RRFW Riverwire – Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry Update
August 16, 2017
River Runners for Wilderness presents this report of river conditions and updates 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.
The Hualapai Nation now sells camping permits for river runners who would like to camp on river left below Diamond Creek. Camping is only allowed at specific locations on tribal land and hiking away from the camping location is not allowed. The camping fee is $32.55 per person per night. For additional information contact the Hualapai Tribe River Running office at (928) 769-2219.
The Hualapai Nation does not allow vehicles to be parked at the Diamond Creek ramp overnight and strongly requests that river runners schedule their Diamond Creek put-ins and take-outs before 7 AM or after 10 AM. Between 7 AM to 10 AM Hualapai River Runners are launching day-trips. Pulling into the boat rigging-derigging area during the time, between 7 AM and 10 AM, even if waived in by people standing on the ramp, is not recommended.
The Hualapai Diamond Creek road access fee is $60 per person for river runners, shuttle drivers and vehicles if you pay the day you launch. This fee applies whether arriving or departing from Diamond Creek. A Hualapai Tribal tax of 7% is added to this fee, for a total of $64.25 per person/driver/vehicle. This fee is decreased to $55 plus tax if you pay in advance by credit card. If paying by credit card for a launch or take-out at Diamond Creek, you will need your trips National Park Service permit number. For additional 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.
Summer monsoon rains, typically in July through September, may cause damage to the Diamond Creek road between Peach Springs, AZ, and the Diamond Creek launch ramp. This twenty six mile dirt road is subject to closure during these rainstorms. Temporary closures due to flooding have already occurred this summer.
Road crew maintenance workers from the Hualapai Nation diligently work to keep this road open during summer monsoon season.
In the winter, there may be deep snow at the start of the Diamond Creek road, and chains or four wheel drive vehicles are advised. For additional information on road conditions, contact the Hualapai Tribe River Running office at (928) 769-2219.
The next take out below Diamond Creek is an additional fifty-four miles downstream. River runners are advised not to plan tight schedules for returning home after a river trip if the trip includes a Diamond Creek take-out during the monsoon season.
Rapids and Other Hazards
232 Mile (Killer Fang Falls) should be scouted. The run is a right to left ferry across strong current moving toward the right sided fang. A far left run close to the left shore is also an option and can be scouted on river left. At higher flows of 15,000 cfs and above, this rapid washes out.
234 Mile Rapid is entered on the far right. At higher flows of 12,000 cfs and above, the hole at the bottom of the rapid is washed out.
Gneiss Canyon Rapid at 236 mile has a large debris fan blocking the right side of the river, with a large hydraulic hole against the left cliff. Pulling in to stop at the potential campsite on river right is very difficult and is not recommended at this time.
Large amounts of side canyon debris have washed into the river channel at both Separation and Spencer Canyon. The Separation and Spencer Canyon Rapids are a Class I on the I-V scale.
Down-cutting of the section of the river between Separation Rapid and Lava Cliff Rapid at Spencer Canyon is occurring very slowly, if at all. This is due to a lack of significant flushing flows of 100,000 cubic feet per second or more to remove over 50 years accumulation of large and small boulders and gravel from numerous side drainages in this area of the Canyon.
Pearce Ferry Rapid, just below the Pearce Ferry take-out, is a solid Class VI rapid at this time, classed unrunable. This rapid may be scouted following a trail for ½ mile that leads west from the Pearce Ferry takeout lower parking lot. A very difficult portage is possible on river right.
Jet Boat Operations
Commercial jet boat operations occur most days in the summer along the forty miles from Pearce Ferry Ramp to Separation Canyon. Shallow sandbars in the river between 253 Mile and 274 Mile require the jet boats to make sudden changes in navigation. As a reminder, jet boats will not slow down for muscle powered watercraft, and their wake is substantial.
River runners taking out at Diamond Creek should be aware that a camping fee of $32.55 per person is charged if the group camps at the ramp. Last Chance Above Diamond Creek camp at river mile 225.6 on river right is a very small camp on the gravel outwash of the side canyon here. The pull-in for this camp is at the top 1/3 of the debris fan. Camping here is not recommended in monsoon season.
The first good campsite below Diamond Creek is on river right at the foot of Diamond Creek Rapid and is in Grand Canyon National Park.
A nice camp is on river right just across from Travertine Canyon at river mile 229.3 and is in Grand Canyon National Park.
Bridge Canyon Camp at 235.3 Mile on river left is campable with a Hualapai Nation camping permit, but Gneiss Canyon Camp at river mile 236 on river right is no longer campable due to the nature of the rapid at the mouth of this canyon.
