April 14, 2009
River Runners for Wilderness presents this report of conditions for those river trips travelling 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 April 5, 2009, Lake Mead's water surface stood at approximately 1106 feet above mean sea level, 119 feet below the lake's maximum elevation of 1225 feet.
The Bureau of Reclamation estimates the reservoir level will drop to 1093 feet above mean sea level by June of this year. This drop is expected to cause multiple nick point rapids to form between the end of Grand Canyon National Park and the South Cove take out.
As of April 5, 2009, river runners traveling downstream of Diamond Creek will come to the end of river current at approximately river mile 293.3. This is a little less than four 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 no longer allows vehicles to be parked at Diamond Creek overnight. These vehicles will be towed at owner’s expense. Also, the Hualapai Nation strongly requests that river runners schedule their Diamond Creek put-ins and take-outs before 7 AM or after 10 AM. 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.
New Rapids and Other Hazards
At river mile 275.5, the river current is 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.
Pearce Ferry Rapid is a must scout rapid at river mile 280.8, with an exposed rock in the center right of the rapid, and a hole to the left of the rock. There is a clear channel on the left side of the hole, but this channel goes straight into a reverse wave as the river runs into a hillside at full force. Night floating through this area is not recommended. Scouting on river left is recommended, and wearing lifejackets is a must.
The Pearce Ferry Road extension to the river is still in the design review stage, with the NPS looking to possibly tap Federal economic stimulus funding to assist in the financing of this project. There is no implementation of the project at this time.
There is a nick point at Devils Cove, river mile 292.3, and a play wave has developed at 293.0. At this writing only riffles and play waves are at this location, but as the reservoir continues to drop, please approach this area with caution from mid-May into this summer.
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 now on a large gravel outwash and is very large. The camp at mile 243 on river right is large and heavily used.
There is a large camp on cobble at Spencer Canyon. This camp has a solar composting toilet. The Surprise Canyon Camp above river mile 248.7 is large and on a gravel outwash of Surprise Canyon. This camp is prone to flash flooding.
There is a good camp on river left just past the mouth of Quartermaster Canyon at river mile 260.8 which requires carrying gear up a steep sand dune. There is a small camp for a small group at mile 261.6 on river right. Campers at both of these camps must endure a heavy volume of helicopter activity.
There is a camp on a sandbar on river left at mile 273.3 on a grassy bench. There is a large beach camp at 279.0 on river left, and a nice camp exists at mile 280.0 on river right.
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. Any camp on river right in the area around Gods Pocket will have to be shared with range cattle. The camp at South American Point is no longer accessible. New large sandbar camps without shade have formed in lower Iceberg Canyon around river mile 291 to 293 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 on the South Cove ramp and take-out area, harbor area, or the public swimming area just north of the concrete ramp.
River runners are reminded that all sandbar camps are susceptible to unanticipated flooding by upstream events.
South Cove Takeout Information
The brand new Mead View SCAT (toilet wash out) machine is inoperable at this time. There is a hose and an RV dump station, but the water flow out of this hose is roughly one half gallon per minute. It is illegal to leave unattended toilet cans at this location.
All river runners taking out at South Cove are required to use only the river runners take out ramp. The river runners take out area at South Cove is about 500-600 feet south of the concrete ramp, not at the concrete ramp or the gravel ramp adjacent to the concrete ramp. There is a 3000 foot long dirt road from the top of the main concrete ramp to the ramp area. River runners may drop folks off at the concrete ramp to retrieve their vehicles in the parking lot, but are required to move all boats and gear downlake to the river runners take out.
The NPS has finished extending the permanent public powerboat launch ramp at South Cove in addition to replacing the asphalt section with concrete. As the water level in Lake Mead drops again this summer, the NPS will again be looking at temporary ramp use for the spring and summer of 2009 at 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 crowds. Daytime temperatures in the heat of summer can reach 115 degrees.
The NPS does not advise night floats due to the existence of rapids, 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 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 15 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 at Hoover Dam. Box trucks and trailers need a clear aisle down the middle of the load for visual inspections of 80% of the load.
For river runners traveling east, the Stockton Hill Road is now paved all the way to Kingman. The turnoff for the Stockton Hill Road is a quarter mile past the dirt and washboard Antares Road to Antares on Highway 66.
Through the efforts of RRFW, 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.
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