Hualapai Postpones Upruns in Grand Canyon

On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, the Hualapai Nation announced a new tour offering of an upstream excursion of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon beginning this March. The new tour would uprun the Colorado River above Diamond Creek at river mile 226. Diamond Creek offers the only vehicle access to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

In a statement released late February 5, 2014, the Hualapai Tribe Crisis Management Team of Scutari and Cieslak Public Relations noted the tribe “will postpone the launch of these new tours while we review the regulations and discuss our various options.”

The entire surface of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon is managed by the National Park Service. Running motorized boats up the Colorado River in Grand Canyon above Separation Canyon at river mile 240 was banned in the 1960’s by the National Park Service for safety reasons and has not been allowed, outside of emergencies, for over 50 years.

Soon after the NPS banned uprunning for safety reasons in the 1960’s, downstream river traffic greatly increased. Today, the Park strictly enforces all river use, including the exclusion of all motorized tour boats from September 15 to April 1, in order to preserve the Colorado River’s wilderness values. The 222 Miles of Colorado River between the Navajo Bridge by Lee’s Ferry, all the way to Diamond Creek at river mile 226, is the only section of navigable waterway in the lower 48 states managed as wilderness where there are no roads, power lines, or train tracks along the river corridor.

Grand Canyon National Park also limits the number of trips on the Colorado River at any one time upstream of Diamond Creek to control on-river congestion and attraction sight crowding. To avoid exceeding this limit, Grand Canyon National Park recently proposed reducing thirty public river trip lengths from 21 days to 18 days in the second half of April.

In an Associated Press article released February 6, 2014, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said the Hualapai's plan to launch five boats upriver per day from Diamond Creek would have exceeded the limit on river trips. "This is a regulation that applies to all river users, and it would be in direct violation of the regulations in the book," he said. "We'd rather not get to that point of trying to deal with enforcement but actually convincing them this isn't safe and it isn't a good visitor experience."

According to Tom Martin, Co-Director of River Runners For Wilderness, “The proposed Hualapai tours would push the number of river trips already on the river even higher, adversely impacting a wilderness river already at the visitation breaking point. We encourage the Hualapai Tribe to cancel this proposed tour completely.”

The Associated Press article is posted here: