River Campsites in Grand Canyon National Park

Science Center Objects

Sandbars have been used as campsites by river runners and hikers since the first expeditions to the region more than 100 years ago. Sandbar campsites continue to be an important part of the recreational experience for the more than 25,000 hikers and river runners that visit the Colorado River corridor each year. Because the Colorado River is dominated by bedrock cliffs and steep talus slopes, sandbars provide unique areas along the river that are flat, relatively free of vegetation, easily accessible by river runners, and able to withstand high usage with negligible impact.

Campsite Monitoring

Since 1990, the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center in cooperation with Northern Arizona University has been monitoring sandbars by topographic survey (http://www.gcmrc.gov/sandbar/). Beginning in 1998, campsite area has also been measured on a subset of the sandbar monitoring sites. Campsite areas are defined as areas that are flat (less than 8 degree slope), smooth (not rocky), and clear of dense vegetation. This monitoring has shown changes in campsite area caused by vegetation expansion and sandbar erosion/deposition.

Same sandbar in 2008 and in 2011 in Colorado River

Photograph of sandbar about 45 miles downstream from Lees Ferry, Arizona showing river party camping on large sandbar deposited by the 2008 high-flow experiment (left) and again in August 2011 (right) when the size of the sandbar and campsite was much smaller . (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

Data and Resources

Campsites in Grand Canyon National Park:

 Web application for viewing campsites and other geospatial data in Grand Canyon: https://grandcanyon.usgs.gov/gisapps/cmv-app-master-wret/viewer/index.html

Web application for viewing the predicted level of inundation for a 41,000 ft3/s high-flow experiment: https://grandcanyon.usgs.gov/portal/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=13c8070db92046d4ac3825decb1f0ca7

Sandbar and campsite monitoring photographs: https://grandcanyon.usgs.gov/gisapps/sandbarphotoviewer/RemoteCameraTimeSeries.html

Grand Canyon River Guides Adopt-a-beach photographs: https://grandcanyon.usgs.gov/gisapps/adopt-a-beach/index.html