Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association
Tom Martin, president


   We note that use levels as defined in 1979 are equal to those TODAY. In 1981 there were 2000 folk on the non commercial waiting list, average wait 4.5 years (estimate). People who joined the list in 1989 joined a group of 4000, and are launching THIS YEAR (1997). In 1997, the list contains 6800. Between 250 and 300 names are removed from the list yearly. At the same time, the list of those seeking this same experience grew by 600 in 1997 after substantial fee increases, and by 1200 in 1996. If current growth levels continue, when the next commercial outfitter prospectus is reviewed in 2002, the waiting list will still guarantee the opportunity to experience a self guided river trip, after a 30 year wait. With this in mind, we present the current time burden on the non commercial user as reflective of an arbitrary allocation.

   This allocation model does not take into account the difference in journeys that the commercial passenger is sold and the self guided participant desires. The commercial passenger spends an average 5 days in Grand Canyon National Park, while the self guided individual spends an average of 15 days. The self guided individual relies on wilderness conforming nonmotorized water craft (95%) and participates in the entire 225 to 277 mile journey. The commercial passenger relies heavily on split trips and motorized travel (60%). There is a financial incentive for the commercial outfitters to provide shorter trips to a greater number of patrons.

   Meanwhile, commercial outfitters have balanced supply with demand to such an extent that they are booking for the 1998 season. It would appear the cost of a commercial river trip in Grand Canyon is responsible for this lack of outfitters being able to fully book the 1998 season at this time, even with advertisement.

   It should be noted that allocation, as a model for access, does not necessarily serve all users. In Grand Canyon, educational organizations can not afford the cost of commercially provided services nor wait the period required of noncommercial users. The American public that can not afford commercially provided services and are not willing to attempt a self guided journey are also excluded. Finally, non commercial parties that want to hire the services of a professional guide are unable to do so, as there is no allocation category for this type of river trip.

   The bottom line is this. A waiting list reservation model serves the public if the waiting time is reasonable, and allocation must serve all user groups while not being arbitrary. Currently, the Waiting list is not serving the public in the timely fashion it was intended to, and allocation is not responding to any sort of reality, either to fluctuations in use numbers between groups, or to other users outside of a strict commercial and private definition.

   Answers to this issue include:

   1. The fairest way to assure the opportunity for all of the interested parties to gain access to the river is through a "common reservation system" of use. This system should be instituted for the river corridor from Lee's Ferry to Separation Canyon.

   We feel that a Fair system is an open reservation system, which burdens all users requesting access to a limited resource in the same time frame, be this a common reservation system, or some form of weighted or unweighted lottery for all users.

   A common reservation system's primary feature is that ANYONE who wants to float the river has equal access to the same "pool" (or waiting list, reservation system, etc.) without regard to the type of trip they want to participate in. This allows every member of the public the same opportunity to get on the river. It's a first come, first serve system. This access model insures that the public who wants to do it themselves should not take a back seat to the public that does not.

   This uniform reservation model would be structured as a first come first serve multiple time line entry system. This common reservation system would be altered as needed, and adapted for implementation on the entire river system over a period of five years.

   All applicants for a reservation must contact the GCNPS and be identified by a social security number, passport or photo I.D. All applicants for a reservation must declare at time of reservation whether their trip is to be an educational, self guided with or self guided without crew, or commercial trip. All participants identified must remit appropriate launch fees directly to GCNPS. Trip participation on other trips without being removed from the waiting list is allowable. All reservations from a waiting list will be issued a minimum of 18 months prior to launch, except for cancellations.

   A transition period of 5 years will be required to transfer from the existing system to a totally open reservation system. This system will start with 70% allocation for private trips and 70% allocation for commercial trips being uninvolved in the new system. The remaining 30% of allocation from both user groups will form the basis for the new reservation system. Every year thereafter, guaranteed allocations will diminish by 20% and open reservation allocation will increase accordingly.

   2. Here is another answer which solves the dilemma of competing users for the allocation pie for the time being, but not for the long term. The Maximum User Days limit established in 1979 should be adhered to only as it relates to combined total user days, but NOT to an allocation distribution solely between commercial and non commercial users. These limits, after a level of acceptable change review, should be distributed between the following identified users of the resource: Commercial outfitters, educational organizations, self guided trips without crew, self guided trips with crew, and under served populations. Each user group would be allocated 20% of the available total.


   Even though self guided launches did not change use patterns and represent a fairly constant launch flow (one launch per day with two launches every seventh day), last summer there was a noticeable decrease in crowding impact at major attraction sights following a shift in commercial weekend launches to include Thursdays (averaging six launches per day). Also, the current discrepancy between trip participant size limits is such that one full commercial trip equals over two private trips (at 16 people each). Thus fewer commercial trips at any one given attraction site may affect crowding twice as much as each private trip does. This raises the issue of crowding at major attraction sites.

   Answers to this issue:

   1 . Go to a uniform launch based system that includes a maximum head count per launch, and minimum and maximum trip lengths which may vary across seasons. The number of launchings allowed should be structured so that outfitters (thus commercial clients) and the self guided boating community have equal opportunity to place the same number of humans on the river per trip.

   2. Incorporate "Queuing Theory" computer modeling technology into an adaptive launch based system that monitors crowding at major attraction sights and allows for modification of launch schedules to adjust for wilderness guidelines.


   For Launch Reservation (to lead your own self guided trip or go with a commercial outfitter) the current reservation model of a waiting list brings up the following issues:

   A. There currently are no safeguards for misuse by the overseeing agency.

   Answer to this issue:

   "Privatizing" of the river operations administration to a company with a proven track record in this business, with GCNPS oversight control.

