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Zion permits

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Flatiron, Aug 15, 2018.

  1. Alex Temus

    Alex Temus

    from the zionnps instagram account:

    The Angels Landing trail is anticipated to reopen mid to late September. Our trails crew is hard at work. The storm which washed out the retaining wall and trail section also destroyed the check dams built over 100 years ago to protect the trail. So far the crew has hauled up about 90 cubic yards of rock to build 4 new check dams to protect the trail from the next storms. The crew has stabilized the ends of the trail and are beginning to build a new custom bridge to span the gap where the trail and retaining wall washed completely away. •
    This may be one of the most scenic work sites in the country, but it means that all building material must be hauled on the trail about 1 mile, and up over 660 feet, or about 55 flights of stairs, or twice the Statue of Liberty National Monument, pedestal included. We use small tracked vehicles and some very fit and skilled staff to do the work safely, in a way that protects the historic aspects of trail, and the magnificence of the canyon. We look forward to reopening the trail.
  2. hank moon

    hank moon kinetically bulbous

  3. Canyonero


    I don't know, I like it. Not my favorite, but still very good. Except the first 15 minutes from the canyon rim. I could do without that.

    I don't think it is quite as good as it is popular. I also don't think it needs quite as strict of a permit system. I think you could pretty easily double the capacity from two 6 person groups to four 6 person groups without any terrible effect. I mean, 60 a day in Pine Creek but only 1/5th that amount in Mystery? I'm curious how that decision was reached. (Any idea @ratagonia ?) In my opinion, it would be better to cut Pine Creek to 36 and boost Mystery to 24.
    zul likes this.
  4. ratagonia


    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Y2000, before canyoneering became a thing.

    (warning: wonkiness ahead)

    Zion's General Management Plan was written by a team at the Denver Regional Office after extensive interviews with ZNP staff. They established important parameters for the more detailed Backcountry Management Plan which could be finessed, but not ignored. They did not necessarily have much understanding of the Zion backcountry and how it is special (I conclude from their work); instead, they applied the NPS general understanding of wilderness and Wilderness, and NPS's nationwide policies for wilderness management.

    When the Backcountry Management Plan was completed in 2006 (or so), it was put together by ZNP staff including backcountry staff, but without substantial additional resources (ie, "in their spare time"). Contrary to my opinion at the time, I think they did a good job and we landed at a reasonable solution that has proven durable. A bit of a pain, but the main goal (preservation of Wilderness value) has been successful.

    NPS wilderness management is an established style that is fit onto each Park with some adjustments. But overall, making a style and then applying it to 200 parks that vary widely is going to be a clumsy process. The framework is to delineate zones based on "current use levels", and then hold use levels in those zones to what the resource can take. There are TWO zones for the backcountry, Primitive and Pristine. Pine Creek, Keyhole, Subway, The Narrows, and Orderville made it into the Primitive zone and thus have considerably higher quota numbers. We tried to get them to include a few more quite-popular canyons (Mystery, Behunin, ?) in the Primitive Zone arguing that the use levels in those canyons by 2006 was around 50 per day; and that having a few higher-use canyons was consistent with the goals of the plan - but they did not sign on to these suggestions.

    ZNP staff DID, thankfully, finesse the use levels so that we are, for example, allowed to have more than ONE group in a Pristine Zone canyon per day (which was the Denver Office original plan). One parameter I did not appreciate at the time is that once the plan is in place, there would be very little desire to change the plan, to make adjustments. Adjustments HAVE been made which make it better, but ZNP is un-able to make significant changes to the plan (which is probably good).

    Specifically, Pine Creek is adjacent to the road, therefore preservation of its wilderness characteristics is not a high priority. The route is especially durable to human traffic. In my 19 years in Pine Creek, there are changes in the canyon, but really none caused by human traffic. It is one of the best places to do rescues. I think it a wise decision to put as many beginner canyoneers in Pine Creek as can be stuffed into a canyon. There are a large number of rescues in Pine Creek. Better there than in Mystery.

    On the other hand, Mystery is far from the road and very difficult to perform rescues in. The pristine nature of Mystery Canyon has been effectively preserved by the strict quota, and by the arduousness of the journey. This is also one of my first canyons in Zion and I have 19 years of history there... and it is in much the same shape as 19 years ago. I think this is good. One does bump into other groups (at least my groups do) a bit in Mystery, but it does not have the feeling of being crowded. Sometimes you have to wait at the Mystery Springs rappel, but generally not for long. There seem to be very very few rescues in Mystery Canyon - most of the ones I am aware of are self-rescues, or by Bo on his day-off. I do know there are also fairly frequent incidents of low-skill groups being helped by higher-skill groups. It is much more "Backcountry" than Pine Creek.

    In conclusion, as much as I rarely advocate for the status quo, I think in this case, the Backcountry Plan is working about as well as it can.

    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  5. Kip Marshall

    Kip Marshall Bshwakr


    Well put. Excellent summary.
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