Yesterday, I got all worked up because I couldn't get to my
email. I sat back, took a deep breath and said to myself, “Whoa!
who's in charge here, anyway?” In these fast-paced times,
we increasingly feel the pressure to do it all now, to make it happen
fast, and to not look back. Time to log-off and go dream about the
Grand Canyon emerges from the land at Lees Ferry and stretches as
an immense labyrinth for 277 river miles to its dramatic end at
the Grand Wash Cliffs. It contains the longest pristine stretch
of wild river and superlative canyon country that can be found anywhere
on earth. It is a premier National Park and International Heritage
Site, widely recognized as one of the greatest natural wonders on
earth. President Teddy Roosevelt told us:
“Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have
been at work on it and man can only mar it. What you can do is keep
it for your children, and for all who come after you.”
That's our job. But, preserving the unique qualities of the
canyon is only the half of it. The other half has to do with conserving
the integrity of the Grand Canyon experience for people. With the
Colorado River Management Plan (crmp) revision process, we have
an opportunity to collectively develop a management plan that accomplishes
that goal, but it requires us to formulate a vision of what we value
most highly about the experience.
I am a strong advocate for taking people all the way through the
canyon, from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry. Exchanges or take-outs
part way through only serve to fragment the experience and create
bottlenecks. A Grand Canyon river trip should not be trivialized
by offering quickie yahoo extravaganzas for people looking for a
Disney experience. If people don't have the time to do the
whole trip, then perhaps they should run a different river. This
might help to temper the ever-increasing demand for Grand Canyon
river trips and the resultant impacts on the river environment.
Grand Canyon Expeditions has been successfully doing this for decades,
and they appear to have no trouble filling their user-day quota.
There are other ways to provide a variety of offerings to the public.
A river trip through Grand Canyon offers a profound opportunity
for people to make a life-changing connection to the natural world.
This stems from some kind of magic that no one really understands;
something that emanates from the Canyon's sublime magnificence.
But, I would also argue that it stems from the time, effort and
commitment required to go there. There will continue to be pressures
to fragment the Grand Canyon river experience into smaller and smaller
bite-sized chunks, just like we do with our outer lives. Let's
develop a crmp for Grand Canyon that encourages complete trips through
Let's keep it whole, that we might have a powerful reminder
of the importance of unbroken natural systems in our lives.