Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mapping Marble -- or losing them (added to 7/11/12)

As I have mentioned, NPS Land and Resources just finished working for over two years on trying to get the congressional boundary of Grand Canyon National park correct. I emphasize the adjective, because NPS does not care where the boundary really is, only where the legislative process put it or fantasized that it might be put or where some superintendent or solicitor put it. And lots of the line that they drew is pretty accurate. There are some howlers, like west of Andrus-Parashant canyons and south of Pearce Canyon. There are some interpretations I disagree with; rim locations can be tricky. However, these probably do not really matter, since much of such "judgmental" line-drawing is between the Park and the Lake Mead NRA section of the Grand Canyon - Parashant National Monument (which when we get smart again will be added to the Park anyway, and now does have some appropriate recognition and protection).

Matters are more serious, far more serious, when the Colorado is the boundary, as it is upstream from the junction with the Little Colorado and along the northern boundary of the Hualapai Reservation. In the case of the latter, then GCNP superintendent Stitt, in early 1975 just decided on his own that the Park went up the bank to the historic high water mark. A stupid move, and one contrary to the intent of the 1975 GCNP Act's Senate sponsor, Barry Goldwater. However, two obedient solicitors twisted around and claimed that the superintendent was correct, thereby insuring the Hualapai will always have a festering sore spot to inflame their passions with. 

And then we get to Marble Canyon. Or more accurately, the Grand Canyon from the Paria down to the junction with the Little Colorado (LCR). Which is Marble plus what some maps call the Desert Facade--the cliffs above the river where the Canyon hugely widens, from Nankoeap to the LCR. Now, the NPS Cartographer did not have a problem with the Marble+ boundary. The 1975 Act is very clear about setting the (proposed) boundary on the east side on the rim. The fact that the Navajo have to concur and havent (and wont??) is of no matter. That the boundary is subject to "valid existing rights under the Navajo Boundary Act of 1934" is of no matter. Congress put the (proposed) boundary on the rim, and so that is where NPS puts it. Without, by the way, labelling it as "proposed". Im glad that mappers do not use the same convention when they draw highway maps; trying to drive on a (proposed) interstate could get bumpy. 

And here is where the fun starts. Since the Park Service Marble+ line is not accepted by all, contested, suspect, or irrelevant to the real world, other mappers have had to make their own way. So I thought it might be entertaining to run through several maps I have and see where they place the Marble+ line. 

Back in 1961, the Arizona Power Authority was trying to get a license to build a Marble Canyon dam, and as part of their testimony, drew a detailed map of the boundary under the assumption it was subject to the water power withdrawals of the 1910's--which they would, of course, and which allowed them to stiff the Navajo on the matter of compensation. The APA staff was very conscientious, putting the boundary on the legal line best approximating ¼ mile from the river. They ran their maps from Glen Canyon dam down to the then-boundary of the Park at Nankoweap. Here is a piece of it, which includes the somewhat queer section, mostly in T36N,R5E, where it is at the 3150' contour. (The whole thing is about 5' long, not so practical for a blog.)

Fencing and patrolling that sucker might test even our redoubtable Arizona Border Police. And if you look closely, you can see the reservoir line dashed in, showing how generous most of the withdrawals were.

Of course, in its pursuit of power and dollars, the APA was a most serious organization. They even kept the withdrawal ¼ mile upstream of Navajo Bridge, where most maps come down to the old Navajo line on the river. BLM is a bit giddier. Their Arizona Strip maps (generally very useful) of 1993 and 2000 follow the NPS of being on the rim, including going back along the side canyons. They do give the Navajo the east bank above the Bridge. By 2002, their sympathies had switched, and the Navajo went down to the river, even with words for emphasis.

 But then in 2006, something stirred them up, and they changed to a third interpretation, now running a smooth ¼ mile up from the river bank, no side canyons.

Of course, this means their boundaries do not match the APA's 1/4 mile on legal lines.

The Forest Service is more steadfast. In a 1960 Kaibab N.F. map, the river clearly divided Forest and Park on the west bank from the Navajo Ind. Res. on the east bank. Here is their 1983 edition, which did not change in the 1995/2003/2008 versions.

USGS also made the choice for the Navajo being on the river bank. (Consult the Martin & Whitis river guide to the Grand Canyon.) But their website does something very interesting on The National Map, switching back and forth between left & right banks. From the middle of the LCR, it goes to the left bank going upstream along the Colorado, then at the old Park limit at Nankoweap, it goes for the right where the National Forest used to be, so at South Canyon back to the middle up to Tiger Wash, where it sits on the left bank, switching to the right at the Bridge. Maybe it is not a boundary, but a fever dream.

The ESRI on-line map tool offers base maps that go for the rim.

Two maps in wide use, Auto Club of So. Cal. Indian Country and the National Geographic for the Canyon, go in different directions, N.G. likes BLM 2006, ¼ mile from the bank. The Auto Club is not so detailed, but appears to go for a mile wide on each side for the Park. But then, driving Marble Canyon is infrequently done.

Some of what follows was added 7/11/12:

I found a website http://mappery.com/map-of/Grand-Canyon-National-Park-map that shows a map of the eastern Canyon. It is labelled from NPS.gov and pre-2002. The boundary from the confluence north is on the river. I wonder where that came from.

Speaking of NPS and its maps, I wrote about a very nice map utility on the GCNP website in my post of 1 Oct 2010, and showed some pieces of it. That map seems to have disappeared, replaced by a Park map that is only partial and more of an arty, cartoony sort of thing.

I have two different map books for Arizona, Delorme's 1993 edition chooses the river bank. Benchmark 2004 is on the River from the LCR to oppoosite South Canyon, then goes up to the rim including side canyons to the Bridge. This is, on the "public lands" maps on pp 62-3. However, on the detail map of the southeast Grand Canyon, the boundary is on the rim from the confluence and going upstream.
 Of course, these books, like many of these maps, are revised more or less frequently, so there is ample opportunity for mind-changing and continuing confusion. 

Fortunately, boundary lines are not chosen by easily confused cartographers or popular vote (well, sometimes). Instead there are clear legal documents that can be quickly and definitively interpreted by trained lawyers, so all we have to do is heed the experts.

However, when I queried the NPS Chief Cartographer about the problem of people reading the official GCNP map and mistakenly thinking the Park boundary is on the east rim of Marble, he answered, in the spirit of  the Tom Lehrer song: 
"Thats not my depotment, said Wernher von Braun."


  1. Interesting! I read this as I am trying to make a map of GCNP and got very confused by different shapefiles and their depictions of federal and tribal land boundaries. I now at least see where the confusion comes from. I'll read on in the blog to see if anything is updated. Nice job!

  2. This comment seems related to the one on my suggestion/question/position that because of the way the 1975 Act was enacted, the bill drafters did not take into account that the Navajo might never act on refusing to move the rim-to-river strip into the Park, and therefore they did not include a fall-back position, as was done with the Marble Canyon National Monument in 1969.

    I would hope that anybody who puts out information relevant to that strip makes it clear that permission to go there is in the hands of the Navajo -- though it is not clear to me that they particularly care about hiking and such.