For over twenty years National Park Service (NPS) personnel and commercial river guides have joined together on Co-operative Resource trips in Grand Canyon National Park. These trips began as volunteer opportunities for river guides to give back to the valuable natural resources of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon, and a way for guides to interact with and get to know the NPS employees that actively manage the resources. According to Mark Pillar of Arizona River Runners, the long-time Colorado River outfitter began participating in Co-operative Resource trips in 1991, donating their facilities and equipment year after year and drawing in guides from other river outfitters. Pillar says, “Over the years, these trips continued and evolved to give each outfitter a chance to outfit and actually pay their guides to participate. Although the funding and acronyms may have changed, the spirit of the trips remained the same – Grand Canyon outfitters and guides working alongside NPS personnel for the greater good of the Grand Canyon River Corridor.”
Maintaining a pristine river corridor is an ongoing effort in the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon rafting guides actively work on a daily basis to minimize their passenger impacts during the rafting season, but with the help of NPS, they are given the opportunity to give back to the resource by actively managing the impacts that occur over time by commercial and private boaters. Work on Co-operative Resource trips may involve improvement of river trails, campsite and archaeological site stabilization, social trail obliteration, invasive plant removal or archaeological site monitoring. Joining with NPS personnel on these restorative missions fosters camaraderie, understanding and the chance to interact one-on-one to manage the Grand Canyon’s natural resources.
In February of 2012, Arizona River Runners completed a 19 day Co-operative Resource trip focused on archaeological monitoring over 226 river miles from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek. Six Arizona River Runners guides ran the boats and logistically supported a crew of 7 NPS archaeologists and an NPS hydrologist. Over 170 archaeological sites were monitored over the course of the trip. Planning for the trip began months ahead of time in order to create an itinerary that would allow the archaeologists to meet their goals efficiently, as well as mapping out the logistics of food and gear required for the cold weather trip.
As a participant in the Colorado River trip, Pillar says, “This trip has given our staff a firsthand knowledge and insight regarding specific areas in the Canyon along the river corridor, and how these sites pertain to Native Americans.” He points out there are hundreds of sites throughout the Canyon that have historical and present day ties to the Hopi, Navajo, Paiute, Zuni, Havasupai and Hualapai tribes, and visiting the sites with NPS archaeologists gave the river guides a deeper understanding of the physical and cultural sensitivity of these sites within the Grand Canyon. “The cooperation and sharing of skills and information gave archaeologists and guides alike a great appreciation for each other and the commitment to the Canyon that each group possesses,” explains Pillar. “This Co-operative trip was a complete success, thanks to NPS personnel and the guides!”