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Thread: Deer Creek Now Closed to Canyoneering

  1. #1

    Deer Creek Now Closed to Canyoneering

    The Park Service has released a new compendium that has closed the Tapeats narrows of Deer Creek to all canyoneering related activities. This comes on the heels of another incident where a rope was left hanging in the falls for about a month.

    Pretty disappointing precedent, to be sure.

    This is from Rich Rudow -

    The closure of Deer Creek feels like a stake in the heart. We've spent the last
    three years trying to work with the NPS to keep it open. dNally removed bolts
    that some people felt were offensive and others removed ropes left behind in the
    180 final falls rappel on two occasions in the last few years. Deer Creek is
    one of the finest slots on the entire Colorado Plateau. Closing Deer Creek is
    akin to closing Heaps in Zion. Would you stand for a Heaps closure? Would you
    get more involved in the community if you could impact these decisions?

    Todd Martin and I spent our day yesterday removing 600' of rope left behind in
    Garden Creek Canyon in Grand Canyon. We were joined by the Canyon District
    Ranger. I descended Garden Creek with a group two months ago. Since then, not
    only did 600' of rope get left behind, but there was red webbing on anchor two
    where black webbing was already installed and there was 50' of neon orange
    webbing near the exit. Black is the only legal webbing color in Grand Canyon.
    No exceptions. Some NPS rangers recognize our efforts to self police and clean
    up our own mess, while others see us see us making a mess of canyons that were
    otherwise pristine, even if we do "fix it" after the fact. We have got to clean
    up our act. I'm appealing to entire community to get involved and act
    responsibly. The pivotal regulations governing slots in Grand Canyon are being
    decided now. The resulting regulatory regime will last for the next 20 years.
    Your actions now will determine if your kids ever get a chance to see the slots
    in Grand Canyon. The current rules governing canyoneering in Grand Canyon can
    be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/3tlfuy8

    Finally, some canyons require advanced skills to do safely. Heaps, Deer Creek,
    and Garden Creek are great examples. Heaps is very intense on the exit
    sequence. Deer Creek is the same way with the added complexity of loud roaring
    water. Garden Creek requires a mid wall transfer in a waterfall at the 400'
    rappel if you choose to not carry 800' of rope. All of us need to consider if
    we have the skills to do these canyons. Most importantly, do we have the skills
    to get through the canyon without trashing the place (or requiring a rescue) if
    something goes wrong? They're easy and great fun, until they're not. They can
    turn on you in an instant.

    What can you do? American Canyoneering was recently formed to address access
    issues. The interim Board has put the organizational framework in place and the
    organization is prepared to get involved with land managers to fight for our
    access. We're prepared to fight enormously hard to reopen Deer Creek as part of
    the Backcountry Management Plan process that is going on now. Become a member
    and support the cause.
    http://www.americancanyoneers.org/forum/index.php



    Thanks,

    Rich

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  3. #2
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    A sad thing... thanks Dan.

    Tom

  4. #3
    More information today on the closure at Deer Creek Falls. I believe this will be one of the first issues tackled by the American Canyoneers board - please join, speak up and help fight for canyoneering access in Grand Canyon. The BCMP is under review as we speak, and if this is any indication, we are going to have some battles ahead.

    VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL: NO HARD COPY TO FOLLOW

    IN REPLY REFER TO:
    8/14/12
    N1623 (GRCA 8226 x 8213)

    Dear :

    Thank you for your interest in the restrictions we have recently enacted within
    the water course of Deer Creek. As you know, the Grand Canyon National Park
    [COLOR=#000000][FONT=Georgia]Superintendent

  5. #4

  6. #5
    And here is my response to the letter, as posted on the GCPBA board. Thanks for the private boaters for their current work to understand this issue more fully.

    I tried to keep this brief, I swear... I apologize for the wall of text, but
    here are a few of my thoughts.

    1 - I am still not clear on what the religious significance is of Deer Creek,
    or the narrows in particular. I recognize the area is sacred to the tribes, but
    I don't know WHY. What are the exceptional qualities of the actual slot, and
    why is the only part of the TCP that is being restricted, even though it has the
    smallest actual impact on the resource as a whole? Without understanding this,
    it's hard to understand the park's justification. I cannot understand, given
    the explanation in this document, how technical canyoneering is desecrating the
    area, especially when compared to the long list of other impacts listed. This
    justification seems very incomplete.

