The Transcanyon Water Distribution Pipeline, known as the Transcanyon Waterline (TCWL), is a 12½-mile water pipeline constructed in the 1960s that conveys water from the Roaring Springs source on the North Rim to the Havasupai Gardens (formerly known as Indian Garden) pump station and ultimately to the South Rim. It provides the potable water and fire suppression for all facilities on the South Rim as well as some inner canyon facilities in the Cross Canyon Corridor including over 800 historic buildings.
Transcanyon Waterline Project
Why is a new waterline needed?
The National Park Service (NPS) is replacing the TCWL as it is beyond its expected useful life, experiences frequent failures, and requires expensive and continuous inner canyon maintenance work to repair leaks.
Since 2010, there have been over 85 major breaks in the TCWL that have each disrupted water delivery. The breaks are expensive to repair, occur in locations that pose dangers for responding employees, and negatively impacts the visitor experience. The cost for a single waterline break often exceeds $25,000. Access to the inner canyon, where breaks occur, is by trail and helicopter only.
Many times when there's a break in the water pipeline, distribution lines, or pump houses the park needs to implement water conservation measures. Park leadership makes conservation decisions based off the available water in the storage tanks. Visitors may notice the impact of the measures during a dining experience using disposable plates and cutlery, or with the closure of some shower and laundry facilities. A break typically takes 3-5 days to repair, but conservation measures may be in effect longer if there are multiple or back-to-back breaks.
The new water delivery system will meet water service needs at the South Rim and inner canyon for the next 50 plus years, while protecting natural and cultural resources, maintaining the visitor experience, and reducing maintenance requirements.
Initial construction activities were focused on establishing contractor and helibase support facilities, the South Rim water treatment plant, two new raw water tanks, and the laydown and staging areas in the Grand Canyon Village area on the park’s South Rim.
With the South Rim construction well underway, some of the inner canyon construction activities for the project have begun. Heavy-lift helicopters delivered 58 sling loads of supplies and equipment to various landing zones in the inner canyon Oct. 16-19, 2023. The equipment and supplies are staged at various locations within the construction areas. On Dec. 1, 2023, sections of the Bright Angel and Tonto Trails were closed to begin work for sliplining pipe between the South Rim and Havasupai Gardens, replacing the distribution system at Havasupai Gardens, upgrading the water distribution at Mile-and-a-Half and Three-Mile Resthouses, and to begin trenching and installing new waterline and 3-phase power between Havasupai Gardens and Plateau Point.
The Rim Trail detour adjacent to the Bright Angel Lodge will begin Jan. 22, 2024, and the Rim Trail will remain open until then. Construction workers are working in the vicinity conducting slipline work.
Plateau Point Trail from the Tonto Trail junction to Plateau Point: Oct. 12, 2023-March 14, 2025
Rim Trail in front of Bright Angel Lodge (a detour going around the Lodge will be provided to reconnect to the Rim Trail): Nov. 16, 2023-April 4, 2024* The closure start date is postponed until Jan. 22, 2024.
Tonto Trail, east of the Horn Creek area to the South Kaibab Trail junction: Dec. 1, 2023-April 14, 2024
Bright Angel Trail approximately 1/2 mile from the Trailhead to Silver Bridge, including Havasupai Gardens Campground: Dec. 1, 2023-April 14, 2024
Bright Angel Trail from Havasupai Gardens to Silver Bridge: Dec. 2, 2024-March 14, 2025
While Bright Angel Campground will remain open during most of 2024 for public use, from April 4, 2024-December 18, 2024, both large group sites and three (out of 31) small group sites will be used for Transcanyon Waterline project needs and unavailable for public use. Reservations for the remaining small group sites are available on www.Recreation.gov.
The construction areas and schedule are subject to change. Intermittent trail delays of up to 30 minutes in the vicinity of construction work may occur as necessary throughout the project. More information about the construction closures is available in the Public FAQs section below. Every effort is being made to schedule work to reduce impacts to visitors and residents, but near-term impacts are inevitable.
The Transcanyon Waterline project contract was awarded on March 14, 2023. Tree and vegetation removal work for the construction infrastructure and staging areas on the South Rim occurred March 17 until early April.
