Pearce Ferry Rapid Update

March 2003. The normally tranquil waters of the Colorado River are beginning to become turbulent at two points near Pearce Ferry, Arizona just past the western boundary of Grand Canyon National Park. This reach of the Colorado River is controlled by the water level of Lake Mead. When the lake is near full pool, a large lake with no current greets river runners departing the end of Grand Canyon. But with the 4th year of drought continuing, the unusually low level of Lake Mead has caused the Colorado River to entrench into the sediment deposited in the upper reaches of the lake. The river is flowing with strong current at the Ferry. The river no longer follows its historic channel and is now flowing over low gravel hills approximately one mile north of Pearce Ferry. Two new riffles have formed in this area.

The upper riffle, at approximately river mile 280, is a series of small standing waves stretching almost all the way across the river, which is about 150 feet wide at this point. A fast channel has developed on the river right side of the riffle. The lower riffle is forming where the river is cutting through a saddle between two small hills.

At this time, these riffles pose no difficulty to river travelers, but have the potential to upset articles laid out on watercraft decks. Night floating through this area is not recommended. This area has the potential to form serious rapids as Lake Mead is projected to drop 12 to 15 feet in the next 4 months. Photographs of these two riffles are at