Water Resources Specialist Chronicles his Colorado River Trip Through the Grand Canyon

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ADWR water resources specialist chronicles Colorado River research trip through the Grand Canyon
August 19, 2020

Editor’s Note: On July 25, 2019, the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, or GCDAMP, sponsored an eight-day Colorado River raft trip through the Grand Canyon for the organization’s stakeholders, which include members of government and science-oriented agencies whose duties include conditional analysis and research of the river.

One of those stakeholders was ADWR Water Resources Specialist Craig McGinnis, a member of the GCDAMP Technical Work Group. The work group provides technical assistance to the Adaptive Management Work Group and consults with the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center in developing criteria and standards for monitoring and research programs.

Craig put together the highly polished video linked below because of his abiding fascination with the canyon and the river and because “I had a good GoPro camera that could do the job -- with eight days of charge on a power cell, of course.”

Craig reports:

In our roles as public servants of the State of Arizona, we help carry the torch of ADWR’s mission – protecting and enhancing Arizona’s water supplies for current and future generations. This mission goes hand in hand with the stewardship of our natural heritage: to best preserve the ecological wonders of our surroundings for posterity. Few would argue against the Grand Canyon as the crown jewel of these Arizona treasures – a natural wonder of the world and reflected in our nickname as the Grand Canyon State.

Beyond our water-related discourse is the stewardship of our rich cultural heritage. The lower reaches of Glen Canyon and the river corridor through Grand Canyon National Park have been used by humans for at least 13,000 years. Today, at least nine contemporary Native American Tribes claim traditional cultural ties to this area, and the park itself contains over 4,000 documented prehistoric and historic sites, with over 400 located in close proximity to the river.

The Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 mandates that the Glen Canyon Dam, just above the upstream boundary of the Park, be operated “in such a manner as to protect, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were established, including, but not limited to natural and cultural resources and visitor use.

The Act identifies water storage and delivery functions as the main function of Glen Canyon Dam. The language of the Act stipulates that dam operationsare prohibited “from interfering with the primary water storage and delivery functions of the Glen Canyon Dam pursuant to laws relating to allocation of the Colorado River.”

To aid in its obligations, the Act also provided for the establishment of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (GCDAMP) to collaboratively manage operations and deliberate on efforts within the river corridor to the benefit of these values.

Every few years, the GCDAMP facilitates an eight-day Integrated Stakeholder River Trip through the Canyon. Characterized as “an exchange of Western scientific values and Native American perspectives,” this trip includes representatives from federal and state agencies, water and power entities, and associated conservation organizations, with traditional knowledge and expertise represented by our associated Tribal colleagues.

As documented in this clip, the 2019 trip embarked July 25 through August 2. Stated objectives for the trip included providing an opportunity for Tribal representatives and GCDAMP stakeholders to learn about current river issues, and for Tribal partners to articulate their respective concerns and perspectives in a field situation.

The group visited various traditional cultural sites, tributaries, and other significant locations in the canyon throughout the trip, supplemented with profound conversations in both individual and small and larger-group settings. Sites visited included a hike to the granaries at Nankoweap (1:02) – which were cut into the sandstone walls around 1100 A.D. – and the confluence of the Colorado and turquoise blue Little Colorado Rivers (1:20), as well as smaller tributaries vital to GCDAMP projects.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more awe-inspiring venue for a “field trip.” While over a week without amenities like running water or electricity seems like a foreign concept to many of us these days, hopefully this video displays the grandeur and importance of stewardship of the Grand Canyon, among the many natural marvels we cherish as Arizonans.

For more in-depth content on the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, visit the GCDAMP  Wiki page. Craig's video chronicle of his trip can be found here.