   B. There currently are no safeguards to insure financial protection to the river trip participant.

   Answer to this issue:

   Financial safeguards to avoid pricing individuals off of the river. This would be resolved by not using excessive entrance fees as a deterrent to entering an application process. Crediting 100% of the fees’ debt incurred to any individual who could not participate in a river trip would be a simple step to insure a measure of financial security. A deposit of 50% at time of reservation would insure applicant sincerity. The remaining 50% would be due at time of launch.


   In 1996, the Colorado River Constituency Panel was disbanded, with the overseeing agency citing a conflict with the Federal Advisory Commission Act. This Agency conflict has restricted the publics involvement with the agency regarding river issues.

   Answer to this issue:

   The overseeing agency shall provide for a forum to include Bi-annual open public participation in an ongoing CRMP review to include adaptive management monitoring of such issues as equal waiting time for commercial clients and self guided boaters, the monitoring of Fee Demonstration and Colorado River Fund projects and expenditures, the monitoring of user impact to the resource, and other river related issues as they arise, with the resource managers having the ability to alter certain aspects of the CRMP on a yearly basis.


   The fact that the demand for self guided winter trips has grown dramatically, as reflected in the rapid claiming of open winter dates, reflects the need to adequately utilize the resource in this period. The lack of available permits leading to one self guided launch in January, 1997, reflects this need.

   Answer to this issue:

   Parity of use distribution between commercial and non commercial interests across seasons (This adds commercial use in the winter, spring and fall season) should be encouraged. Maximizing summer use, decreasing spring and fall use, and minimizing winter use could be accomplished and would allow for a full spectrum of "wilderness" experience. This could be done as follows:

   April 1 to October 15 = 4 launches per day.

   October 15 to November 15 and January 15 to March 31 = two launches per day.

   November 16 to January 14 = one launch every other day.

   This would preserve the range of wilderness experiences that are represented in the current management plan (i.e. Small numbers of permits available at certain times of the year)


   The fact that after rafting many days and 183 miles through the Grand Canyon leads to a helicopter arriving and departing at river level while 58 miles of river remain sets a dangerous precedent for blatant disregard of proposed wilderness management, especially with the increased use of this activity since the last Management Plan.

   Answer to this issue:

   Phase out helicopter exchanges at Whitmore Wash over a three year period, for non mechanized transportation, appropriate for areas being managed as wilderness. Consider the use of camels, mules or hiking at this location. If helicopter exchanges are to be continued, utilize the Haulapai Indian land at the existing service area of Diamond Creek (river mile 226).


   Without prior public input, nor needs based justification, private boaters fees increased overnight by 1200%. This fact, and the current imbalance of use fee structures between non commercial and commercial user groups, has led to a very complex and contentious system.

   Answer to this issue:

   Clear evidence must be provided that private boaters are not paying more than their fair share of resource maintenance in Grand Canyon. Launch fees should be based on the total head count for the launch. Commercial employees on the river and their clients should be included in the head count. (This means cooks, swampers, musicians, everyone! It needs no explanation that everyone in the Canyon impacts the resource!) This launch fee should cover all of the combined costs of the resource maintenance. Launch fees should be equal for all users of the same resource. The river fee structure should reflect the true cost of the impact by the users and should be shared equally among all users, as is currently levied on the visitor at the main gate, regardless of where they spend the night, Mather Campground or the El Tovar Rim View suite. A regular (public) fee review should be performed to keep the fees current and realistic. True accountability of income and costs should be provided by the NPS to the public. All launch fees paid by all users should be paid directly to the GCNPS, thus instilling a sense of stewardship into each river traveler. By the way, a real camp site at Lee's Ferry explicitly for noncommercial groups launching the following day with adjacent access to a launch ramp with vehicle access would be a great place to start spending fee demo monies!


   There is a group of non commercial users that would like to include employed individuals in the capacity of crew, cooks, geologists, and the like. Another group of non commercial individuals do it all themselves. This type of multiple use is in keeping with a common reservation system. Currently, employed individuals on non commercial trips are illegal. Self guided trips can not hire the services of a guide, licensed or not.

   Answers to this issue:

   1) There should be no restriction on the hiring of people (cook, licensed guides, etc.) for a non commercial trip. Those hired on a non commercial trip are counted in the population of the permit (i.e. 14 people + 2 paid crew = full permit). This will be at the discretion of the Trip Leader, and will not be mandatory for non commercial trips, period.

   2) An alternate solution is as follows. There should be no hired individuals allowed on self guided trips without crew. Groups who want to hire individuals to participate in their trips will impact a new user day allocation and not the self guided trip without crew allocation. Any GCNPS licensed guide may provide this service. This type of use will receive an initial allocation of 15%, either in "bodies" or "user days" from the existing commercial allocation.


   At the present time, individuals bringing personal boats on private trips are allowed a trip credit of $100, while to rent similar equipment costs many times that amount.

   Answer to this issue:

   Individual trip participants may be credited the going rental rate for the equipment they bring on the trip at the discretion of the Trip Leader.


   The Grand Canyon is a remarkable place to explore the outer world and one’s inner world as well. The presence of other individuals the river explorer encounters, and how those encounters occur, can be productive or counter productive and brings up the issue of GCNPS employee presence on the river and in the backcountry.

   Answer to this issue:

   In that Grand Canyon is managed as a wilderness experience, the Grand Canyon National Park personnel should be required to use minimum tool regulations in the back country and river corridor of the Canyon. Contacts should be friendly and minimum in nature.

   This is a start. Where we go from here will depend on our united commitment, commercial and noncommercial alike, to a better tomorrow for all users of this wonderful river. Let's manage for the future.