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Bright Angel Creek
Follow the stone steps from the campground downto the creek. This is a good place to rest, soak yourfeet, and observe the stream. Most of the water inBright Angel Creek comes from Roaring Springs,located 3,800 feet/1,200 meters below the NorthRim. As park visitation increases, so does thedemand for water. More water is then diverted tothe transcanyon pipeline from Roaring Springs, andthe creeks flow is diminished. This has been espe-cially visible in recent years; annual park visitationnow approaches five million people. The network ofplants and animals that are dependent on the creekssteady flow suffers from the loss.
The ColoradoLike Bright Angel Creek, the Colorado River andadjacent habitat have changed considerably in recentyears.
Exit the campground at the north end, cross thecreek, and continue south to the boat beach near theKaibab Suspension Bridge. If it is winter, youll likelysee people fishing. Notice the thick vegetationaround you and the color of the river. Try soakingyour feet. Most of the year the water temperatureaverages 45F (7 C). This is very different from theenvironment that existed here prior to the 1960s.Why?
Many dams presently impound the Colorado Riverto provide inexpensive and relatively clean hydro-electric power to growing urban populations. SinceGlen Canyon Dam was constructed 100 miles/160 kilometers upriver in 1963, much change hasoccurred. Water is released through the dam from200 feet/60 meters below the surface of Lake Powell,the reservoir formed behind the dam. Water fromthis depth remains cold year-round. Nonnative rain-bow and brown trout, introduced by the NationalPark Service many years ago, now thrive in the cold,clear water. These waters have become one of themost productive trout fisheries in Arizona.
Water volume released through the dam is carefullyregulated, reducing seasonal variations in flow. Inthe absence of spring floods, riparian vegetation hasflourished. Native flora such as mesquite, catclawacacia, willow, and Apache plume thrive, as do non-native species such as tamarisk, which typically colonizes disturbed areas. With its long root system,tamarisk secures a foothold as it competes withnative plants for nutrients in the soil. The resultingmix of native and nonnative species sustains a largeanimal population.
What color is the river today? Consider yourselflucky if it is muddy and truly colorado (a Spanishword meaning reddish). Historically muddy, todaythe river is usually clear and green. Though flood-waters from tributaries below the dam sometimestint the river, most of the sand and silt traditionallytransported by the river now accumulates behindthe dam. Sunlight penetrates the clear river allowingalgae to grow. Introduced crustaceans that feed onthe algae are, in turn, a food source for trout.Recently, bald eagles have come to prey on trout,and now eagles nest at Grand Canyon in increasingnumbers.
Other changes are less benign. Native species of fishare proving unable to adapt to the altered river andare either endangered or already extirpated fromGrand Canyon. Most require warm backwatermarshes to reproduce. These environments areincreasingly rare due to the lack of spring floodingsince the dam began operation. Loss of habitat andextinction of life-forms is more than a local con-cernit is one of the greatest threats facing theworld today.
A net loss in river sediments has reduced the size ofbeaches. In an effort to mediate the effects of thedam, federal and state agencies have experimentedwith water flows, releasing varying amounts of waterinto the river below the dam. The resulting changesto the riparian environment are temporary.Determining appropriate water flows from the dammay lessen some of its negative effects, but as longas the dam remains, native fish and streamside vege-tation will be impacted.
Everyones ResponsibilityThe PhantomRanch area isunique, a lastvestige of ripar-ian habitat inArizona. It alsoboasts a longhistory of
human occupation. In some ways it has remainedremarkably unchangedstill remote, still accessibleonly by foot, mule, or river. But it is a dynamic envi-ronment. Phantom Ranch and Bright AngelCampground, like the rest of the park, are undertremendous pressure from public use. Demand foruse far exceeds the carrying capacity of the fragiledesert and riparian environments. National ParkService rangers at Phantom Ranch, challenged toprovide for the enjoyment of the visitor and theecosystem around you, have embraced numerousstrategies. You also play an important role. Do yourpart. Stay on trails. Dont feed the animals. Carry outyour trash.
Share in the responsibility of preserving this areaand the greater Grand Canyon. As a national park itis part of the heritage we all must protect. Your pres-ence, as the presence of those before you, shapesthis inner canyon region. All who pass through hereare accountable for its future.
Above Photo: Fishing Bright Angel Creek, circa 1941.
Above Photo: The Phantom Ranch Canteen as it lookstoday. NPS photo by Michael Quinn
Published by Grand Canyon National Park in cooperation with Grand Canyon Association. Tom Pittenger, NPS Editor; Ron Short,GCA Art Director. Copyright 2004 Grand Canyon Association,Post Office Box 399, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023. Printed on recycledpaper.
National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Grand Canyon National Park North Rim
PhantomRanchA Walking Tour
Your Historic Walking TourBegin your walking tour at the Kaibab SuspensionBridge. Observe the site of an Indian pueblo 54yards/50 meters north of the bridge. Perhaps threeor four families lived here for 30 to 40 years,hunting and farming where the ranch buildingsstand today. The ancestral Puebloan people whotheir descendants, the Hopi, call Hisatsinom, livedthroughout Grand Canyon for hundreds of years.Dating from approximately A.D. 1050 to A.D.1140, the site reminds us that we are not the firstto discover this inner canyon oasis.
Visited by nonnative people only sporadicallysince the sixteenth century, the canyon has seenrapidly growing numbers of tourists in the past100 years. The completion of the Santa FeRailroad line to the South Rim in 1901 allowedfor regular visitation. This, in combination withthe primitive inner canyon trail network, a legacyof late nineteenth-century mining efforts, provideda means for inner canyon travel.
