FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Hualapai tribe has shelved a plan to run rafting
trips upriver in the Grand Canyon after it ran afoul of the National Park
The tribe’s reservation in northwestern Arizona extends for more than 100 miles
along the Colorado River and includes the only road to the bottom of the Grand
Canyon. But the National Park Service governs the waterway, and its regulations
prohibit upriver travel on most of it.
Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said the agency learned
through a news release of the tribe’s plan to take passengers about 3 miles
upriver from Diamond Creek year round. The Hualapai’s plan to launch five boats
upriver per day also would have exceeded the limit on river trips.
“This is a regulation that applies to all river users, and it would be in
direct violation of the regulations in the book,” he said. “We’d rather not
get to that point of trying to deal with enforcement but actually convincing
them this isn’t safe and it isn’t a good visitor experience.”
Dave Cieslak, a spokesman for the tribe, said late Wednesday that the tribe
would hold off on its plans until it talks with the Park Service.
“For decades, the Hualapai tribe has worked closely with the National Park
Service to provide an unforgettable experience for thousands of visitors to the
Colorado River,” he said. “We respect the Park Service’s concerns and will
postpone the launch of these new tours while we review the regulations and
discuss our various options.”
The Hualapai’s daylong whitewater rafting trips that launch downriver from
Diamond Creek are unaffected.
Hualapai River Runners manager Earlene Havatone said the tribe has done upriver
excursions in the past and simply planned to reintroduce them on March 15.
The tours were billed as a cultural experience. Passengers would leave from a
tribal lodge in Peach Springs and travel down a primitive road to the river’s
edge where they would board a motorized raft and travel upstream about 20
minutes to a lava cliff with petroglyphs. Havatone said passengers would learn
about the Hualapai’s encounters with the U.S. cavalry, traditional trading
partners on the river and other cultural tidbits.
“A lot of people don’t have that opportunity,” she said. “It’s an authentic
The Hualapai’s announcement of the river trips baffled groups representing both
commercial river trips and self-guided trips. John Dillon, executive director of
the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association, said upriver travel above
Separation Canyon, where two tributaries enter the river from the north and
south about 40 miles from Lake Mead, clearly is prohibited by the Park Service.
“We’re not allowed to deviate from that plan,” he said. “We can’t just think
of an idea we’d like to do and do it. I think that’s where everyone had pause.”
Tom Martin of River Runners for Wilderness said he’s not entirely convinced
that the Hualapai’s plan won’t resurface. He said it would create danger in
having motorized rafts and nonmotorized rafts coming at one another in a stretch
of the river that already is congested.
River trips launching at Lees Ferry near Glen Canyon Dam either can take out at
Diamond Creek or continue to Lake Mead in Nevada.
Everybody has to “play by the rules, and if you’re not going to play by the
rules, we’re going to have to respond,” Martin said. “So when we see a
statement that says `we’re going to postpone this,’ we’re still very, very