Aerial Mapping of the Colorado River over Memorial Day Weekend

Release Date:

The USGS will collect high-resolution aerial imagery over Grand Canyon National Park for approximately one week beginning Saturday, May 29, to document, observe and track long-term ecosystem changes in the Colorado River. Visitors along the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park may see and hear aircraft more frequently during this time.

Water released from Glen Canyon Dam will be reduced to 8,000 cubic feet per second beginning Friday, May 28, and will continue for the duration of the image collection. This period of steady flows will not affect the monthly or annual release volumes from Lake Powell through Glen Canyon Dam. The flows should not cause a disturbance to recreational river users, as they will stay within the normal range of operations for this time of year.

The aircraft used in this mapping effort is equipped with a specialized camera and a highly accurate GPS. The imagery will be used to identify changes to the shoreline, camping beaches and vegetated areas along the Colorado River. These new images will be compared to older images as a means of monitoring the effectiveness of adaptive management actions associated with Glen Canyon Dam operations.

“By having these overflight mapping efforts every few years, it allows us to see how Grand Canyon is changing,” says Joel Sankey, USGS research geologist. “These observations are vital for guiding management of the Colorado River.”

The aircraft will follow all guidelines established by the Federal Aviation Administration and Grand Canyon National Park, and the aircraft will be operated by experienced pilots specially trained for low-level flight.

The data collection effort is part of a collaboration between the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, Bureau of Reclamation, Western Area Power Administration, Grand Canyon National Park, and stakeholders of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program.

Visit the project website for more information.