River Runners for Wilderness presents this report of river conditions and updates 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.
New information in this release includes information on winter snow impacts to the upper Diamond Creek Road, Gneiss Canyon Camp pull-in details, camp changes at 279 mile and details of Pearce Ferry Rapid.
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 between 7 AM to 10 AM Hualapai River Runners are launching day-trips.
The Hualapai Diamond Creek road access fee is $60 per person for river runners, shuttle drivers and vehicles if you pay the day you launch. This fee applies whether arriving or departing from Diamond Creek. A Hualapai Tribal tax of 7% is added to this fee, for a total of $64.25 per person/driver/vehicle. This fee is decreased to $55 plus tax if you pay in advance by credit card. If paying by credit card for a launch or take-out at Diamond Creek, you will need your trips National Park Service permit number. 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.
The Hualapai Nation now sells camping permits for river runners who would like to camp on river left below Diamond Creek. Camping is only allowed at specific locations on tribal land and hiking away from the camping location is not allowed. The camping fee is $32.55 per person per night. For additional information contact the Hualapai Tribe River Running office at (928) 769-2219.
Winter snows may cause damage to the Diamond Creek road near Peach Springs. The road is subject to closure during snowstorms. Contact the Hualapai Tribe River Running office for the latest road conditions. The twenty-six mile Diamond Creek dirt 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 diligently work to keep this road open during summer monsoon season and winter snowstorms.
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 or winter season.
New Rapids and Other Hazards
At flows near 12,000 cubic feet per second, pass either right or left of a rock at the top of 231 Mile Rapid. The next hazard is a mid-river pour-over in the lower third of the rapid. A left run around this pour-over will require avoiding large laterals on the far left. A right run around this pour over will require the running of a medium sized hole.
232 Mile (Killer Fang Falls) should be scouted. The run is a right to left ferry across strong current moving toward the right sided fang. A far left run close to the left shore is also an option and can be scouted on river left. The left pull-in for scouting is upstream of the right side scout and should not be missed.
234 Mile Rapid is entered on the far right and at flows below 10,000 cfs, has a substantial pour over with exposed rock in the center of the river at the bottom of the rapid. This is easily passed by staying right.
Gneiss Canyon Rapid at 236 mile has a large debris fan blocking the right side of the river, with a large hydraulic hole against the left cliff. In order to stop at this camp, be prepared to pull hard to the right at the bottom of the debris fan. Due to fast moving current, it is not advised to attempt to pull-in at the top of the rapid on river right.
Large amounts of side canyon debris have been washed into the river channel at both Separation and Spencer Canyon. The Separation and Spencer Canyon Rapids are a Class I on the I-V scale.
Down-cutting of the section of the river between Separation Rapid and Lava Cliff Rapid at Spencer Canyon is occurring very slowly, if at all. This is due to a lack of significant flushing flows of 100,000 cubic feet per second or more to remove over 50 years accumulation of large and small boulders and gravel from numerous side drainages in this area of the Canyon.
Pearce Ferry Rapid, just below the Pearce Ferry take-out, is a solid Class V rapid at this time, with a must make move that will still result in the running of a large hole with significant hydraulics. This rapid may be scouted following a trail for ½ mile west from the Pearce Ferry takeout lower parking lot.
Jet Boat Operations
Commercial jet boat operations occur most days in the summer along the 40 miles from Pearce Ferry Ramp to Separation Canyon. This activity will resume in April of this year. As a reminder, 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 a small camp at 227.3 mile on river right, two small camps at 228.4 and 228.5 mile, both on river right. Additional campsites are found at 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. The Gneiss Canyon pull-in is described above and is easy to miss. Bridge City Camp just above river mile 239 is campable as is Separation Canyon Camp at river mile 239.8. There is a camp on the gravel outwash of 243 Mile Canyon at 242.6 Mile on river right. The camp at mile 243 is still useable.
There is a large camp at mile 246.3 river left on cobble at Spencer Canyon. A new side canyon gravel debris outwash has made a camp at 247.8 on river left. The Surprise Canyon Camp at river mile 248.7 is large and on a mud and gravel outwash of Surprise Canyon. At water levels of 14,000 and above, this camp requires a hike up a steep bank. There is a small sized camp on river right at 250 Mile.
There is a medium sized camp at river mile 264.8 on river right. There is a long low water shoreline camp on river right at 265.1 Mile. There is a small camp on a sandy beach at mile 269.3 on river left.
A medium sized camp is at 274.1 on river left. The camp at 274.1 is the first camp on river left since National Canyon at 167 Mile that is not on Hualapai Reservation land.
There is a large camp on river left at 279.0 with another camp just below it. The pull-in for the upper camp is increasingly easy to miss as the river is cutting into this camps shoreline.
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.
There is a strong flow of current all the way to Pearce Ferry at this time.
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 and metal plate ramp also covered with mud/dirt. The concrete ramp is for removing watercraft by trailer. At the time of this Riverwire release, the Colorado River had downcut the main channel enough that the concrete ramp was completely out of the water.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is still not allowing 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 if they wish. An inspection of Pearce Ferry Rapid is highly advisable and may require a portage on river right or a lining through the right channel.
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 not in operation during the winter. Please note that during the summer months, there is only recycled non-potable 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).
Two floating docks between 262 Mile and 264 Mile on river left pose a serious navigational hazard to river runners on night floats.
Columbine Falls experienced a major flash flood in late September. The flood moved a substantial amount of river sediment out into the main river channel with the formation of a small riffle. The 37,000 cfs flow of November removed this material.
The riverside silt banks on both sides of the river channel now reach heights of 60 feet. These banks regularly tumble down into the river in spectacular clouds of dust at unpredictable times. River runners are encouraged not to float close to the sides of the river channel where tall silt banks are present.
Helicopter and tour boat activity continues to increase year-round near Quartermaster Canyon. An operational fleet of eleven to twelve hard hull motorboats operate out of two floating docks between 262 Mile and 263 Mile. These boats conduct 10 to 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, with over 60 helicopters per hour present on most days at all hours. Day trip Hualapai River Runner pontoon boats leave Diamond Creek before 10:00 a.m. and arrive at the floating docks at 262-264 Mile around three o’clock in the afternoon. These pontoon boats will disembark their passengers at the floating docks and continue on with crew only to Pearce Ferry.
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 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. The facility is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the summer, while winter hours are 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Access during normal business hours is via intercom stationed to the left of the main gate. Tell the person who answers you are there to clean out river cans and they will guide you through the process.