    2 – Here is a list of all the impacts on the Deer Creek area, as referenced by
    the document.

    "There are modern intrusions into the landscape, including trails, campsites,
    and a toilet, these intrusions constitute a small enough area not to make Deer
    Creek ineligible for inclusion on the National Register."

    Yet in it's justification to close the narrows, it states "With an increase in
    adventure sports such as rappelling, elements of the Deer Creek TCP are being
    disturbed. If unchecked these disturbances will diminish the National Register
    eligibility of the Deer Creek area as a TCP. " These disturbances are tiny
    compared to the modern intrusions listed above (trails, campsites, toilets).
    Further, here is a list of all the impacts mentioned in the document.

    1 - Heavy trailing was evident throughout the TCP
    2 - Severe deterioration of the river bank due to high levels of boat and
    tourist activity. Trailing and visitor-related impacts are present both at the
    base of the falls near the river and Deer Creek Valley"
    3 - Purposeful vandalism (graffiti) and inadvertent damage to the rock art panel
    were reported.
    4 - Monitors repeatedly recorded visitors rappelling and climbing in the gorge
    [narrows].
    5 - Tourists have been observed jumping into the water
    6 - Individuals were also observed picking, discarding, and trampling plants for
    no apparent reason.
    7 - Rocks, both large and small, were also being thrown about.
    (8) - Surprisingly absent is mention of the throne room, which I find puzzling.
    (EDITED TO ADD - Not mentioned in the document)
    (9) - Helicopters are required to offload the human waste from the area once or twice per year

    Here are the impacts specific to technical canyoneering.
    1 - Plant disturbance from rappelling.
    2 - Climbing hardware. Installation and abandonment of climbing hardware affect
    the elements of integrity of setting, materials, and feeling.

    In regards to technical canyoneering impact 1 -
    This is a legitimate concern. But impacts from rappelling pale in comparison to
    the impact of a flash flood. The vegetation has demonstrated an ability to
    grows back quickly. Though careful rappelling will result in little to no
    impact to the vegetation.

    In regards to technical canyoneering impact 2 -
    There is no climbing hardware visible to any visitor to Deer Creek, unless they
    are actually in the slot making a technical descent requiring ropes. No bolts
    can be seen from the rim. No bolts can be seen from the base of the falls. The
    only time climbing gear (and even here, it is NEVER hardware) can be seen is
    when people are actually rappelling the falls, or when a rope has been
    carelessly left behind. This is hardly an "impact," especially when compared to
    the other impacts to the area.

    It is hard to understand how the impact on the vegetation in the falls is
    significant enough to justify closure. Nor do I understand the concerns about
    the bolts that were placed there 30 years ago. Contrast this with other impacts
    in the TCP, and these are very small. Using this justification, it is easy to
    see that this closure could extend to all activities at Deer Creek. Which leads
    me to point number 3.

    3 – Slippery slope. This whole document reads as a justification to shut down
    the entire Deer Creek TCP. The impacts to the area as a whole, as referenced in
    the document, show there is a lot of impact from activities that go well beyond
    the technical canyoneering in the narrows. In fact, it's pretty easy to argue
    that canyoneering is the least impact of all the impacts mentioned.

    4 – And perhaps the most significant and maddening detail of this whole
    situation is the fact this all happened behind closed doors, with no dialog
    between the public, the tribes, and the park service.

    Perhaps closing the narrows because of these impacts is justified. I'm not
    going to argue that my personal desire to enjoy this area should trump the
    religious beliefs of the tribes. But I jut don't see a reasonable justification
    after reading this document. There is nothing in here that explains how the
    narrows are any more significant than any other part of the TCP. And I
    certainly don't support the way this closure was enacted.

  7. #6
    Adventurer at Large! BruteForce's Avatar
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    Re: Deer Creek Now Closed to Canyoneering

    I am somewhat saddened to see the boaters and climbers now suffering the same pain as those of us in the offroading community. Are you actually surprised by this?

    Of late, the USFS and BLM (or any other Gubmt agency) will use any excuse to exclude us from parks, trails and recreation spots that have until this point been open for 50+ years without serious negative impact to the land.

    Unless you have wings and can produce no foot prints, other areas (like the pending San Rafael closures) will be upon us. God forbid that we should put a human print on sand and it should last for say.. 3 weeks before the next wind/rain storm wipe it clean.

