I did think of some other titles:
Theft or Gift?
Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law ; But Where is the First Part?
Map Games: Who Gets to Draw the Line?
Ignored and Forgotten
The Buried & Lost Havasu Creek Crossing
Anyway, on with the story...
PART I: THE MYSTERY DEVELOPS, SLOWLY
Beaver Falls is not so much a singular drop as a cascade of travertine terraces, extending along a quarter mile of Havasu Creek. It is a landmark on the boundary between the Grand Canyon National Park and the Havasupai Indian Reservation.That boundary jumps off Ukwalla Point above the Creek to the east, passes Beaver Falls, and climbs up to Yumtheska Point on the west. Here is the language describing it from section 10.a. of the 1975 enlargement Act, P.L. 93-620 (for the complete text of section 10, in fact of the entire Act, click on the PARK tab above, then go to near the bottom of the list and click on "The result, 1975"):
"Such map, which shall delineate a boundary line generally one-fourth of a mile from the rim of the outer gorge of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River and shall traverse Havasu Creek from a point on the rim at Yumtheska Point to Beaver Falls to a point on the rim at Ukwalla Point…" (my emphasis); the map having been named earlier in the Act as 113-20,021B, dated December, 1974. Here is the relevant piece of that official map:
Not great on the detail, is it?
BLM puts out a good map for the Arizona Strip and vicinity. Here is their 1993 version of the Havasupai piece:
I have put in the three blue bars just below the named landmarks: Ukwalla Point, Beaver Falls, Yumtheska Point -- although to me it looks like the cartographer took aim at the latter on the left, and then reeled off to the side.
There was an even earlier map, one prepared by the BIA that might be considered definitive since it was the produced for the 1982 Secretarial Land Use Plan. Here it is, with two blue bars for the points, Beaver Falls being where the line between them bends.
Got closer to Yumtheska's point, this time.
One of the great boons of increased interest in the Canyon and its pleasures has been the increase in mapping. In 1988, USGS did an up-to-date version of the Havasu Falls quad. Here is how the USGS cartographer handled the boundary; it is that dash-dot line, but see my version below. Anyway, this time it did hit Yumtheska Point (sorry about the mismatch between the two quads).
Now here is that map, with the boundary line overdrawn in blue. And I emphasized in green, the map's placement of Beaver Falls:
I must say, to draw a "contour-following" boundary and then call it "indefinite" is discretion gone mad. Maybe a straight line is hard to follow on the ground, but it is not indefinite. But what is really interesting here is the cartographer's decision to ignore Beaver Falls entirely, not even touch on it and go down Havasu Creek for a stretch. It would be nice to know if the Park Service was involved in making this line and just ignoring Beaver, or if the USGS was just following its instincts for what makes a sensible map.
However, the topo quads are not all that USGS has to offer. There is the grandly named National Map, and on it are shown NPS boundaries, like Grand Canyon National Park (pink line), and Indian Reservations, in orange with an orange boundary. Here is a piece of that map:
This does make it look as if that USGS line is somehow associated with the National Park, though it may well be that USGS in 1988 came first. The orange Havasupai Reservation, whoever settled on that line, on the other hand, does not push the Park so far downstream as USGS does, and keeps more with the idea of straight lines from the Points to Beaver Falls. Note that the map is clear on the boundary crossing Havasu.below the Falls.
PART II: THE SCREW IS BEING TURNED
Although i have not been to Beaver in 40 years, there are now reported some emphatic Havasupai actions that indicate they believe the Falls are theirs, part of the Reservation granted them in 1975. Here are some comments sent to me: The Havasupai have placed a series of large ladders allowing people to climb and traverse parts of the Beaver Falls complex to various picnic table sites. Over the last 20 years this was the first time improvements like that have shown up. They certainly required a helicopter to deliver the building supplies. In May of last year, Park visitors hiking up Havasu Creek to the Falls were turned away below the Falls by Havasupai Rangers if they could not pay a $44 per person Havasupai access fee.
