Lake Mead Level and End of Current
As of June 13, 2007, Lake Mead's water surface stood at approximately 1115 feet above mean sea level, almost 110 feet below the lake's maximum elevation of 1225 feet.
The Bureau of Reclamation estimates the reservoir level will be 1111 feet by end of this month, and remain at that level throughout the summer. The water level in Lake Mead has been dropping approximately one foot per week for the past eight weeks. Managers are releasing more water to meet downstream water requirements.
The historic minimum level of Lake Mead was 1084 feet, which occurred in 1956 before Glen Canyon Dam was constructed. At reservoir levels of 1050 or lower, Hoover Dam can no longer make electricity. The Bureau of Reclamation predicts the lake level to be at 1098 by late summer 2008.
River runners traveling downstream of Diamond Creek will encounter the end of river current at approximately river mile 293, four miles above 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 is strongly requesting that Diamond Creek put-ins and take-outs occur before 7 am or after 10 am.
New Rapids and Other Hazards
The Pearce Ferry riffle has an exposed rock pour over in the center of the rapid, more pronounced at lower river flows. There is a clear channel on either side of the rock. Night floating through this area is not recommended by the National Park Service. Another navigational hazard at this area is a blind curve just downstream of the riffle. The river concessions jet boats will typically sound their horns at this blind curve, and river runners in kayaks are advised to flush out to avert a collision if they are playing in the rapid.
New riffles have formed at Surprise Canyon, Spencer Canyon and Separation Canyon, where new side canyon stream gravel has pushed approximately half way across the river channel. The riffle at Gneiss Canyon Rapid at river mile 236 is becoming more turbulent.
Gneiss Canyon Camp at river mile 236 is in good shape, as is Bridge City Camp just above river mile 239. Separation Canyon Camp at river mile 239.8 is open. The camps at 241 are choked with arrow weed, but the small camp at river mile 242 is open. The camp at 243 on river right is large and heavily used.
There is a large camp on cobble at Spencer Canyon, but this camp is prone to flash flooding. The Surprise Canyon Camp above river mile 249 is open but rocky, as it is now on a gravel outwash of Surprise Canyon and is also prone to flash flooding. There is room for two trips to camp at the Surprise Canyon Camp.
Access to the old Burnt Springs Camp is extremely difficult, requiring a climb up a twelve foot high silt bank. Watch for rattlesnakes in this area. There is a good camp on river left just past the mouth of Quartermaster Canyon at river mile 258. This camp is noisy with a lot of helicopter activity.
There is a camp on a sandbar on river right just below Dry Canyon at river mile 264.5 but this is mostly overgrown with a 5-6 feet cut bank. There is a sandbar camp at 273 Mile on river left, but is quite small and very overgrown.
There is a small sandy camp just above the Pearce Ferry riffle at approximately 280 Mile on river left. This camp is getting overgrown with vegetation. Any camp on river right in the area around Gods Pocket will have to be shared with fifteen to twenty head of range cattle. The last nice camp "on the river" is at South American Point on river left at approximately 285 Mile, across from Paiute Point at the mouth of Grand Wash Bay.
New large sandbar camps have formed in Iceberg Canyon, without shade or vegetation. There is a floating bathroom by Hells Kitchen at about river mile 294 on the Nevada side of the lake, but it is out of the way of folks rowing to South Cove. The last camps on Lake Mead above South Cove on the Arizona side of the reservoir are above and below Sandy Point, just below 295 Mile.
River runners are reminded that all sandbar camps are susceptible to unanticipated flooding by upstream events.
South Cove Takeout Information
There is a new river runner takeout area at South Cove about 500-600 feet south of the old takeout area. All river runners taking out at South Cove are required to use the new ramp. There is a 3000 foot-long dirt road from the top of the main concrete ramp to the new location. All self guided and concessionaire river runner takeout operations have been moved to the new site. River runners are encouraged to drop folks off at the ramp to retrieve their vehicles from the parking lot, but are required to take all gear to the new river runners' takeout ramp. The old dirt river runners' takeout is now used for launching motorized lake boats only.
The NPS is extending the permanent public launch ramp at South Cove in addition to replacing the asphalt section, but can only extend it down to the waterline. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is spending $318,444 on the work at South Cove.
The new extended launch ramp will not reach the water until water levels rise this fall. The water is projected to rise to 1,117 feet, so there may be a short period where the permanent ramp will be useable. By March 2008, projection show the water level dropping until September 2008 when it reaches 1,100 feet. The NPS will again be looking at temporary ramp use for the spring and summer of 2008.
River runners are asked to be patient and understanding in the de-rig area as Hualapai, concessions and public rafters are all taking out in the same area. River runners are encouraged to maintain as small a takeout footprint as possible, and to de-rig as quickly as possible. Early morning takeouts are recommended in the high use seasons of late spring, summer and early fall, in order to beat the heat. Daytime temperatures in the heat of summer can reach 115 degrees.
National Park Service Rangers note that no camping is allowed on the South Cove ramp and takeout area, or at the public swimming area just north of the concrete ramp. Camping is allowed outside the harbor area, and is available downstream (south) of the new river runners' take out.
The Mead View SCAT (toilet wash out) machine was opened after the end of overnight freezing temperatures in March. Scat machine users are encouraged to fill their scat boxes with water once the box is tied into the machine. Allow a few minutes for the contents of the box to re-hydrate before closing the scat machine lid. Scat Machine users must allow the white 50 gallon tank to completely fill before starting another cycle. Activating the system before this tank is full will lock the sold waste can into the Scat machine and disable the machine. It is illegal to leave unattended toilet cans at this location. The entire machine may be updated this fall.
The NPS does not advise night floats due to the potential risk for collision with other watercraft and/or submerged trees. If a night float is undertaken, National Park rangers would like to remind river runners that there must be a person on watch with a lantern or flashlight ready to warn oncoming boats. Any boats with a motor (4-stroke motors only) running, 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).
Mead View Change in Personnel
For the last ten years, Grand Canyon National Park Ranger Chris Mengel has been stationed at the Mead View Ranger Station. Chris has accepted a new position with the Park Service as the Supervisory Park Ranger at Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland near Camp David. His wife Jen will accompany him.
"I've really enjoyed my time here working with the river community" noted the well-liked Mengel. In looking back over his stay, Chris was happy that "there haven't been many accidents and only one fatality in all the years I've been here." In his time at Meadview, Chris regrets only that there was not enough water in the lake. "The lake was at 1220 when I first arrived and has dropped over 100 feet in the time I have been here."
Helicopter and tour boat activity continues to increase near Quartermaster Canyon. A fleet of 5 to 6 power boats doing 20 minute trips for helicopter passengers from Grand Canyon West plies the section of river around 260 Mile daily, with intense helicopter activity in this area sunrise to sunset.
Concessions jet boat takeouts are operating from South Cove to Separation Canyon at this time. While Coast Guard regulations state that downstream traffic has the right of way, downstream river runners should be on the lookout for fast moving, up-running traffic, especially around blind curves. Use caution to avoid collisions.
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. There is a minimum landfill fee of $5.85 for 300 pounds or less.
For homeland security purposes, all trailers and box trucks are being inspected at Hoover Dam, and box trucks and trailers need a clear aisle down the middle of the load for visual inspection of 80% of the load.
For additional information and answers to specific questions about the Diamond Creek to South Cove section of Grand Canyon, please contact the Mead View Ranger Station at 928-564-2918.