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Colorado River Management Plan

Rafting the Colorado. Photo by Mark Miller.This fact sheet supports protection of wilderness character and eventual wilderness designation in Grand Canyon National Park. In the case of a proposed wilderness such as the Colorado River corridor, NPS policy directs superintendents to “seek to remove” uses that do not conform to wilderness standards in their current management plans.

Why the Colorado River?

  • Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon. Photo by Mark Miller.The Colorado River and Grand Canyon National Park are natural resources of national and global significance, drawing tremendous revenue to the state and dramatically increasing the quality of life for Arizonans.
  • The health of Grand Canyon National Park’s river ecosystem has already been seriously degraded from operation of Glen Canyon Dam upstream, which has caused loss of 95% of the river’s sediment and nutrient base and an acute decline in native fish and mammals that once thrived along the river.
  • The opportunity for experiencing wilderness serenity, natural quiet, and seclusion on the Colorado River has been severely diminished as a result of increased, crowded motorized boat trips—which rush people down the river faster, with greater chances of encountering non-motorized boating parties.

Problems and Actions Required

  • Current commercial boat trip sizes range between 30-42 passengers, clearly exceeding the 25-person limit supported by earlier research and acknowledged by the Park Service’s original river management plan. Trip size must be consistent with visitor expectations in wilderness.
  • Today, current trip launches of 7 or more large groups per day in the summer greatly exceed wilderness-based recommendations. Launches must be limited and spread between spring, summer, and fall seasons to alleviate crowding while still providing comparable access to the American public.
  • The management plan should address alternatives to helicopter transportation to and from the river, as it is inconsistent with the intent of wilderness. These unnecessary flights also disturb other backcountry users and destroy the preservation of natural quiet.
  • NPS has consistently endorsed wilderness for the Colorado River. Motors are prohibited in wilderness and powerboats are not necessary for safe public access to the river. These methods of using the river must be phased out to halt further degradation of wilderness integrity along the Colorado River.

Rafting the Colorado. Photo by Mark Miller.The Arizona Wilderness Coalition urges members of Congress to resist attempts by river concessionaires and other groups to halt the current Colorado River Manage-ment Plan process and its inherent public involvement. We ask that they reject potential wilderness legislation that leaves the Colorado River outside of wilderness boundaries. Instead, we ask that members support wilderness river alternatives that:

  • protect the river from further motorized noise and pollution
  • alleviate river and launch crowding
  • keep trip size to a limit consistent with wilderness expectations
  • provide fair access to traditionally under-represented groups on the river.


All photos by Mark Miller

-Arizona Wilderness Coalition mission statement