Wednesday, January 20, 2016

BMP DEIS is wrong: Beaver Falls is in the Park, not the Havasupai Reservation

Comment on Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Management Plan, 
with respect to error in DEIS on Havasupai Reservation boundary  
January 1, 2016

Jeffrey Ingram        
Tucson, Arizona

On page 188 of the DEIS for the proposed Grand Canyon National Park BMP, the following paragraph appears under the general headings “Adjacent Lands”,  “Tribal Lands” (my underlining):

Havasupai Reservation 
The 188,077-acre Havasupai Reservation is located within, and along the rim of, Grand Canyon. The reservation is most commonly accessed via Route 66 and Indian Road 18 to Hualapai Hilltop. The reservation can also be reached by Forest Road 328 which departs Highway 64 near between Tusayan and the park’s South Entrance Station. The reservation can also be reached from the river by hiking up Havasu Canyon approximately four miles. Day hikers often venture onto tribal land to enjoy Havasu Creek’s spectacular waterfalls, although the hike is a relatively long one: eight miles round-trip to Beaver Falls, 12 miles round-trip to Mooney Falls, 14 miles round-trip to Havasu Falls, and 18 miles round-trip to Supai village. A permit and associated fee is required to access Havasupai tribal land. As resources allow, the tribe stations personnel at reservation boundaries to ensure compliance, and NPS personnel inform park visitors of the required fee. Camping within the reservation is permitted only in designated campgrounds. 
The implication of the underlined portions of this NPS-composed description of the “Havasupai Reservation” is that Beaver Falls is inside and part of that Reservation.

It is not.

Beaver Falls was retained by name within the National Park when the Reservation was enlarged by the 1975 Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act, P.L. 93-620.

Beaver Falls is explicitly part of Grand Canyon National Park; it is not Havasupai land, and they have no power to issue permits or charge fees for a visit to Beaver Falls coming upstream.

Here is the relevant text from “Report to accompany S. 1296, House of Representatives; No. 93-1374”, p.11: “the boundary (of the lands to be transferred) 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.” (my underlining)

And from “Conference Report to accompany S. 1296, House of Representatives; No. 93-1611”, p.6: “the boundaries (of the reservation enlargement) would be located on the plateau one-quarter of a mile from the rim of the canyon except where it crosses Havasu Creek from Yumatheska Point to the top of Beaver Falls to Ukwalla Point”. (my underlining)

The Park Service at Grand Canyon has been informed in the strongest language of the legal fact that Beaver Falls is inside the Park. However, as the above quote suggests, the Park Service has chosen to ignore the law and abandon its responsibility to protect the integrity of the Park and the rights of Park visitors.

(So far as I can tell the above DEIS quote is the only reference to Beaver Falls in that BMP document.)

Note the language in the DEIS: the reservation can be reached from the river by hiking up four miles. Day hikers often venture onto tribal land to enjoy Havasu Creek’s spectacular waterfalls, although the hike is a relatively long one: eight miles round-trip to Beaver Falls.  A permit and associated fee is (sic) required to access Havasupai tribal land … NPS personnel inform park visitors of the required fee.

Let me be clear. The Park Service at Grand Canyon is violating the law by not protecting the Park and its visitors. Beaver Falls is inside the Park. In no way do hikers “venture onto tribal  land” in visiting these Falls. No permit nor fee is therefore required to access Beaver Falls; it is inside the Park. The Park Service should be informing visitors, particularly travelling on the river, that no fee or permit is required to hike to and enjoy Beaver Falls. 

The DEIS statement is therefore confused and misleading to the park visitor, that NPS personnel tell visitors of the “required” fee. By law, the Park Service should make clear to the visitor the distinction between Beaver Falls (Park land; no fee required) and the other falls farther upstream on the fee-required reservation (two miles to the next, Mooney).

The Back Country Management Plan needs to be revised to correct this error, and practical steps need to be taken immediately to inform Park personnel and river-traveling visitors that Beaver Falls is part of the Park, that it is not part of the Havasupai Reservation, and that the Havasupai have no jurisdiction over Beaver Falls nor any power to levy fees on visitors to Beaver Falls who come up Havasu Creek. 

There is a further issue here. Reportedly, the Havasupai have constructed some visitor facilities at Beaver Falls. Activities of this kind are governed by the Havasupai Land Use Plan of 1981, approved by the Secretary of the Interior, as ordered by the 1975 Act enlarging the Reservation. By terms of this Act and the Land Use Plan (which the Havasupai essentially authored), land not specifically designated and approved for development of any kind is to remain “forever wild”. 

In fulfilling its mandate to protect the National Park, and specifically Beaver Falls, the administration at Grand Canyon, should examine any constructed facilities on park land at the Falls to determine whether they should be retained or whether they present a violation of the law. According to the 1975 Act, Beaver Falls is included within park lands that Havasupai are only allowed to practice traditional uses upon. In no way are constructed tourist facilities a traditional use nor a suitable use on lands to be kept by law as “forever wild”. 

Action Conclusions
1. The draft BMP documents should be revised to correctly describe the legal boundary between the park and the Havasupai Reservation at Beaver Falls.
2. Any maps or other material that show, particularly to the public, the area of Beaver Falls should be examined, and if necessary, corrected.
3. Park personnel should be charged to correctly inform park visitors that Beaver Falls is inside the park and not subject to any Havasupai permit or fee.

4. Park personnel should examine any construction on park land at Beaver Falls, and remove it if it violates the standard of “forever wild” or other standards governing park wilderness. 


  1. I'm confused by this. How can the Park NOT know this information? Beaver Falls is the main destination for hikers coming up from the river ,..the pools and creek are singular. In 12 Grand Canyon trips I've myself never managed to get beyond that point. Not for lack of time or energy,..simply because I can't see how it can be much better,...and I wanted to sit and enjoy the areas.
    What am I missing in this picture? There must be more to this story?

    1. I too am confused by the Park's not knowing this. It was brought to the attention of the Park administration after I published my recounting of the history in my posts of 10 & 22 June 2014. Apparently this "news" about the boundary at Beaver Falls did not register, given the passage I quoted from the BMP documents.
      Your positive comments about Beaver Falls as a hiker destination are exactly why the legislative history contains directions to keep those falls in the Park.
      Maybe the Park Service forgot what happened in 1974??
      What does seem to have happened is that, when in 1988, the new USGS quad was brought out, the boundary was "interpreted" in error to cross at the downstream end. Was USGS ignorant of the legislative history, too? Also, there is an official NPS Cartographer who apparently did not catch the error.
      However the error happened, it now time to correct it.
      It has become more than just a historical point, since reportedly the Havasupai are saying to at least some visitors from the river that being at Beaver Falls will cost $40 each.
      Have you seen any evidences of the Havasupai at these falls?