So can the Havasupai do as they please if they have title to Beaver Falls? For what it is worth, their activities there should be carried out under the 1982 Land Use Plan, which makes no mention of the Beaver Falls area. So, going by the strict letter, section 10.b.7. of the 1975 Act would apply, where it says "except for the uses permitted in paragraphs 1 through 6 of this section, the lands hereby transferred to the tribe shall remain forever wild and no uses shall be permitted under the plan which detract from the existing scenic and natural values of such lands" (my emphasis). The compromise was that the Havasupai should acquire title in trust, but could not treat the added lands any way they felt like, and had to be guided by a publicly arrived-at "Secretary of the Interior Land Use Plan". It was a bargain that the Havasupai at the time accepted willingly, since they said that was the way they treated the land anyway. Are the improvements at Beaver Falls a violation of their promises and the Act's language? The question is left as an exercise for the reader.
The Act's application does not end there, however, for it retained title in the U.S. to lands between the new Reservation and the Colorado, at the same time laying on the Park Service the need to "permit the tribe to use lands within the Grand Canyon National Park which are designated as Havasupai Use Lands … for grazing and other traditional purposes" (the official map above shows this Use Area). However, use was "subject to such reasonable regulations as (the Secretary) may prescribe to protect the scenic, natural, and wildlife values". The Park Service and the Havasupai supposedly have entered into some kind of agreement as to the specifics.
So one conclusion, for the contentious minded, would be that no matter where the boundary at Beaver Falls is, Havasupai activity at Beaver is controlled by public process and strictures to keep the area undeveloped; they are not free to do as they wish there, unsupervised by the Secretary and unmonitored by the public and NPS. Development, even a little bit, is contrary to the law. One reply to that, of course, is that ladders & picnic tables are just what the Park Service would do if it was in control.
PART III. BUT WHERE IS THE CORPSE?
So based on the various maps and on Havasupai assertiveness in the Beaver Falls area, title to the Falls over the past 40 years has been assumed to be with the Havasupai. Moreover, that assertiveness has taken forms that are, arguably, at odds with the 1975 Act governing the land repatriated to them, consonant instead with an attitude that they are not bound by the letter or intent of the Act. And if they have asserted a nine-tenths ownership, who might have, should have, held them to the Act's provisions? Clearly, the Secretary of the Interior was designated as a monitoring entity, but that oversight, too, the Havasupai, the BIA, and NPS seem all to have erased from their collective memories. The Act has become moribund. And no harm has been done -- except, once again arguably, to non-Havasupai wishing to visit their National Park, and to Beaver Falls, an area that was to have been open to the public and have had its wild values protected from development.
It is worse than that.
In the congressional process that produced the 1975 Act, the ambiguity of the Havasupai boundary description ("…to Beaver Falls…") was in fact recognized. The northern boundary had been the subject of push and pull between the Havasupai forces and Representative Morris Udall, who crafted the compromise giving them title-with-restrictions. The end result was the current boundary and the creation of the Use Area in the Park. After the compromise was enshrined in the legislation by vote of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs in July 1974, it was recognized in the September 25, 1974, Report the Committee produced --a normal part of the process-- to explain at length what it had done.
In its Section-by-Section Analysis, the Report on page 11 reads:
"All of the lands to be transferred by section 10 are outside the perimeters of the main stem of the Grand Canyon; however, the boundary crosses one major tributary canyon at Beaver Falls. It is the intention of the Committee that in establishing the precise boundary for the park at this point that the Secretary should cross UPSTREAM from the falls in order to assure their protection as a part of the park."
As the legislation wended its way to Presidential signature on January 3, 1975, this provision, specification, intention, explication,…, whatever, was never challenged, further discussed or changed. Unfortunately, when the official map was drawn by the Park Service, the specification to cross upstream was not noted on it -- not the only slip I and other Canyon advocates made during that two-year legislative history. So the crucial congressional determination of the title to Beaver Falls was made, but then, as the years passed, ignored.
But. Perhaps it was not just ignorance of the official documents from the Act's legislative history that afflicted the map drawers and the writers of the Land Use Plan. Maybe it just seemed "natural" somehow that all the falls of Havasu should go to the Havasupai. Maybe nobody ever raised the question, should it cross upstream or downstream? And one assumption of downstream followed "naturally" on another until the weight of the accumulated assumptions has seemingly crushed the life out of the intention of Congress to keep Beaver Falls for all of us, "to assure their protection as a part of the park".
And maybe the Act is not moribund; it was assassinated, and Beaver Falls stolen away from our National Park.