Saturday, August 27, 2016

Revisiting — Revising — the Western Boundary (Segments G & H)

As I have written previously, when we were making decisions about how the boundary of the expanded Grand Canyon National Park should run, we did so without going out on the ground, or even, though they were available, using the 1971 7.5’ USGS topos. 
As a result, the Park boundary actually goes out beyond the proper extent of the Canyon as indicated by the drainage topography and the geologic indicators according to the 1982 Huntoon-Billingsley  geologic map. Here is the west end of the official map of the 1975 Expansion Act:

The geology shows only three remaining outcrops — circled in blue below — of pre-Cambrian Muav over Bright Angel, two on the north side, one on the south, of the channel where it bends west at the 277-mile mark.* No more show up downstream. 

Using those indicators for the Canyon boundary channel crossing neatly ties right into the sharp downward course of the top ridge of the Grand Wash Cliffs on the south side (left bank ) of the Colorado channel, as shown by the blue line below. (Note the blue 277 mile dots.)

So the only real difficulty in boundary definition, had we done our homework in the late 1960’s and into 1973, would be delineating on the north side (right bank) a course up the lower Grand Wash Cliffs such that the small drainages between Pearce Canyon and the Grand Canyon would be correctly assigned between being in the Canyon’s watershed and, further north, to the Pearce and other Lake Mead drainages. Above, the beginning of that line is shown running east-west.

Once that drainage-defined line reaches the level of the Sanup Plateau, this Google terrain map shows a quite level surface running east-west, with most of that shallow drainage to the north away from the Grand Canyon, until the line reaches Fort Garrett Point, where the dividing line climbs, up to the final level, the Shivwits Plateau.

Taking all these matters into account, and choosing the best path I can, the red crosses approximate the location of the Grand Canyon’s western line, in particular north of the Colorado and over to Fort Garrett Point. The blue line is (approx.) the northside boundary in the 1975 Park Expansion Act.

*The topo & geologic maps put the label “Lower Granite Gorge” extending downstream beyond this 277-mile point, though there is no sign of it. The waters and silts of Lake Mead may cover some pre-Cambrian granitics, and if so, this label hangs around on maps as a reminder of the pre-Anthropocene geologic era.

Sources: Geologic Map of the Lower Granite Gorge and Vicinity, Western Grand Canyon, Arizona, 1982 edn.,
Peter W. Huntoon, George H. Billingsley, Jr. assistant M. D. Clark
USGS, 7.5’ topos, Columbine Falls & Snap Canyon West, Arizona

Terrain Map by Google

Friday, July 22, 2016

GCNM 4 The Proclamation, Jan 2000

The full text of the Proclamation follows:

GCNM 4 Arrival, 2000

USA Today jumped ahead, in an article on 7 Jan 2000: “Decree to protect rugged Ariz. land”, behind a front page: “Arizona land will be preserved”, with a photo — cliffs and chasms, the Canyon’s watershed would be protected. Action is opposed due to fears of tourists despoiling and grazing being prohibited. No immediate threats, but set aside to prevent any. The protection of huge, largely roadless chunk brings joy to environmentalists and outrage from Congress. Many streams feed into Canyon, so need to protect area to north. Wilderness Society “could not be more pleased”. Utah’s Hansen: peaceful land will be threatened by attracting tourists.
Many more words would be spieled, but there was the essence.

GCNM 4 Waiting, 1999

This part of the story follows two paths. The first sums up the mysteries surrounding how the original Grand Canyon watershed idea was doubled and conceptually transformed. The second recounts the Arizona delegation’s retrograde, and futile, effort to derail an Antiquities Act creation of a Monument.


There was Babbitt’s watershed concept, which he would reiterate over the years. There was a wildlife/habitat concept, twice the size of Babbitt’s, originated and lobbied for by Arizona-based environmental groups. By what chain of decision-making did the first get replaced by the second?

GCNM 4 The Secretary Listens, 1999

Secretary Babbitt had a concept of a Grand Canyon watershed as the foundation for further protective designation of the northwestern Grand Canyon. The area was overwhelmingly under Interior jurisdiction, in either Lake Mead National Recreation Area or public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The set-up was prime ground for a presidential Antiquities Act proclamation. Nevertheless, rather than act first and then listen to the outrage, Babbitt chose to make his plan public in a preliminary way, thus providing the opportunity for public officials and the citizenry to offer up their views and alternative ways to proceed. 

GCNM 4 Opening Moves, 1998

1998: Before the News

Having the time to become once again involved in matters affecting the Grand Canyon, In 1998, I attempted to grasp the threads of affairs I had dropped 16 years before, even though few of the players I had known were still around. Particularly with respect to the park-worthy areas of the Canyon’s north side, the issues unresolved in the early ’80’s were handles I could grab in seeking to learn about a  new status quo.

I wrote letters to agency heads, sought conversation with them and with active environmentalists, and planned reconnoitering trips, particularly to the Arizona Strip. My timing on the latter was fortuitous, since as I was traveling, Secretary Babbitt was putting together, at his much higher level, his ideas about more Antiquities Act actions. Of course, I had no knowledge of his moves, and the Arizona Strip BLM staff that I interviewed said nothing. Unlike my efforts in the 1970’s, I was now an unfamiliar inquirer with no organizational connections. 

GCNM 4 The Secretary’s View, 1998-2000

Prelude: Back to Life

It was my good fortune to visit the northwestern segments of the Canyon early after my Western migration. From Toroweap westward to the Shivwits Plateau, from the rim to, and along, the river, I learned what a wonderfully varied landscape it was. When the time came, in the mid-1970’s, to change the Park boundaries, I was hopeful that this region would take its appropriate & logical place in a complete Grand Canyon National Park. Good news; bad news.