As of January 9, 2007, Lake Mead's water surface stood at approximately 1128 feet above mean sea level, almost 100 feet below the lake's maximum elevation of 1225.4 feet. The average lake level is 1163.8 feet. The historic minimum level of 1083.6 occurred in 1956 before Glen Canyon Dam was constructed. The Bureau of Reclamation estimates that by September 2007, the lake level will have dropped to approximately 1114 feet.
River runners traveling downstream of Diamond Creek will come to the end of river current approximately 200 yards south of Iceberg Reef. This area is about 3 miles above Sandy Point, 5 miles from the South Cove take out, and well into Iceberg Canyon. 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.
Erosion of lake deposits continues to cause the river to run muddy about two miles above Quartermaster Canyon at Mile 260, where river flows average a rate of 3 to 4 mph. The river is running clearer upstream of Separation Canyon at Mile 239.6. The Pearce Ferry riffle is mostly washed out, but by June it should be more noticeable then last year.
The river between Surprise Canyon at river mile 248.5 and river mile 263 is informally known as "sandbar alley". The area of the "alley" with the most sandbars at this time is between Reference Point Canyon at river mile 251 and Quartermaster Canyon at river mile 259.
The Pearce Riffle gets more pronounced at lower river flows. New riffles have formed at Surprise Canyon, Spencer Canyon and Separation Canyon, where new side canyon stream gravel has pushed approximately ½ way across the river channel.
Most campsites from Gneiss Canyon to Separation Canyon are open. The Spencer Canyon Camp is open on the gravel outwash of Spencer Canyon, but is prone to flash flooding. The camp at 241 is choked with arrow weed.
There is a large camp on cobble at Surprise Canyon, but this camp is also prone to flash flooding. There is a small camp at 253 Mile on river right. 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.
Across the river from Burnt Springs near Quartermaster Canyon, there is a 3 foot high sandbar on river left for a small group, but this sandbar is becoming overgrown with arrow weed encroachment. River runners are reminded that all sandbar camps are susceptible to unanticipated flooding by upstream events.
A camp on a sandbar is on river right just below Dry Canyon at 264.5 Mile but is mostly overgrown with a 5-6 feet bank. There is a sandbar camp at 273 Mile on river left, but is very small and very overgrown.
There is a sandy camp just above the Pearce Ferry riffle at approximately 280 Mile on river left. 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 sandbar camps have formed on river right, across from North Howland Cove at 291.5 Mile. The next large camp is on the left on Lake Mead at Sandy Point, just below 294 Mile.
South Cove Takeout Information
Bids have been accepted for improvement work at South Cove, including the construction of a new raft take out graveled ramp, two to three hundred feet south of the existing concrete ramp. At lake level elevation 1123, the main ramp concrete ends. This ramp may be extended with metal fabric or concrete.
Until the above improvements are completed, all river runners taking out at South Cove are requested to use the gravel area on the south side of the concrete ramp. 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 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 avoid crowds of late afternoon river and lake traffic. 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 take-out area, or the public swimming area just north of the concrete ramp. Camping is allowed outside the harbor area, and is available one-quarter mile downstream (south) of the concrete ramp below the rock jetty just downstream of the take out.
The Mead View SCAT (toilet wash out) machine, will open in March after the end of overnight freezing temperatures. The entire machine may be updated by next year for increased ease of use.
The Hualapai Nation is strongly requesting that Diamond Creek put-ins and take-outs occur before 7 am or after 10 am.
Helicopter and tour boat activity continues to increase near Quartermaster Canyon. An operational 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.
The NPS does not advise night floats due to the potential for collision risk with other watercraft and or submerged trees.
If a night float is undertaken, National Park rangers would like to remind river runners that you must have a person on watch with a lantern or flashlight ready to warn oncoming boats. Any boats with a motor running (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).
Concessions jet boat takeouts will be operating from South Cove to Separation Canyon starting end of March. While USCG 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.
Large navigational hazard sandbars are just above the Bat Cave about 266 Mile and by Dry Canyon at 264.5 Mile. At Dry Canyon, the river channel is to the outside of the Dry Canyon corner on river right then goes hard to river left at 264.5.
Be aware of snakes in the heavy riverside vegetation, especially when tying up rafts.
The lake below Iceberg Reef can be rowed, but be aware that it's full-on lake with no current from Mile 292 to South Cove at Mile 297. Also, rowers should be ready for upstream afternoon headwinds in the range of 5-15 mph, with gusts up to 30+ mph possible.
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.
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 visible inspections 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.