We understand there's great community interest in this project. We thank you for your patience as we carry out these important projects. Updates on the status will be provided here as soon as possible.
On the far left is a black column about 1/5 the width of the illustration. The column header reads: Grand Canyon Planned Water Delivery System Infrastructure Projects. Below the header is a legend that displays 4 symbols to indicate, Bright Angel Creek, Transcanyon waterline replacement, Bright Angel Trail Slipline, and Transcanyon waterline slipline. Below the legend is a National Park Service arrowhead logo.
The main background illustration shows a cross section of Grand Canyon. Buildings, water pipelines, pump stations, and water treatment plants are labeled.
The cross section begins on the South Rim, upper left, at an elevation of 6,860 feet/2,093 meters, then descends right to Mile-and-a-Half Rest House at an elevation of 5,729 feet/1,748 meters, then descends right to Three-mile Rest House at an elevation of 4,748 feet/1,449 meters, then descends right to Havasupai Gardens at an elevation of 3,800 feet/1,160 meters, then descends right and down to the Colorado River, at an elevation of 2,480 feet/756 meters. The "Silver Bridge" is shown crossing the Colorado River in the center of the illustration.
From the river, canyon walls begin their ascent up to the North Rim, beginning at Phantom Ranch at an elevation of 2,546 feet/776 meters, then ascends right to Cottonwood Campground at an elevation of 4,080 feet/1,244 meters, then ascends right to Manzanita Rest Area at an elevation of 4,600 feet/1,402 meters, then ascends right to Roaring Springs Pumphouse at an elevation of 5,200 feet/1,591 meters, then ascends right to the North Rim at an elevation of 8,241 feet/2,512 meters.
Superimposed over the cross section illustration are a six location-based panels that list, through bulleted points, the work and improvements to be done at each location.
Panel 1, on the far left, South Rim Support Facilities: Constructing Contractor Facilities, Constructing Helibase Building, Constructing Helicopter Landing Pad.
To the right of Panel 1 is Panel 2, South Rim Water Treatment Plant work: Constructing Water Treatment Plant. Constructing Raw Water Tanks.
Below Panel 2 is Panel 3, Inner Canyon Improvements; Resthouses: Sliplining Bright Angel, Upgrading Rest House Water Distribution.
Below Panel 3 is Panel 4, Inner Canyon Improvements; Havasupai Gardens and Silver Bridge: Upgrading Havasupai Gardens' Distribution System, Replacing Transcanyon Waterline Pipe, Installing 3-Phase Power, Repairing Silver Bridge.
Returning to the top of the illustration, to the right of Panel 2 is Panel 5, Inner Canyon Improvements; Phantom Ranch: Installing Bright Angel Creek Intake, Consturcting Water Treatment Plant, Installing Booster Pump, Replacing Distribution System, Upgrading Electrical System.
To the right of Panel 5 is Panel 6, Inner Canyon Improvements; Manzanita to Roaring Springs: Sliplining Transcanyon Waterline from Roaring Springs Pumphouse to Cottonwood Campground, Upgrading Manzanita Rest Area and Cottonwood Campground Water Distribution System, Upgrading Point-of-Intake and Installing Point-of-Use Treatment.
Finally, point to point construction, or replacement work, is indicated by colored lines referenced in the legend. From the South Rim to Havasupai Gardens, adding a slipline is indicated, From Havasupai Gardens to Phantom Ranch, replacing the Transcanyon Waterline is indicated. From Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood Campground, Bright Angel Creek is shown as the water conduit. From Cottonwood Campground to Roaring Springs Pumphouse, adding a slipline is indicated.
The project includes upgrading, replacing, or constructing temporary infrastructure for the installation of the waterline in a sequenced construction timeline of approximately 2023-27.
The TCWL project will relocate the water intake for the water delivery system to the South Rim from Roaring Springs to Bright Angel Creek near Phantom Ranch. This location will greatly reduce the length of the TCWL and eliminate a portion of the current waterline north of Phantom Ranch that experiences the most frequent failures. The water intake at Roaring Springs will continue to provide water to the North Rim.
The project includes:
Constructing an auxiliary hangar, helicopter landing pad, and contractor support area at the park helicopter base.
Constructing a 1 million-gallon per day water treatment plant at the South Rim and a smaller water treatment plant at Phantom Ranch.
Replacing the water distribution system at Havasupai Gardens.
Replacing approximatley 3 miles of waterline and upgrading approximately 3 miles of electrical supply line from Havasupai Gardens to Phantom Ranch.
Constructing a water intake system and pumping station in the Phantom Ranch area.
Replacing the water and electrical distribution systems at Phantom Ranch.
The overall design of the water delivery system involved about 10 years of tests, analyses, reviews, and coordination to meet the various public health, state, and federal standards, environmental laws, historic, and NPS resource management policies.
With pipeline breaks being the main cause for water delivery failures, selecting the right materials and equipment was a critical decision in the design process. The original pipe material is aluminum, which is easier to haul into the inner canyon due to its weight to size ratio. The material; however, also contributes to the degradation of the waterline and frequent structural breaks due to the extreme environmental conditions of the inner canyon. A break typically runs longitudinally with the pipe and repairing it usually consists of cutting out and replacing an 8-foot section of aluminum pipe.
The project team balanced the complexity of the inner canyon’s terrain and environmental conditions with constructability while mitigating the impact to cultural and natural resources in making their material selection. They identified flex-steel pipe to replace the aluminum because of the balanced tradeoff between weight to durability and the strength of the material.
When is the Transcanyon Waterline project expected to finish?
The construction is projected to wrap-up in October 2026; however, delays could impact the overall schedule.
How much is the Transcanyon Waterline project going to cost?
The NPS awarded a $208 million construction contract on March 14, 2023, to Stronghold Engineering, Inc. of Perris, Calif.
How many construction staff will be working on this project?
There will be multiple construction staff working on this multi-year project. The contractor will utilize their own staff plus hire subcontractors to work on the project.
Why did it take so long to publish a schedule of closures since construction began earlier this year?
The Transcanyon Waterline project is a large and complex infrastructure project with construction site areas on the South Rim, along the existing water pipeline route, and at various inner canyon locations. Since being awarded the construction contract on March 14, 2023, Stronghold Engineering Inc. (SEI) began construction on the necessary support facilities on the South Rim that they'll need to execute the construction for the water delivery system infrastructure and waterline. SEI staff have simultaneously planned and coordinated administrative and logistical tasks like hiring subcontractors and ordering materials with lead times, to develop the sequencing of activities for the rest of the project.
Where can I go to find the most up to date information for trail closures and impacts?
Current Grand Canyon National Park closures are published on the park’s operational updates webpage. More information about the construction-related trail and campground closures and the project are available on the Transcanyon Waterline project webpage. Visitors requesting information on inner canyon campground closures should visit the Backcountry Information Center’s (BIC) reservations webpage on rec.gov or by calling the BIC at 928-638-7875. Commercial use authorization (CUA) permit holders can contact the permits office for questions related to their CUA permit at e-mail us
Where can people day hike when the Bright Angel Trail closes?
Visitors can still have a below the rim experience on the Bright Angel Trail, as it will remain open from the Trailhead to nearly 1/2 mile down the trail during the Dec. 1, 2023-April 14, 2024 closure period. Alternatively, visitors can check out other day hike options at Grand Canyon. The Rim Trail stretches nearly 13 miles from the South Kaibab Trailhead to Hermits Rest, featuring numerous overlooks offering panoramic views of the Grand Canyon. It’s wheelchair accessible from Lookout Studio to South Kaibab Trailhead, with various shuttle bus stops along the trail. Visitors looking for day hikes into the canyon can hike down the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point or Cedar Ridge and back or down Hermit Trail to Waldron Basin and back to experience some of the steep and challenging terrain. During the winter months, icy trail conditions are present on the upper reaches of all inner canyon trails. Visitors should not attempt these hikes without assessing conditions and managing risk with foot traction and hiking poles.
Why does Bright Angel Trail have to close? Can I hike around the construction/will there be a detour?
During this closure period, the contractor will be installing water pipe and upgrading the water distribution systems at the Mile-and-a-Half and Three-Mile Rest Houses and Havasupai Gardens. The existing waterline is routed near the Bright Angel Trail through Havasupai Gardens and beyond it by the Plateau Point Trail. The Bright Angel section of the waterline is going to be sliplined, a trenchless rehabilitation method of installing a smaller pipe through the existing pipe. The trail and facilities will need to be closed for workers to complete the work safely and efficiently. No hikers will be allowed to pass through this area under any circumstances. Doing so will be in violation of the park’s closure order and may result in considerable fines and even jail time.
Where is the Rim Trail detour going to be located?
A section of the Rim Trail in front of the Bright Angel Lodge will be closed Nov. 16, 2023-April 4, 2024, and the detour will go around the Bright Angel Lodge buildings. The detour will provide construction workers the necessary space to safely slipline the upper section of the water pipeline from the Rim Trail into the inner canyon. This section of the waterline is being sliplined, which is a trenchless rehabilitation method of installing a smaller pipe through the existing pipe.
Do the Bright Angel Trail closures include the Colorado River Trail?
Yes, the segment from the River Resthouse at Pipe Creek to the Silver Bridge is also known as the Colorado River Trail or River Trail, and the closure will end before Silver Bridge at the River Trail and Silver Bridge junction. The River Trail between Silver Bridge and the South Kaibab Trail will be open and so will the Silver and Black Bridges.
Will more water stations or toilets be available along the South Kaibab Trail while the Bright Angel Trail is closed?
Additional facilities will not be installed along the South Kaibab Trail, but park staff are planning to increase the frequency of maintenance to compost toilet facilities. There is no potable water along the South Kaibab Trail and visitors should plan on bringing all water with them for the duration of their hike.
Are trail closures possible at other times and dates?
Yes, the construction crews will be conducting preparatory tasks for upcoming waterline work, which may result in intermittent delays of up to 30 minutes.
Why is Plateau Point Trail closing for so long?
The waterline is routed near the Bright Angel Trail from the Rim past Havasupai Gardens and along the Plateau Point Trail. Construction crews will need longer time working along the Plateau Point Trail area, as they’ll be transitioning from sliplining the water line to replacing it and installing underground three-phase power. Temporary power and water pipe must first be installed to provide services during the permanent replacement of the water pipe and underground power.
Where in the Phantom Ranch area will there be closures?
Most of the ongoing construction in the Phantom Ranch area will be in NPS administrative areas near existing water utility facilities by the Silver Bridge to the Bright Angel Creek bridge. The construction site in the Phantom Ranch area will be marked and closed to the public. Bright Angel Campground will be closed Dec. 19, 2024-May 9, 2025, and the Silver Bridge will be closed Sept. 15-Dec. 31, 2025.
Coordination is ongoing for other operations in the Phantom Ranch area and any visitor use impacts will be released and added to our project webpage when they’re available. Additional unanticipated construction work or delays have the potential of extending closure periods. A complete list of current park closure information is available on the Grand Canyon Operations Update web page and project related closures are available on the Transcanyon Waterline project web page.
Will I still be able to do my river trip exchange during construction closures?
Yes, the South Kaibab Trail will remain open for regular use to include river trip exchanges. The construction contractor is coordinating with commercial river companies to facilitate planned river trip exchanges.
Will visitors on river trips still be able to use Pipe Creek Beach if there’s a closure in the area?
Park and contractor staff members are coordinating to allow for administrative access as well as ingress or egress for river trips via Pipe Creek Beach. Park staff will coordinate details with the commercial river companies.
Will people still be able to do Rim-to-Rim hikes during the construction closures?
Yes, visitors should still be able to complete Rim-to-Rim hikes during the regular season of approximately May 15-October 15. Most of the trail and campground closures are planned while the North Rim is closed, but the NPS encourages visitors to check the park website and verify if there are any updates to the closure schedule. The South Kaibab Trail and Black Bridge will remain available during the closure period.
I am planning a Rim-to-Rim hike/run in May 2024. Will the Bright Angel Trail be available during this time?
The Bright Angel Trail is scheduled to be reopened April 15, 2024; however, the North Rim and Highway 67 historically reopen May 15. Visitors wanting to complete a Rim-to-Rim in May will need to schedule their itinerary around the North Rim reopening unless they are going to complete a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. The NPS recommends visitors check the Grand Canyon Operations Update web page prior to their visit, as unanticipated construction delays may lead to longer closure periods.
