Western Rafter

Deer Creek Narrows on Colorado River Closed

The National Park Service has closed the Deer Creek Narrows from the Patio down to Deer Creek Falls and the Colorado River.  From the NPS Press Release:

Deer Creek Drainage, river mile 136.9, right bank of the Colorado River

Rappelling or ascending and descending on ropes, webbing or other climbing and rappelling devices whether natural or man-made, withing Deer Creek is prohibited.  This restriction extends from within the watercourse of the creek beginning at the Patio (northestern-most part of the Deer Creek Narrows) and extending to the base of Deer Creek Falls.

(This restriction is necessary for the protection of a significant cultural resource)

For full text of the closure statement click below:

2012_grca_compendium.pdf (application/pdf Object).

The GCPBA has this to say in their weekly RiverNews:

It seems that the area was closed without any prior public notification or hearing. Wally Rist, President of the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association, has been working to discover the rationale behind the sudden closure of the narrows to public visitation. As Rist points out, the area has been visited by explorers, river runners and hikers since Canyon visitation began more than 143 years ago, with virtually no impact.

UPDATE (6/21/12): I have spent a lot of time thinking about this in the past 24 hours.  There is a lot of damage to the sandstone at the entrance to Deer Creek Narrows from the Patio due to numerous ropes being used over the years.  The tribes have identified this as a cultural resource and it is being damaged by recreational user groups including rafters, but also hikers and canyoneers.  The NPS has identified a problem and solved it.  The park superintendent does an excellent job of balancing the demands of a diverse set of interests.  I know the rafting community is frustrated because they were not consulted on this decision, but what would we say? The tribes get to say if it is a cultural resource and any ranger can go out there and snap a couple photos and see that it is being impacted by ropes.  The closure is specific to the problem and not overreaching to close the Narrows entirely.  If you are comfortable climbing in and out of the Narrows without a rope then you are still free to go in there.

UPDATE (8/7/12): The NPS has updated the language in their closure to include climbing with our without ropes:

Updates and Closures
Climbing and/or rappelling in the creek narrows, with or without the use of ropes or other technical equipment, is prohibited. This restriction extends within the creek beginning at the southeast end of the rock ledges, known as the “Patio” to the base of Deer Creek Falls. The trail from the river to hiker campsites and points up-canyon remains open. This restriction is necessary for the protection of significant cultural resources


5 Thoughts on “Deer Creek Narrows on Colorado River Closed

  1. Hmm, sounds like NPS just wants to encourage soloing.

  2. Jason on June 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm said:

    The “natural or man-made” verbiage makes me think they want to close access completely.

    • At the put-in they are saying totally closed. Clarification is coming from the NPS. I hope they restrict the closure to the original issue which appears to be rope use.

  3. Chris Trapnell on August 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm said:

    I had the pleasure of going through the narrows last summer. I noticed very little damage to the sandstone. The argument of the tribes calling this a cultural resource is a joke. If you want to discuss damage to “cultural resources of the Grand Canyon” lets focus on the tribes skywalk, helicopters, and taking thousands of tourists on day trips down the canyon. If there were a market to make large amounts of money off tourists by taking them downy the deer creek narrows…the tribes would have more ropes set than on everest!! By the way…it is impossible to climb into the narrows without ropes. The closure of this amazing canyon to those who strive to protect and enjoy is a travesty.

    • Chris,

      I too have spent time in the Narrows and I agree that it is a truly magical place. Unfortunately there is a fair bit of scarring from ropes at the upstream end of the Narrows near the Patio. I have personally seen both black marks and grooves where nylon ropes were pulled over the sandstone. Most of this scarring has occurred within the past 50 years with increased traffic and nylon ropes, which leaves many to wonder what it will look like in another 200 years? In my experience, the NPS does a good job of balancing the diverse interests of multiple user groups and it is simply fact that the five tribes that claim the Grand Canyon as sacred land have an interest that precedes the rafters and canyoneers.

      My ideal would be a situation where those that wish could visit this amazing pristine natural place safely and without leaving a lasting negative impact on the rock.

      As an aside, anyone that is comfortable down-climbing easy Grade V rock without a rope can visit the Narrows sans rope. I have done it and I’d say it goes at about 5.5 for 15′. This is not safe nor am I recommending it for folks without the requisite technical climbing skills, but it is certainly not “impossible”. Chris, I highly recommend a youtube query of “Alex Honnold Half Dome” to see what is no longer impossible sans rope for today’s 20 year olds. This discussion is immaterial relative to Deer Creek Narrows because the NPS updated their closure to include climbing without ropes.

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