Rusts CampStroll northward from the pueblo site towardPhantom Ranch. Locate the commercial mule corral opposite Bright Angel Campground. Here,in 1903, David Rust built a small ramada, pitchedseveral tents, and called it Rusts Camp. The mod-est construction was an important step towarddevelopment of this area and attracted growingnumbers of tourists. It was not long before theFred Harvey Company and Santa Fe Railroad hadplans for a luxury guest ranch to replace Ruststent camp.
Phantom RanchDesigned by Mary Colter and constructed in1922, Phantom Ranch provided food, lodging, andcomfort against an austere backdrop. Continuenorth to Phantom Ranch and wander among thecabins. Look for those built mostly of stone.These four cabins and the north half of the lodgeconstituted the Phantom Ranch of 1922. Withinten years the remaining cabins were completed,the lodge enlarged, a recreation center built (theemployee bunkhouse today), and the showerhouse constructed.
The Great Depression
In 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt establishedthe Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to pro-vide jobs during the Great Depression. CCCCamp 818 was established where Bright AngelCampground is today. The CCC played an enor-mous role in the development of the innercanyon; their work forever changed the nature ofthe area.
Notice the boggy patch north of the employeebunkhouse where tall grass still grows today. TheCCC excavated a swimming pool by hand on thisspot in 1934, and reaped the benefit of the pool,as did visitors for many years. Subject to flashflood damage, overuse by growing numbers ofhikers, and increasingly stringent water-qualitylaws, the pool was back-filled in 1972.
Most of the cottonwood trees you see are rem-nants of stands planted by Rust or the CCC. The Clear Creek Trail and River Trail were CCCprojects, as were Bright Angel Campground, theNational Park Service mule corral, River RangerStation, Rock House Bridge, and the transcanyontelephone line.
A Growing ConcernPhantom Ranch continued to grow in response togrowing numbers of hikers. Electricity arrived in1966, putting the noisy and unreliable generatorto rest for good. Visitors could count on evapora-tive coolers in the summer and heat in the winter.The transcanyon pipeline from Roaring Springs,completed in 1970, provided chlorinated drinkingwater to campground and ranch visitors, as wellas all facilities on the North and South Rims. In1981 a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant wascompleted at the mouth of Bright Angel Creek asthe only responsible answer to the needs of largenumbers of visitors. Commercial operationsexpanded as well to include a canteen and fourmodern dormitories for hikers.
Increased visitation necessitated an inner canyonpark ranger force. By the 1960s a year-roundranger presence was established to provide med-ical assistance, law enforcement, and educationfor visitors. The National Park Service trail crewworks year-round, as they have since the 1920s, tokeep the North and South Kaibab and BrightAngel Trails free of rockslides.
Use & ImpactMaintained trails and accommodations, in a virtu-ally inaccessible wilderness, afford hiking oppor-tunities for unprecedented numbers of visitors.But accessibility exacts a pricewith each devel-opment the area around you is further removedfrom its natural setting. Consider the pressureyour very presence has on the inner canyon.Once-wild animals now depend largely on hand-outs for food. Ringtails, squirrels, mice, and deermay eat your unattended food instead of foraging.
Deer can often be seen in the mule corral as well,feasting on hay and grain. The inner canyon deerpopulation may be unnaturally large due to thesedietary supplements.
In response,rangers havetaken measures to encourage allanimals to forage.Metal food storageboxes are providedin each campsiteto keep all food,
trash, and plastic bags out of reach of animals.Feeding animals is illegal and dangerous. Animalsquickly become dependent on handouts. Deerkick and squirrels bite, and many wild animalscarry diseases transmissible to humans.
Take a stroll southward to the campground, onthe west side of Bright Angel Creek. Note thewelded wire fencing around all cottonwood trees.Beavers, native to Bright Angel Creek, utilized thetrees for food and shelter. The trees now providemuch-needed shade for hikers.
As you continue through Bright AngelCampground, observe the reveg area signs,placed where rangers have replanted native vege-tation. The campground was once the sight ofsevere overcrowding and trampling. In 1981 along-term revegetation project was started, and by1983 a permit system was established enforcingstrict use limits in all inner canyon camping areas.Please stay on designated paths to allow nativeplants to recover.
Phantom RanchGrand Canyon National Park
Top Photo: Visitors in front of original Phantom Ranch
main lodge building, circa 1922. Notice the size of the
cottonwood trees. NPS photo
Bottom Photo: The former swimming pool may be a
future archeological site. In 1972 the pool was back-
filled with anything considered unusable at the time
obsolete oil-burning stoves, extra doors, a pool table,
and even a piano. NPS photo by George Grant
Left Photo: Rusts Tent Camp, date unknown. D.D. Rust
Above Right: The CCC blasted the cliff face to create the
River Trail, completed in 1936. NPS photo
Far Right: Browsing mule deer are frequently seen at
Phantom Ranch. NPS photo
Welcome to Phantom Ranch. Havingdescended more than a vertical mile belowthe rim of Grand Canyon, you havereached the bottom of one of the largestcanyons in the world. Carved by theColorado River and sculpted by water frominnumerable storms, the canyon reveals anunparalleled record of Earths history in thecliffs above you. The dark walls in yourimmediate vicinity, metamorphic schist, areclose to two billion years old, nearly halfthe age of planet Earth.
Erosional forces formed the watery oasisthat is the setting for Phantom Ranch andBright Angel Campground. The creek andriver create a lush riparian (streamside)habitat in the midst of the desertone offew such habitats remaining in Arizona.Many species of insects, amphibians, birds,mammals, and plants thrive in this moistenvironment.
Though a remote and rugged setting, thePhantom Ranch area has long been a desti-nation for humans. People have modifiedthis area for thousands of years to makethe inner canyon more accessible, to makeit home. Today Phantom Ranch, like therest of Grand Canyon National Park, repre-sents a mix of natural processes touchedby human intervention.