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  8. #7
    I am somewhat saddened to see the boaters and climbers now suffering the same pain as those of us in the offroading community.
    Actually many areas have been closed to climbers for many years/decades. Although I'm sad to see it close, it's nothing new.

    As an example, when Salt Creek in Canyonlands closed to motor vehicles, many hiking areas were closed as well (more routes than were closed to motor vehicles). It isn't accurate to think that the only closures until as of recently were to off road vehicles; many hiking and climbing routes have been closed.

    Unlike several of the off-road closures (please note I said "several", not all) though, most of the climbing closures weren't due to abuse (which doesn't mean that climbers can't be abusive-they can).
    Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.

  9. #8
    Bogley BigShot oldno7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott P View Post
    Actually many areas have been closed to climbers for many years/decades. Although I'm sad to see it close, it's nothing new.

    As an example, when Salt Creek in Canyonlands closed to motor vehicles, many hiking areas were closed as well (more routes than were closed to motor vehicles). It isn't accurate to think that the only closures until as of recently were to off road vehicles; many hiking and climbing routes have been closed.

    Unlike several of the off-road closures (please note I said "several", not all) though, most of the climbing closures weren't due to abuse (which doesn't mean that climbers can't be abusive-they can).
    If you were to go back to the context of "this" thread--canyoneering, I think you would have to agree that "trash" played a likely, huge role in the implementation of the Deer Cr. closure. So in context to what you stated, I think this could be called "abuse".

    If not kept in tight check(self regulating/monitoring), this scene could continue to play out in the GC.

    I need to clarify that my GC canyoneering experience is zero. So maybe I'm out of line here.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by oldno7 View Post
    If you were to go back to the context of "this" thread--canyoneering, I think you would have to agree that "trash" played a likely, huge role in the implementation of the Deer Cr. closure. So in context to what you stated, I think this could be called "abuse".

    If not kept in tight check(self regulating/monitoring), this scene could continue to play out in the GC.

    I need to clarify that my GC canyoneering experience is zero. So maybe I'm out of line here.
    i agree about the "abuse" it seems clear this is a result of careless people leaving a rope behind.

    my hope is this won't play out in other areas in GC. Deer Creek is very unique, in that it is very accessible to river runners and hikers alike, and it sees huge crowds at an obvious slot canyon right at river level that aren't really present pretty anywhere else. It's an icon of the GC. It also has religious significance to the tribes. I won't get into the hypocrisy of such a claim, but it's safe to say it was very offensive to the tribes for that rope to be left, or for people to be in there at all. However, it's not on tribal lands. So whether or not the closure is justified is debatable. Especially considering how the process happened.

    Most canyons in GC are not accessible to people who aren't "canyoneers." DC is unique, it attracts lots of people, (30,000 a year), and there's really no barrier to entry. People can float in, grab some ropes, and be in the technical section in 30 minutes, regardless of their previous experience in slots. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most dangerous - as it is heavy class C, and the final sequence can catch rookies very unaware - which is why the rope was left in the first place. For whatever that's worth.

    Strangely enough, there is a long section of insanely beautiful narrows before the rappels, and those are also closed now. In this stretch, there is NO IMPACT at all from humans. So the closure of even the non technical section is completely unjustified.

    Which leads to a final conclusion - this is a closure based on the religious beliefs of a tribe, on land they don't own, without so much as discussing it with the public, asking for comment, or seeking alternative solutions.

  11. #10
    Zions the "s" is silent trackrunner's Avatar
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    I heard from a paiute member all water is sacred to his people. makes sense their ancestors lived in the desert and would appreciate the life water sources provide. he placed dc & the colorado river in the same category, and said what is done is done & never will be the same so he no longer cared. Will river running will be closed soon by the park? I doubt that it ever will. one sided over reaction from the park, sounds like it more and more.

  12. #11
    Seems like a total over-reaction on the part of the NPS.

  13. #12
    If you were to go back to the context of "this" thread--canyoneering, I think you would have to agree that "trash" played a likely, huge role in the implementation of the Deer Cr. closure. So in context to what you stated, I think this could be called "abuse".
    Someone did leave a rope behind in there. Certainly abuse. Luckily another party removed it.

    I believe the bolts that are in there were placed decades ago and can't be seen from above or below. The technical part of the canyon is filled wall to wall with water, so little impact there. There is actually much (human) impact around Deer Creek, but probably not much in the technical section.