Bridge City Camp just above river mile 239 on river left is campable with a Hualapai Nation camping permit, as is Separation Canyon Camp at river mile 239.8 on river right. Separation Canyon camp is in Grand Canyon National Park. There is a camp on the gravel outwash of 243 Mile Canyon at 242.6 Mile on river right is in Grand Canyon National Park. Both Separation and 243 Mile Canyon camps are susceptible to flash flooding during monsoon season. The camp at mile 243 is still useable, also on river right and in Grand Canyon National Park.
There is a large camp at mile 246.3 river left on cobble at Spencer Canyon and requires a Hualapai Nation camping permit. The Surprise Canyon Camp at river mile 248.7 on river right is large and on a mud and gravel outwash of Surprise Canyon. At water levels of 14,000 cfs and above, this camp requires a hike up a steep bank and is in Grand Canyon National Park. There is a medium sized camp on river right at 250 Mile in Grand Canyon National Park.
The medium sized camp at river mile 264.8 on river right has been cleared of a very spikey legume known as camelthorn as of August 1, 2015.
A new small camp has formed at the sidecanyon outwash located at 269.9 Mile on river right in Grand Canyon National Park. This camp is not recommended in monsoon season.
There is a medium sized camp at 274.1 on river left and is the first camp on river left since above National Canyon at river mile 167 that is not on Hualapai Reservation land. River ruunners camping at any of the river left camps on the Hualapai Reservation should be ready to pay $32.55 per person per night and may be cited for trespass on Hualapai Nation land if they do not have a valid Hualapai Nation camping permit.
There is a large camp on river left at river mile 279.1. The pull-in for this camp continues to move downstream as the river cuts into this camps shoreline.
The camp that was at mile 280.0 on river right just above the Pearce Ferry Ramp is no longer campable. The camp has lost its pull in due to steep cutbank formation.
National Park Service rangers note that no camping is allowed at the Pearce Ferry ramp and take-out areas.
There is strong flow of current all the way to Pearce Ferry as of August 3, 2017.
Pearce Ferry Takeout Information
The Pearce Ferry take out ramp is operational, with mud/dirt take out areas either side of a middle concrete ramp and metal plate ramp also covered with mud/dirt. The concrete ramp is for removing watercraft by trailer.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is still not allowing river runners to launch at Pearce Ferry Ramp for the day run to South Cove due to the unrunable nature of Pearce Ferry Rapid. River runners arriving from Diamond Creek or Lee’s Ferry are allowed to proceed if they wish. An inspection of Pearce Ferry Rapid is highly advisable. A portage of this rapid will require a very difficult portage of 150 yards on river right.
River runners are asked by the National Park Service 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 120 degrees.
The Mead View SCAT (toilet wash out) machine is not in operation during the winter. Please note that during the summer months, there is only recycled non-potable 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, floating docks in the 262-263 mile area, 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).
Two floating docks between 262 Mile and 263 Mile on river left pose a serious navigational hazard to river runners on night floats.
Columbine Falls experienced a major flash flood in late September, 2014. The flood moved a substantial amount of river sediment out into the main river channel with the formation of a small riffle. The 37,000 cfs flow of November, 2014, removed this material but left a large sandy beach at the mouth. A footpath was constructed right up the drainage, but has since washed out. The trail to the falls now follows the earlier trail along the easternmost side of the drainage.
The riverside silt banks on both sides of the river channel now reach heights of 60 feet. These banks regularly tumble down into the river in spectacular clouds of dust at unpredictable times. River runners are encouraged not to float close to the sides of the river channel where tall silt banks are present.
Helicopter and tour boat activity continues to increase year-round near Quartermaster Canyon. An operational fleet of eleven to twelve hard hull motorboats operate out of two floating docks between 262 Mile and 263 Mile. A new two and a half hour extended boat tour leaves the dock area twice a day and travels downstream to view the Skywalk at mile 265.5 and then travels back to the docks.
These boats conduct boat trips for helicopter passengers from Grand Canyon West and Las Vegas. These boats ply this section of river daily, with intense helicopter activity in this area sunrise to sunset. Expect over 60 helicopters per hour to be present on most days at all hours.
During the summer season, day trip Hualapai River Runner pontoon boats leave Diamond Creek before 10:00 a.m. and arrive at the floating docks at 262-264 Mile around three o’clock in the afternoon. These pontoon boats will disembark their passengers at the floating docks and continue on with crew only to Pearce Ferry.
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 7:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., Sat 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., closed Sunday. Landfill fees are $35.20/ton cash or local check only, with a minimum load fee of $6.60 for 300 pounds or less.
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. The facility is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the summer, while winter hours are 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Access during normal business hours is via intercom stationed to the left of the main gate. Tell the person who answers you are there to clean out river cans and they will guide you through the process.
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