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Zion National Park's New Backcountry Management Plan Reduces Daily Traffic in The Narrows


Zion's new backcountry plan cuts in half the number of day hikers through Zion Narrows. Photo by nkanner1 via flickr.

It won't be quite so crowded in Zion Narrows under the new backcountry management plan adopted by Zion National Park. And, group sizes for remote canyoneering permits also have been cut.

The revised plan for the park's 145,000 acres of backcountry took effect January 1. According to Zion Superintendent Jock Whitworth, the plan "incorporates standards to measure the health of natural and cultural resources as well as visitor wilderness experience and creates a framework that allows the park to adjust use limits and other management actions as the condition of park resources change."

Here's a glimpse at the plan's highlights:

* Use limits will increase by 50 percent in many backcountry areas, including the Left Fork of North
> Creek (the Subway);

* Use limits in areas with nesting Mexican spotted owls will vary by season, with higher use limits allowed outside the nesting season;

* Use limits could increase in canyons, such as Spry Canyon, when efforts to curtail erosion have been successful;

* Use limit for through day hikes through the length of the Zion Narrows will be reduced from 80 to 40 people per day. The number of permitted overnight groups in the Narrows will remain at 12;

* Group size limits for remote canyoneering routes will be reduced to 6;

* Group size limits elsewhere in the backcountry will remain at 12;

* On-line permits will be available three days prior to the trip date;

* Campsites will be designated in the Coalpits Wash area;

* The popular alcove campsite in the Zion Narrows will be closed and relocated nearby to reduce flash flood danger.

For additional information on backcountry travel in Zion, check out this site.


Does the three-day-rule for online permits mean, that no one can plan their backcountry trip in Zion more then three days ahead? This won't be popular by visitors from out of state or even international visitors. If you pla a two weeks holiday in southern Utah and northern Arizona, you want to make a reservation of the one big backcountry trip weeks, possibly months in advance, to plan your whole traveling around it.

Good question, MRC. Some explanation:

The on-line system was set up for Zion's frequent backcountry users. Those who qualify for the Zion Express Permit Program can go on-line three days prior to their trip and download their permit, as opposed to having to go into a visitor center for the permit, where backcountry users also receive a tutorial on Zion's backcountry.

To qualify for the program, you must visit the backcountry desk one time every 3 calendar years and complete a simple 10 minute program.

50% increase in the subway? that's nuts. that route is already too crowded during the season when you don't need a wetsuit. i didn't read or comment on the plan, but that seems insane. i guess you can't trust the park service to really preserve an area. i say this because i've had to wait in line at certain obstacles on that route, and i've only hiked it 3 times. for the rest of you hiking the subway from now on, bring a book (but waterproof it before the hike.) start at the logical hour to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms, and you'll be waiting at the three rope areas. and, it's fragile riparian, with tons of frogs and fish and i'm sure the sunscreen slathered hikers won't do much damage to the area. white roses, ahoy!

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