    My own guess is that the real reason for the closure isn't really because of tribal sacredness or impact, but for the same reason that it's hard to get a permit for Kolob Creek. Because Deer Creek is accessible, they are probably worried that someone unprepared is going to get killed in there. It's easier for them to find excused to close it than to keep it open and have someone inexperienced go in there, get killed and the families sue them.
    Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.

  14. #13
    I don't know if leaving a rope behind counts as "abuse" when considering it real impacts, which are solely aesthetic (which I fully recognize is an important aspect of experience).

    I see abuse as largely defined by intent of action, at least in this case. From what I have gleaned, the rope was left behind due to other issues not out of malice. Second, the boating and canyoneering community responded rather promptly and self-policed itself. That level of cooperation by the community should be enough to prevent further legal measures like this from being implemented.

    If we were talking short-term closure with open door meetings with the recreation community to create a plausible solution to the limited problems in that drainage then I would thoroughly understand. That does not seem to be the case here.

  15. #14
    Bogley BigShot oldno7's Avatar
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    Phillip---

    Wait....Did you hear that?.....

    I think I heard your mom calling

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by oldno7 View Post
    Phillip---

    Wait....Did you hear that?.....

    I think I heard your mom calling
    huh?

    To clarify....I don't see this as abuse by users but I could understand that to be the case being made against the NPS if that was your original intent. I was responding to Scott P.

    Will be sad not to be able to show this one to my friends next May when we raft/float the canyon again. This was going to be one of the few feasible canyons for us.

  17. #16
    The NPS has excused and dealt with tons of such incidents with rafters in the past:

    Dory Stuck in Dubendorf Rapid
    Dory Stuck in Havasupai
    Commercial Motor-rig Aided by Rescue
    Double Wrap

    It seems inconsistent to me that the NPS would accept such incidents, which often pose serious physical hazards to other boatmen, yet would be able to call a stuck rope "abuse". I am not asking for greater closure for boatmen but greater allowance for mistakes for canyoneers in the backcountry, especially when we saw such a swift community response to what amount to trash removal. As the above stories highlight, the NPS actually will help remove boating trash if called to help. Seems like there is a precedent for them being extremely lenient in regards to unintended consequences of backcountry travel yet it seems applied in an uneven manner.

    So, to me it, it seems inaccurate and unproductive for us as canyoneers to use or accept the implications of the word "abuse" in regards to what has happened in Deer Creek.

  18. #17
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldno7 View Post
    Phillip---

    Wait....Did you hear that?.....

    I think I heard your mom calling
    Thank you, Kurt, for demonstrating what actual "abuse" looks like.

    Carry on ---

    Tom

  19. #18
    i also agree that the religious reason are complete garbage. If the water is sacred that is all fine but the tribe dosen't access the water in the canyon anyways. if the plants are sacared when do they go down there to look at them. Its a slot canyon that gets wiped clean multiple time a year. I guess if you have canyoneering parties taking big craps in the canyon and scratching their names in the wall i can understand that but come on. All of this closure of canyons is complete bull. Even goose creek, open the canyon up 4 months out of the year and close it the rest of the year, I promise you it will be back to a WILD canyon by the time it opens up again.

    My religious point of view is GOD created this world for us to enjoy it and to take care of it. Not to have one people or goverment of people closing it down and telling us what to do with the land GOD gave us. I HATE the BLM, and somewhat dissagree with what the NPS has turned into. I do agree that it has been good to some degree to set aside these amazing places to preserve their natural state BUT only for the purpose of us to go enjoy.

    very sad, and i don't even go to the GC to go canyoneering .
    IT ALWAYS LOOKS HIGHER FROM THE TOP!!!!

  20. #19
    Howdy folks, I posted the original email that went to the Superintendent at Grand Canyon objecting to the Deer Creek closure and his response back to us here. The original letter backed the position taken by several other organizations and their letters are also attached:

    http://www.americancanyoneers.org/fo...php?f=8&t=2331

    Best Regards,

    Rich Rudow

  21. #20
    [QUOTE] Vandalism diminishes elements of integrity of setting, materials, workmanship, and feeling.
     Social trails disturb material contexts, damage archaeological materials and artifacts, harden soil, disturb plant populations, and encourage water erosion. These disturbances diminish elements of integrity of setting, materials, and feeling.
     Plant disturbance from rappelling. Though the narrows gorge is not vegetated, the face of the falls is. Visitor
    Your safety is not my responsibility.

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