfalls below Pearce Ferry Rapid at this time.
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 the 7 AM to 10 AM 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 if you pay the day you launch. 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. This fee is decreased to $55 plus tax if you pay in advance. For additional information contact the Hualapai Tribe River Running office at (928) 769-2219.
River runners who are not taking out or exchanging passengers should note that if they stop at Diamond Creek and use the shade structure, they may be charged a camping fee.
This summer's monsoons are causing flash flooding damage to the Diamond Creek road. The twenty-six mile Diamond Creek road makes multiple creek bed crossings on its way from Peach Springs, Arizona, to the Colorado River at the mouth of Diamond Creek. For its final mile, the dirt road travels in the wash bed of the narrow Diamond Creek canyon. Road crew maintenance workers from the Hualapai Nation are opening the dirt road that runs right down the creek bed at this time.
The next take out below Diamond Creek is an additional fifty-four miles downstream. River runners are advised not to plan tight schedules for returning home after a river trip if the trip includes a Diamond Creek take-out during the monsoon season, which typically ends in late September.
New Rapids and Other Hazards
Gneiss Canyon Rapid continues to have a strong S-curve with an upper right and lower left hole.
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. Look for a clear side stream entering the river here on river right.
Pearce Ferry Rapid is now classified a Class IV nick point rapid at river mile 280.8. Nick point rapids are formed where the Colorado River bed traverses over exposed rock outcrops. All of 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, a bedrock island sits on the right side of the rapid.
Night floating through this area is NOT recommended. Portaging on river right is still an option. The camp just above the rapid is very hard to access now, but a new campable area 100 yards downstream of the rapid is available for camping on river left.
A well maintained trail goes from the Pearce Ferry Ramp to the Rapid. River runners are encouraged to look at this rapid if they plan to travel all the way to South Cove. River runners are advised that this rapid does not look like or behave like the debris fan rapids encountered upstream.
This rapid continues to change and will no doubt impact upstream channel flows in the near future as the rapid down-cutting continues.
Jet Boat Operations
Commercial jet boat operations are in full swing and are occurring most days in the summer along the 40 miles from Pearce Ferry Ramp to Separation Canyon. Typically, jet boats will not slow down for muscle powered watercraft, and their wake is substantial.
The first good campsite below Diamond Creek is on river right at the foot of Diamond Creek Rapid. Additional camp options include Travertine Canyon at 229.3 left and Travertine Falls at 230.6 left.
Bridge Canyon Camp at 235.3 mile is campable, as is Gneiss Canyon Camp at river mile 236. Bridge City Camp just above river mile 239 has suffered from flash flooding, but Separation Canyon Camp at river mile 239.8 is campable. The camp at mile 243 is still useable.
There is a large camp at mile 246.3 river left on cobble at Spencer Canyon. The Surprise Canyon Camp at river mile 248.7 is large and on a gravel outwash of Surprise Canyon. A sandbar area just below the gravel outwash is campable.
There is a small sized camp on river right at 250 Mile.
There is a small camp for a small group at mile 261.2 on river left. Campers at this camp will note a heavy volume of helicopter activity.
There is a medium sized camp at river mile 264.8 on river right.
A large mid-river sand bar offers camping at mile 265.5. Sand bar camps are susceptible to complete and unanticipated inundation at any time, especially during the monsoon season.
There is a small camp on a sandy beach at mile 269.3 on river left, and at 270.9 on river right.
A large camp has formed on river left at the 273.6 mile curve.
There is a large beach camp is at river left at 279.4, however the pull-in is easy to miss and river runners looking to camp at this location will need to be ready to pull to shore on river left and look for the best place to camp.
There is a camp at mile 280.0 on river right just above the Pearce Ferry Ramp at mile 280.15 on river left.
National Park Service rangers note that no camping is allowed at the Pearce Ferry and South Cove ramp and take-out areas.
Pearce Ferry Takeout Information
The Pearce Ferry take out ramp is operational, with mud/dirt take out areas either side of a middle concrete ramp also covered with mud/dirt. The concrete ramp is for removing watercraft by trailer. Two parking areas are adjacent to the take-out, and two portable bathrooms are now located in the Upper parking lot.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area does not allow river runners to launch at Pearce Ferry Ramp for the day run to South Cove. River runners arriving from Diamond Creek or Lee's Ferry are allowed to proceed.
River runners are asked by the National Park Service 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 Mead View SCAT (toilet wash out) machine is operable. Please note there is no potable or recycled water available for cleanup purposes at this location. The NPS notes it is illegal to leave unattended toilet cans at the Mead View Scat machine.
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.
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.
The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge is now open and river runners heading to Las Vegas using the Bypass Bridge have no security check station to deal with.
For river runners traveling east, the Stockton Hill Road is 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.
Recent photos of the Pearce Ferry area and end of current are posted here:
Photos of the Pearce Ferry Ramp and Concessions Jet boats are at the RRFW Rafting Grand Canyon WIKI posted here: