Canyon Sketches Vol 17 - February 2010

Private Boaters Team Up with NPS Staff
to Rehabilitate Lees Ferry's Private Boaters Campsite

by Allyson Mathis

A man and a woman with tools improving the Lees Ferry Private Boaters Campsite. Feb 2010
Improving the private boaters camp.


The preservation of Grand Canyon’s natural and cultural resources is the responsibility of both National Park Service employees and park visitors.

Park staff protect endangered species, rehabilitate disturbed areas, monitor springs and seeps, manage the park’s museum collection, and take other actions to protect the park’s natural and cultural resources.

Park users can follow Leave No Trace principles as they ensure that their enjoyment of the canyon doesn’t impair park resources.

Sometimes NPS employees and park visitors work side-by-side to preserve park resources in special projects in which volunteers team up with park staff.

3 men rebuilding pathway to boater's camp.
Rebuilding the path to camp.


A recent project to rehabilitate the private boaters camp at Lees Ferry is a good example of direct collaboration between park staff and park users to protect park resources.

Five members of the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association joined staff from Grand Canyon’s Division of Science and Resource Management and the Canyon and River Districts of the Division of Visitor and Resource Protection on Saturday and Sunday, February 6th and 7th to improve the private boaters camp at Lees Ferry while protecting the area’s fragile riparian vegetation.

Grand Canyon National Park completes projects such as the Lees Ferry private boaters camp rehabilitation as part of the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP).

Boats at the Lee's Ferry Private Boaters Camp.
Boats in camp.


The CRMP guides recreational use management of the Colorado River while conserving park resources and visitor experience. The National Park Service monitors and rehabilitates river campsites and other areas to address impacts from visitation. The NPS works with partners including river guides, outfitters and private boaters to protect the Colorado River while enhancing recreational opportunities.

The private boaters camp at Lees Ferry is used by participants on noncommercial river trips the night before their trip launch. This informal camping area needed rehabilitation as designated trails had become overgrown, social trailing was extensive and space to accommodate two private trips at the same time had become scarce.

Removing the overgrowth.
Removing the overgrowth.

nps photo by allyson mathis

Grand Canyon National Park Outdoor Recreation Planner Vanya Pryputniewicz said, “We had two primary objectives for this project.

"One, we wanted to make some important improvements to the Lees Ferry camp to make it representative of the camps river runners will use downstream. The park has made improvements to a number of river camps, such as at Soap Creek, as part of the CRMP. Ultimately, we would like the Lees Ferry camp to be more like the Soap Creek camp, with well defined tent pads, and a kitchen area in order to reduce social trailing and damage to native vegetation.

"Secondly, the park really wanted an opportunity to work with members of the private boating community. We’ve worked with commercial outfitters and guides on a regular basis, and wanted to work with the private boaters on a river restoration project. The Lees Ferry camp seemed to be a perfect opportunity to do so.”


Gary and Helen Hickman of Prescott, AZ, Richard Bryant of Ivins, UT, Ron Smith of Steamboat Springs, CO, David Schuster of Minturn, Co, and Leah Bloom of Grand Canyon, AZ joined park staff at Lees Ferry. The project was led by Pryputniewicz and Restoration Biologist Kassy Theobald. NPS crew members included Jake Blackwell, Dave Loeffler, Mike Harris, Brian Bloom, Maddie Tighe, and Marc Yeston.

Volunteer at work digging in camp.
Gary Hickman working in camp.

nps photo by allyson mathis

The private boaters’ involvement in the project began when Wilderness Coordinator Linda Jalbert attended the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association (GCPBA) annual meeting in Flagstaff in November 2009. Jalbert introduced the project and invited GCPBA members to participate as volunteers.

Restoration Biologist Kassy Theobald said, “This volunteer opportunity was full almost as soon as the announcement went out, which shows the level of stewardship and commitment that members of the boating communities feel towards the canyon. We had a great group of volunteers who did a fantastic job, and we accomplished our major goals. We’ll continue to maintain and make further improvements at the private boaters camp, but this was a great beginning.”

Leveling tent pads.
Helen Hickman leveling a pad.


The crew constructed trails and tent pads, a fence adjacent to the roadside parking area, and began to delineate a second area for a river kitchen.

