River Runners for Wilderness has learned that construction of a road extension from the old Pearce Ferry river take-out to the Colorado River, over a mile away, may be constructed with private funding.
The former Pearce Ferry boat ramp, used for Grand Canyon river trip take outs, closed in 2000 as reservoir levels dropped enough to close access to the Pearce Ferry ramp. Once the ramp closed, river travelers were required to continue 15 miles to the next take-out, at South Cove.
In the last three years, a significant rapid has formed near Pearce Ferry. Grand Canyon river concessions have encountered increasing difficulty in jet boat up-runs of the rapid to pick up and haul out passengers from their commercial river trips as the rapid has increased in intensity. Hualapai River Runner float trips have also had to add additional miles to their trips. For more information including a photo of the rapid, click here: Pearce Ferry Rapid Now Class Four Drop.
The private funding would come from a joint venture between the river concessionaires and the Hualapai Nation.
An access road from Pearce Ferry to the area just upstream of the rapid would eliminate the need to travel to South Cove, the current takeout location. The boat ramp would allow concessions jet boats and commercial trips, Hualapai River Runners and public rafters conducting their own river trips to take out above the rapid.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area (LMNRA) officials looked at the option of building a road to the Colorado River above the rapid in their 2005 Lake Management Plan amendment http://www.nps.gov/lame/parkmgmt/upload/GMPAEA.pdf. At that time the NPS/LMNRA found there is a good likelihood any road would be destroyed, either due to soil heave caused by rain or inundation in the case of a rise in the reservoir water level. LMNRA officials noted that the soils pose difficulties for building and maintaining a road, given the abnormally high concentrations of clay and fine silt deposited by the Colorado River. The NPS also decided not to build the road project given the estimated cost of construction of almost two million dollars.
The Park Service requires any road construction to adhere to public standards, and would also require any private funder to provide for ongoing maintenance costs. Any road built, even with private funds, would be on public land and would be open to the general public. Such a road would need ample parking for all river runners finishing Grand Canyon river trips, and may create new demand for day trips or overnight trips paddling the Colorado River from the road to South Cove.
The river concessions, Hualapai and Park officials have tentatively identified a location suitable for a take out a quarter mile upstream of the rapid. Park policies require environmental compliance for the proposed road-building project, possibly including public comment opportunities, according to NPS sources. Though the area is greatly impacted through the rising and falling reservoir levels, the NPS recognizes the area's natural resources need to be protected in any construction project. The NPS would oversee the construction to assure all compliance requirements are met.
While no proposal to construct the road in the LMNRA with private funding has been received by Lake Mead officials, discussions are ongoing. The annual invitation-only river concessionaires, National Park Service and Hualapai River Runners meeting, scheduled for October 28, will most likely address this issue.