Navajo Nation attempting to build a tramway to the Little Colorado River


PO Box 1934

The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided gorge carved...

Flagstaff, AZ  86002

(928) 773-1075 phone

(928) 773-8523 fax

Yá’át’ééh fellow river guides, boaters and Canyon lovers,

As I am writing this note, the Navajo Nation government is seriously contemplating approving a multi-million dollar tourism development at the Confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers called “Grand Canyon Escalade.”   This past spring Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with Confluence Partners, LLC. to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed development which would include:

·         420 acres on the rim (resort hotel, commercial/retail space, RV park and other amenities)

·         3.5 acres down at river level (including an aerial tramway with gondolas to transport people from the rim down to the river, a restaurant, an 1100 ft. elevated “river walk” along the river, and an amphitheater).

If approved, the tribal government expects 3 million visitors as soon as 2015* on the East Rim of Grand Canyon – one of the last areas with no significant development.

Why should you be concerned?

Well, if the potential visual impact of a tramway snaking its way down the canyon walls and a restaurant at the bottom of Grand Canyon isn’t enough to concern you greatly, here are a few more reasons….

·         First and foremost – this is GRAND CANYON – one of the seven NATURAL wonders of the world.  It is Grand Canyon River Guides’ belief that the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River offer an experience of wildness and connection between the human spirit and the land that can be equaled in few places on earth today. We are caretakers of this wilderness experience so it is up to us to raise our voices.  If the Navajo Nation government approves this development, the integrity and sanctity of the visitor experience to the Confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers will be severely compromised and degraded.

·         The Little Colorado River corridor and confluence is culturally and spiritually significant to ALL of the affiliated tribes who hold Grand Canyon sacred.  Grand Canyon is the place of emergence into this world for the Hopi and Zuni tribes, it is the homeland for the Navajo, Paiute, Hualapai and Havasupai peoples, and it is a living, sacred place for all affiliated tribes encompassing the springs, the plants, the animals and other resources that are such an important part of traditional and ceremonial practices.

·         A fragile, delicately balanced ecosystem is at stake.  Development of this magnitude cannot occur without significant adverse impacts that are exacerbated by associated problems such as light and noise pollution.  The Little Colorado River confluence area is also home to the endangered humpback chub.

·         The National Park Service (NPS) and the Navajo Nation disagree on the boundary issue.  The NPS contends that the boundary is located one-quarter mile east from the historic high water line on the Colorado River’s eastern bank.  The Department of the Interior’s Solicitor’s Opinion upholds this interpretation as does the BLM which critically reviewed the opinion during the construction of the new Marble Canyon bridge, and again found it valid. The developer contends that the boundary is where the vegetation ends at the water line.

·         Navajo Nation residents in the former Bennett Freeze area are in danger of being evicted if the development moves forward.  It is important to note that the Bodaway/Gap Chapter of the Navajo Nation recently voted against the proposed tourism development, so there is not a blanket mandate from the Navajo people to support this plan.

What can YOU do?

Although this issue seems so outlandish that it couldn’t possibly happen, we cannot ignore it for fail to speak out.  This is not just a Navajo issue. This is a Grand Canyon protection issue we all should be concerned about and one that NEEDS your voice of opposition.

Write an email AND a letter to:

ADDRESS:                                                                                                        ADDRESS:

President Ben Shelly                                                                                     The Navajo Times

Post Office Box 7440                                                                                    Highway 264 & Route 12
Window Rock, Navajo Nation, AZ  86515                                            Window Rock, AZ 86515–0310

EMAIL:                         Email:



We also encourage you to write a letter voicing your concerns to the Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park.  We want him to know he has our support for preserving park values and resources for future generations.  He must stand firm.



Superintendent David Uberuaga

Grand Canyon National Park

PO Box 129

Grand Canyon, AZ  86023-0129


How can you learn more about this issue?


*An AP article with the artist’s rendering of the aerial tramway can be found at: 



Tramway development at LCR Confluence

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