Pryputniewicz said, “The private boaters camp really needed this work. There was a network of social trails, and not enough tent pads for two groups to camp there. We still need to do more work there, but we made good progress on the project. Plus it was great to be able to work with boaters on a project that leads not only to a better camping spot for them, but protects park resources.

"Sometimes people view park management as an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ situation between visitors and the NPS, when really we work together because we all love the canyon and want to protect it as we enjoy it.”

Richard Bryant constructing fence
Richard Bryant constructing fence.

nps photo by allyson mathis

Volunteer Bryan said, "I appreciated the chance to work with the NPS personnel and felt they were open to suggestions and input from the volunteers. It was a good chance to meet the folks from the various NPS divisions and learn about the various projects taking place in the river corridor.

'I have used Lee's Ferry campsite area and wanted to be a part of the effort to improve it. The impacts to the vegetation should be reduced and camping improved by our efforts."


Open Transcript 


Video narration Canyon Sketches 17, February 2010. Grand Canyon National Park Grand Canyon Private Boater's Association Teams Up with NPS Staff to Rehabilitate Lees Ferry’s Private Boater’s Campsite by Allyson Mathis

Lees Ferry is where boaters put in for their Grand Canyon Colorado River journey. Excitement and anticipation fills the air as groups gear up for their long-awaited river trips. The launch ramp is a flurry of activity each day with rigging for both commercial and noncommercial river trips. Groups with noncommercial river permits may camp the night before their trip starts just downstream of the launch ramp in the Lees Ferry Private Boater’s camp. In the morning, boaters meet with the Lees Ferry ranger for their pre-trip check in the morning to get an early start to their first day on the river.

The Lees Ferry private boater’s camp is in an area of native vegetation, including cottonwood trees, seep willow, coyote willow, and arrowweed. Like many river camps in Grand Canyon, groups use this camp almost every night. As part of the Colorado River Management Plan, the park has the responsibility to mitigate impacts of human use in camps in order to protect the natural and cultural resources found in the river corridor. When working on camps, park crews construct or rehabilitate trails, delineate tent pads, and eliminate social trails. These actions make it easier for river runners who follow the Leave No Trace principle to Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces to minimize their impacts on park resources.

Problems at the private boaters camp consisted of extensive social trails, overgrown designated trails, and a lack of space for two private groups to camp there at the same time. The rehabilitation project was a true collaborative effort, with volunteers recruited through the Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association joining with staff from Grand Canyon National Park. The team was divided into four work crews, each with a specific task. NPS boatman Jake Blackwell and volunteer Rich Bryant constructed a section of wood fence adjacent to the road to delineate parking boundaries. The newly constructed fence will also direct campers onto the main trail into the camp and reduce social trailing so that native vegetation will be able to recover.

NPS Boatman Dave Loeffler worked with volunteers Ron Smith and Gary Hickman to line a section of trail from the road into the main camp with logs in order to clearly designate the trail. These standard trail construction techniques are proven methods that encourage the use of designated trails while helping to minimize the development and use of social trails.

A crew consisting of Outdoor Recreation Planner Vanya Pryputniewicz and volunteers David Schuster and Helen Hickman constructed new tent pads and rehabilitated the main trail from the launch ramp into the private boater’s camp.

Canyon District Ranger Brian Broom worked with Restoration Biologist Kassy Theobald and volunteer Leah Bloom to construct a second kitchen area near the river. The park encourages groups to set up their kitchens and their tents on durable surfaces close to the river, to keep camps from growing larger with continued use.

While the Lees Ferry private boaters camp still needs additional work, the NPS crews and dedicated volunteers made good progress towards achieving two delineated and well maintained camps river runners launching their Grand Canyon adventure.

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3 minutes, 53 seconds

In early February, 2010, five volunteers from Grand Canyons private boating community worked side-by-side with Grand Canyon National Park staff to improve the private boater camp at Lees Ferry. Crews defined camping pads, constructed trail and built fencing to define the parking area. The goal of the work was reduce human impacts to the areas riparian vegetation and to enlarge the camp to accommodate two groups at a time. The members of the private boating community got to know park employees.


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