North Rim to open May 15 with limited services
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park will open as scheduled May 15, but with limited visitor services and water conservation measures in place after a break in the North Rim water pipeline.
The damaged water line does not affect South Rim or Phantom Ranch operations.
A rockslide from a winter storm took out more than 300 feet of the North Rim water pipeline and damaged the North Kaibab Trail. This is believed to be the most significant damage to the North Rim water pipeline in over 20 years. The North Rim pipeline transports water from Roaring Springs to the North Rim and is operated from approximately May to November.
Park Superintendent Chris Lehnertz said the park is working to ensure that everyone on the North Rim will have available drinking water and that water is available for public safety and structural fire requirements.
“Water is the source of life and the break in the North Rim water pipeline creates a serious situation for operations on the north side of the canyon,” she said.
Currently, the only public water supply available on the North Rim is stored in water-holding tanks located nearby. Park staff anticipates it could take around 45 work days to replace the missing water pipeline, repair other leaks and get water pumped to the North Rim.
Access to the work area is extremely challenging — the missing pipeline location is on the side of a dangerous and steep cliff. Helicopter support, fall-protection equipment and other required safety materials are being utilized for work crew safety.
“The priority of the park’s response to the incident is minimizing risk and addressing the well-being of employees, partners and visitors, while doing all we can to mitigate this situation,” Lehnertz said.
The National Park Service (NPS) has begun hauling water to the North Rim. NPS crews and equipment, as well as personnel and equipment from other national park units, in addition to local contractors, are being utilized to support the repair work. Work is being coordinated with the Arizona Department of Transportation for truck activity on Highway 67.
Lehnertz said the crews are working in partnership with North Rim concessioners, including Forever Resorts and Grand Canyon Trail Rides, as well as partners such as the Grand Canyon Association to determine an appropriate operating strategy without the availability of pumped water to the area.
“Water conservation measures are being implemented by the park and all partners on the North Rim,” she said.
The Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim, a Forever Resorts property, will commence day-use operations with limited food and beverage services beginning May 15, with overnight accommodations to begin May 26.
“We have put thoughtful consideration into managing this incident. It is unfortunate that overnight accommodations with the North Rim Lodge for 11 days are being cancelled, and we recognize the inconvenience this is for visitors,” Lehnertz said.
The North Rim campground, which is managed by the National Park Service, will begin operations as scheduled May 15 with available potable drinking water and portable toilets. The North Rim grocery store, gas station and post office will be open, but the public laundry and shower facilities will remain closed.
Grand Canyon Trail Rides offered at the North Rim will also open for business May 15. The North Rim Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Association bookstore will be open as scheduled, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with a variety of ranger programs offered. The backcountry information center will be open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Crews are working on slope stabilization above the location of the pipeline break to ensure a safe work area for repairing the pipeline. The unstable rock and debris are falling down canyon and have potential to land on the North Kaibab Trail, including very large rocks. For the safety of hikers, the North Kaibab Trail is currently closed at Redwall Bridge from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily while crews are working.
Trail work is also being conducted to repair over 800 feet of trail and eight retaining walls that were damaged. The trail is anticipated to be open to all use by late April, but hikers should anticipate some minor delays as work may continue. NPS emphasizes the importance of staying on designated trails at all times and hikers should not attempt to go over or around a closure. Trail users should pay attention to directions from park rangers, volunteers, and signs placed along the trail.
Updated trail information about the North Kaibab Trail is available at www.nps.gov/grca, on Twitter @GrandCanyonNPS, or calling the recorded information line at (928) 638-7688. More information about trail access and permits can be found by calling the Backcountry Information Center at 928-638-7875.