River Runners for Wilderness presents this report of conditions for those river trips traveling below Diamond Creek in Grand Canyon National Park. This update covers the Colorado River from Diamond Creek at river mile 226 to the Pearce Ferry Ramp at river mile 280 and Pearce Ferry Rapid, at river mile 280.5.
Pearce Ferry Rapid has continued to carve a new bed for itself, resulting in a much more difficult run. River runners are advised that this rapid does not look like or behave like the debris fan rapids encountered upstream.
Lake Mead Level and End of Current
As of March 1, 2011, Lake Mead's water surface stood at approximately 1096 feet above mean sea level, 129 feet below the lake's maximum elevation of 1225 feet.
The rise of nine feet in the reservoir level since August of 2010 has not impacted Pearce Ferry. There is still strong river flow past Pearce Ferry Ramp and the rapid immediately below. As of January 26, 2011, end of current was still in Gregg Basin at roughly river mile 293.5.
The Hualapai Nation does not allow vehicles to be parked at Diamond Creek overnight. The Hualapai Nation strongly requests that river runners schedule their Diamond Creek put-ins and take-outs before 7 AM or after 10 AM, as the 7 AM to 10 AM time is used to launch downstream Hualapai River Runners river trips.
The Hualapai Diamond Creek road access fee is $60 per person (shuttle drivers and river runners) and $60 per vehicle if you pay the day you launch. 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. This fee is decreased to $55 plus tax if you pay in advance. For fee information contact the Hualapai Tribe River Running office at (928) 769-2219.
River runners who are not taking out or exchanging passengers should note that if they stop at Diamond Creek and use the shade structure, they may be charged a camping fee.
New Rapids and Other Hazards
A recent flash of Gneiss Canyon has made a strong S-curve rapid at Gneiss Canyon Rapid, with an upper left and lower right pour over.
The bat tower steel cable at river mile 266.8 has been cut and is no longer a hazard to river runners.
At river mile 275.5, the river current is still being 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 and right third of the main river channel. Look for a clear side stream entering the river here on river right.
Pearce Ferry Rapid is now classified a must-scout Class VI nick point rapid at river mile 280.8. Nick point rapids are formed where the Colorado River bed traverses over exposed rock outcrops.
All of the river current goes straight into a reverse wave as the river runs into a hillside at full force and makes a sharp right turn. Meanwhile, bedrock islands have formed at the throat of the rapid. The rapid appears to drop over 11 feet in 100 yards. A new nick point rapid, rated a class III, has formed just below the main rapid.
Night floating through this area is NOT recommended. Portaging on river right is still an option. The camp just above the rapid is very hard to access now, as a 6 foot bank has developed along the south side of the river in this area.
A well maintained trail now goes from the Pearce Ferry Ramp to the Rapid. River runners are encouraged to look at this rapid. It is a force of nature to be reckoned with.
At Pearce Ferry Rapid, there is an exposed rock ledge in the center right of the rapid, and at lower water levels, a new rock is emerging as an extension of this rock ledge in the center of the left tongue.
Due to increased down-cutting of the left channel, the right slot is now a series of two drops, five and six feet respectively. The right chute no longer allows lining options if river runners are not confident in their skills to navigate the left channel.
The channel on the left side of the rock ledge leads into what is now called “Lava West”, a series of two very large holes, with a strong secondary hydraulic and hole below the upper holes have eliminated all clear run options. Two strong eddies have formed on river right.
This rapid continues to change and will no doubt impact upstream channel flows in the near future as the rapid down-cutting continues. Photos taken of this rapid March 2, 2011have been posted at the RRFW Pearce Ferry Rapid Gallery here:
Jet Boat Operations
Commercial jet boat operations are set to resume in early April and are occurring most days in the summer along the 40 miles from Pearce Ferry Ramp to Separation Canyon. Typically, jet boats will not slow down for muscle powered watercraft, and their wake is substantial.
New Pearce Ferry Takeout
The Pearce Ferry take out ramp is operational, with mud/dirt take out areas either side of a middle concrete ramp also covered with mud/dirt. The concrete ramp is for removing watercraft by trailer. Two parking areas are adjacent to the take-out, and two portable bathrooms are in the lower parking lot.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area does not allow river runners to launch at Pearce Ferry Ramp for the day run to South Cove. River runners arriving from Diamond Creek or Lee’s Ferry are allowed to proceed.
Photos of the Pearce Ferry Ramp and Concessions Jet boats are at the RRFW Rafting Grand Canyon WIKI posted here:
The first good campsite below Diamond Creek is on river right at the foot of Diamond Creek Rapid. Additional camp options include Travertine Canyon at 229.3 left and Travertine Falls at 230.6 left.
Bridge Canyon Camp at 235.3 mile is campable, but a flash flood at Gneiss Canyon Camp at river mile 236 makes pulling into this camp difficult. Bridge City Camp just above river mile 239 and Separation Canyon Camp at river mile 239.8 are campable. The camp at mile 243 is still useable.
There is a large camp at mile 246.3 river left on cobble at Spencer Canyon. The Surprise Canyon Camp at river mile 248.7 is large and on a gravel outwash of Surprise Canyon.
There is a medium sized camp on river right at 250 Mile.
A low and long bench camp is along the right shore at Burnt Springs Canyon at mile 259.5 river right. There is a medium sized camp at Lower Quartermaster, river mile 260.7, but this camp requires a walk up a ramp to gain the camp at the top of a high silt bank. Campers using this camp may be inspected by tour helicopters landing at an adjacent helipad.
There is a small camp for a small group at mile 261.2 on river left. Campers at these camps will note a heavy volume of helicopter activity.
There is a medium sized camp at river mile 264.8 on river right.
A large mid-river sand bar offers camping at mile 265.5. Sand bar camps are susceptible to complete and unanticipated inundation at any time, especially during the monsoon season.
There is a small camp on a sandy beach at mile 269.3 on river left, and at 270.9 on river right.
A large camp has formed on river left at the 273.6 mike curve.
There is a large beach camp is at river left at 279.4, however the pull-in is easy to miss and river runners looking to camp at this location will need to be ready to pull to shore on river left and look for the best place to camp. The upper end of this camp was beginning to form a large cliff in March 2011.
There is a nice camp at mile 280.0 on river right just above the Pearce Ferry Ramp at mile 280.15 on river left.
National Park Service rangers note that no camping is allowed at the Pearce Ferry and South Cove ramp and take-out areas.
Pearce Ferry Takeout Information
River runners are asked to be patient and understanding in the de-rig area at Pearce Ferry as public rafters, Hualapai, and river concessions 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 Mead View SCAT (toilet wash out) machine was inoperable as of March 3, 2011 as it is still closed for the winter to protect from freezing. Please note there is no potable or recycled water available for cleanup purposes at this location. The NPS notes it is illegal to leave unattended toilet cans at the Mead View Scat machine.
The NPS is still suggesting river runners avoid night floats due to the existence of rapids, the potential for collision risk with other watercraft and or submerged trees.
All night float trips, as per US Coast Guard regulations, 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 20 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.
The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge is now open and river runners heading to Las Vegas using the Bypass Bridge have no security check station to deal with.
For river runners traveling east, the Stockton Hill Road is paved all the way to Kingman. The turnoff for the Stockton Hill Road is a quarter mile south of the dirt and washboard Antares Road to Antares on Highway 66.
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.