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Grand Canyon Officials Release EA on Bright Angel Trailhead Improvements


The view from the Bright Angel Traihead. Renaistre photo via Flickr.

A plan to improve the area around the Bright Angel Trailhead in Grand Canyon National Park is now available for public comment.

The environmental assessment affects an area of roughly 5 acres at the trailhead. Officials are proposing to develop a plaza near the primary trailhead; separate vehicle parking and circulation areas from pedestrian zones; enhance trail connections and wayfinding, and; build a restroom near the proposed plaza and existing mule corral.

Additionally, if additional funds are found in the future, officials want to harden the parking area surface and delineate approximately 70-80 parking spaces, create an interpretive area at Kolb Garage and enhance signage, and revegetate the area.

"The project’s primary objectives include enhancing the area’s signing, shade, seating, and restroom availability, improving paths and connecting trails, eliminating rim edge vehicle parking to provide enhanced pedestrian circulation, and creating a sense of place—an area visitors will immediately recognize as the Bright Angel Trailhead," park officials said in a release.

You can review the EA at this site, and comments can be submitted at that same time or mailed to Steve Martin, Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, Attention: Office of Planning and Compliance, P.O. Box 129 (1 Village Loop for express mail), Grand Canyon, Arizona 86023.

Comments will be accepted through December 21, 2007.


I think they should have series of five signs at the entrance to each trail going down into the canyon. Here's what I'd put at BA:

1) Though It's Fun to Tread...

2) Where Others Have Dared...

3) You'll Be Dead...

4) If You're Not Prepared...

5) Got Water?

Well, perhaps "You'll be sorry..." or "You'll Regret..." would be a better third message -- wouldn't want to scare EVERYONE off, now would we?

How about:

Bright Angel Trail Access: Free

Stupendous Views of Grand Canyon: Free

Bottled Water: $1.00

Helicopter Rescue Off Bright Angel Trail: $5,000

Not dying a slow parched death from dehydration: Priceless

If dehydration were the ONLY obstacle......

Last August, while on a day hike to Plateau Point, I was about half way between the trail head and Mile and a Half House at about 6a, when two early twenties males, sans water or day packs, repleat with sandals, shorts and tank tops came RUNNING past me going down the Bright Angel. I asked them what the hurry was (in a nice tone) and as they kept running one of them answered, "Gotta make it to the North Rim by sundown". Glad to have the idiots past me, I went to the Point, had lunch at Indian Gardens on my way back up, then heard the unnerving sounds of a helicopter overhead. Thinking to myself, "Hey, this is a no-fly zone you moron", I continued my uphill ascent. Watching the copter attempt to land, I was astounded by the drafts they were fighting and they professionalism at keeping the craft stable. Just below Three Mile House, a group of rangers surrounded a hiker and were attempting to gather information about something or other, and by the number of people questioning and the distraught voice of the respondant, I could tell something was terribly amiss. Later that afternoon while strolling the "Parkway" outside the Bright Angel Lodge, I happened across another ranger and amidst the small talk, commented on my experience with the sight of the helicopter earlier in the day. The story I got was that one of my "running buddies" tripped and went over the cliff, some few hundred feet by all accounts, while his friend watched from behind. Between them they would have gladly paid the $5000 rescue tab. He died before the copter even landed. Maybe some mention as to go ol' common sense when hiking could be added to the verbage. Not that anyone would heed the advice.

Re "Not that anyone would heed the advice." Some people DO heed advice, but some don't -- ever. Your know-it-all "running buddies" and their ilk are the kind who don't -- and sometimes, they pay the steepest price for not doing so.

Claire @

"Steepest price"... I like that.

Nothing better than a poignant metaphor!

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, for the rest of the story.......

On the first mule train out from the trail head that same day, not 200' further down the trail past Three Mile House, the first mule behind the wrangler was somehow spooked and threw it's rider, a late teens / early twenties young lady over it's left shoulder, and fortunately for her, down onto a rock pile on the uphill side of the trail. Had she gone off the other shoulder, she too would have been retrieved in a body bag, as there is a sheer drop of maybe 150' at that juncture of the Bright Angel. As it was, she suffered a multiply fractured left arm, dislocated shoulder and some at that time unidentified internal injuries. But seeing as the only rescue copter was already engaged in a fruitless trip to Flagstaff with the afore mentioned trail racer, she was stuck waiting, in quite a state of shock, for it to return and evacuate her from the trail. I passed this scene and offered my assistance as a certified member of the Utah CERTS (emergency respondant team), which is how I was able to obtain the details of the accident from the rescue team on the scene. She was fortuntate enough however, to have survived her brush with what could have been a most tragic event, as I later learned from the same young lady ranger outside the El Tovar who informed me about the fate of the hiker / runner mentioned above. But witnessing TWO helicopter evacuations within a couple of hours on the SAME TRAIL sure gave me the willies. At least hers was an unavoidable incident, as opposed to plain stupidity in the other instance. Little consolation for her and her family.

I recently hiked The Bright Angel Trail out to Plateau Point... very proud of it since I hadn't done anything like that before! : ) Goodness was it beautiful! And I got fabulous photos too... although I don't know who wouldn't! It would be hard to get a bad one.

Anyway, I remember hearing that "Death in the Grand Canyon" was one of the biggest book sellers at the park. I even bought it for my dad who says he can only read a bit at a time because it's rather shocking/morbid otherwise. So, I guess those who buy it either give it away (like me) or don't read if BEFORE they go hike... or stand to close to the edge... or whatever else. : (

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