I am planning a backpacking trip along the North Kaibab Trail in 2024. Will the North Kaibab be impacted by these closures?
The construction closures are not anticipated to impact the North Kaibab Trail in 2024. There are campground closures planned in 2024, but they’re scheduled to occur while the North Rim is closed (approximately October 15-May 15). Additional unanticipated construction work or delays have the potential of extending closure periods. A complete list of current park closure information is available on the Grand Canyon Operations Update web page and project related closures are available on the Transcanyon Waterline project web page.
Will the old pipeline be removed when the waterline is replaced?
There will be one section of pipeline, between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood, that will be left in place. It was discovered during the compliance process that removing that section of pipe would cause further damage and may cause negative impacts to natural resources.
What are some of the system upgrades for Havasupai Gardens or the water stations?
The proposed project plan is to upgrade the distribution system and provide year-round water at the Mile-and-a-Half and Three-Mile Rest Houses along the Bright Angel Trail. The water distribution system at Havasupai Gardens will be upgraded including replacing the water stations and fire standpipes.
How has the design aesthetic been considered for new infrastructure at Phantom Ranch?
The facilities will not replicate the historic buildings. The design team consulted with the State Historic Preservation Office and designed them to fit into the aesthetics of the area.
Will engineers need to evaluate the applicable bridges before they begin construction?
Assessments for the bridges are completed.
Review the Transcanyon Water Distribution Pipeline Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact documents on the National Park Service's Planning, Environment and Public Comment site (PEPC). PEPC is an online collaborative tool dedicated to facilitating the National Environmental Policy Act/National Historica Preservation Act process in conservation planning, environmental impact analysis, and informed decision-making.
Additional historical documents, articles, and information related to the Transcanyon Waterline can be obtained by contacting the Grand Canyon Museum Collection or checking the NPS Electronic Technical Information Center.
Some project and historical documents still reference Havasupai Gardens as Indian Garden. On November 10, 2022, the name was officially changed from Indian Garden to Havasupai Gardens. The Havasupai people have actively occupied this area since time immemorial before the land’s designation as a National Park and until the park forcibly removed them in 1926. The renaming from Indian Garden to Havasupai Gardens is out of respect for the undue hardship imposed by the park on the Havasupai people.
Early Water Delivery to the Park
Potable water was transported to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park by train from 1901-32. A variety of water source options were investigated over the years, which included hauling water from a reservoir in Flagstaff, collecting runoff from the San Francisco Peaks and piping it in, to sourcing it from the Colorado River. However, the options weren't feasible due to water rights, legal reasons, or excessive costs.
Pumps were installed at Havasupai Gardens in the 1930s to pump water from there; however, in the 1950s the pumps at Havasupai Gardens could no longer meet the South Rim demand and bringing in water by train resumed to supplement the supply. As visitation increased, this option could no longer meet the demand and it was determined that a new source of water was needed.
Finding a Water Source
Roaring Springs was determined as the best water source option based off existing studies to learn more about the water sources north and south of the Colorado River. Roaring Springs is an underground water supply at an elevation of approximately 5,200 feet on the North Rim and receives a higher level of annual moisture with a slope that's angled toward the canyon to be more easily collected.
Constructing the Waterline
Construction began in January 1965, and most of the equipment used was specifically designed to support the project. The rest of the work was done manually. The waterline from Roaring Springs to Havasupai Gardens was constructed of 6" and 8" aluminum pipe. The line connected at Havasupai Gardens to be pumped up via an iron pipe, previously installed in 1932, to the South Rim.
Flood of 1966
The project was nearing completion a year later when the unthinkable happened – a 1,000-year flood – 15 inches of rain overwhelmed the Inner Canyon. The flood waters carried away trees, boulders, and sections of new aluminum pipe. A survey conducted following the flood determined that approximately 40% of the project was destroyed or missing. The high-water mark from the flood is recorded on the walls of the Phantom Ranch Ranger Station.
The project originally cost $2 million. The price tag to rebuild increased to $5 million, and construction resumed in late 1967.