grand canyon

Grand Canyon Backcountry Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement

After five years of work, Grand Canyon National Park has released the 628 page Backcountry Management Plan (BMP) draft for public comment. The last BMP was released in 1988 and did not address canyoneering. This updated plan considers newer recreational activities, like technical canyoneering. It makes adjustments to Park management to better protect the environment.

Technical canyoneering in Grand Canyon involves all of the activities usually found when canyoneering in other areas, but there are additional complexities unique to Grand Canyon. The terrain is generally far more difficult to traverse than other canyoneering destinations. While day use canyoneering is common in the Marble Canyon area, the big, bold classic slots all require difficult multi-day backpacking access. Many require river-assisted travel (packrafts) to complete routes.

A link to the BMP documents is provided below. We invite all canyoneers to review the BMP in detail. Public comments are due by February 29, 2016 via the NPS website link below. In order to aid your review, the Coalition of American Canyoneers (CAC) is reviewing the BMP and preparing a draft position statement. We will post this draft in early January for members to review and consider. While most canyoneers are likely to post their comments after the position statement is published, feel free to post any BMP related questions or comments on the CAC Facebook page: CAC FB page or send an email directly to the organization at We look forward to your feedback.

National Park Service Meeting

The National Park Service (NPS) is holding a public meeting in Flagstaff, AZ on Monday, December 7th to answer the public’s questions about the BMP:

DoubleTree Hotel, 1175 W. Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ • From 4:00 to 7:00 pm

While it’s short notice, we encourage canyoneers close to Flagstaff to attend. We intend to ask the NPS to hold another public meeting in late January, preferably on the North Rim side of Grand Canyon, to accommodate a more thorough review of the document and to bring the meeting closer to the majority of our members who live in California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.


The BMP considered four alternatives: Alternative A does nothing allowing the status quo to continue; Alternative B is preferred by the NPS and attempts to strike the “best” balance between recreation and environmental protection; Alternative C favors higher recreational use; while alternative D favors greater environmental protections. The following broad-brush issues are proposed to be regulated in the BMP:

1. The use of packrafts on the Colorado River for slot canyon access/egress.
2. Access to Grand Canyon slots via lands controlled by Native American tribes.
3. Road closures that threaten reasonable access to the rims of Grand Canyon.
4. Closures of certain slot canyons in deference to Native American tribes.
5. Rigorous anchoring requirements to follow Wilderness standards.
6. Increased regulation for day use canyoneering.

Backcountry Management Plan Documents & public comment site