Hualapai shelves upriver trips in Grand Canyon
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The Hualapai tribe shelved a plan to operate rafting trips upriver in the Grand Canyon after it ran afoul of the National Park Service.
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 three 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 the tribe would not move forward with 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 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 experience.”
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