As part of the newly completed Colorado River Management Plan, officials at Grand Canyon National Park are developing a Visitor Experience Monitoring Program. The program is intended to monitor the impacts of the new river management plan, as well as look at what may require additional attention.
Of interest is how self guided and concessionaire river runners paddling the Colorado River in Grand Canyon are impacted by various aspects of their visit, for example, other people encountered at camps, at attraction sites and on the river.
Grand Canyon National Park staff gathered on-site data for one week by observing river runners visiting the popular Deer Creek waterfall in June. Park personnel will conduct similar "at-a-site observations" during the first week in August at Havasu Canyon and return to Deer Creek for additional data gathering in October, well after the end of the concessions' motorized tour boat season.
On-site data gathering documents several types of information at a site,including the types of trips that visit (or pass by without stopping), the number and types of boats, group size, length of stay, and the number of people visiting different areas at the site.
Informal discussions with visitors also provide some information about where people camped before (and where they intend to camp after) their visit. At Deer Creek, it was also possible to note which of six campsites in the area get used each night (and the order in which they are occupied).
The park has decided not to use "at-a-site logs" for future monitoring. This method placed ammo-cans at a few attraction sites and requested trip leaders to register the number of people they saw during their visit. A pilot version was tried in 2006, but relatively few trips completed the logs after the first few weeks. At a social impact monitoring public meeting held in January and attended by River Runners for Wilderness volunteers, it was determined that a different data-gathering method should beused.
In an effort to provide more useful information to river runners, Grand Canyon National Park is now posting the monthly launch calendar online. After a short delay due to technical difficulties, the Grand Canyon staff has now posted the calendar for the month of August.
The launch calendar includes information on all self guided, concessionaire, research, NPS and other administrative river trips departing from the Lee's Ferry launch ramp, including date and trip size. Additional information includes Phantom Ranch exchanges, Whitmore exchanges, and Diamond Creek takeout information.
Accompanying the calendar is introductory information explaining calendar entries and is very valuable in understanding the calendars.
The August online launch calendar for Colorado River trips through Grand Canyon National Park is available on the Park's website at http://www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/crmp07rmm.htm under the "Download the August 2007 Recreational Launch Calendar here" link.
The monthly calendars are posted about one to two months in advance, as information availability and staff workload allows. September's calendar is projected to be posted in one to two weeks.