Canyonlands National Park Working To Update River Management Plan

The National Park Service is updating the management plan for the Colorado River (above) and Green River that run through Canyonlands National Park/NPS, Neal Herbert file

Work is underway to update the more than four-decades-old management plan for the stretches of the Colorado and Green rivers that flow through Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Much has changed since the 1981 plan took effect. The two rivers are seeing more traffic, and climate change is affecting the rivers’ flows. Should any sections of the two rivers be designated wild and scenic under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act? How should commercial use be managed? What about protecting cultural and natural resources in the river corridors?

Park staff is asking for initial input to help shape a plan that will address public and commercial use and resource protection on the rivers. The comprehensive river management plan will identify management strategies and solutions to address changing visitation patterns and increasing demand for commercial services, impacts on cultural and natural resources, and the implications of climate-induced drought on both visitor use and resource management. 

“People who recreate on these rivers know how special they are,” said acting Superintendent Lena Pace. “We encourage everyone to participate in this important process.” 

By incorporating input from civic engagement, the new plan will better develop and evaluate proactive strategies to meet the National Park Service mission while creating equitable access for visitors to experience the beauty and tranquility of the Green and Colorado rivers, a park release said.

This StoryMap describes the desired conditions of the project, the issues the plan will address, and project goals. Some of the goals seek to define three zones in the river corridors: semi-primitive, primitive, and primitive-expeditionary. Click over to the StoryMap to see how the park staff describes these zones.

For those interested in learning more about the project, the park will be holding public meetings:  

    • Stakeholder Meeting (for Utah Guides & Outfitters and other commercial operators) 
      March 6, 2024, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. MST 
      Location: Grand Center, Room 3 
    • General Public Meeting 
      March 6, 2024, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. MST 
      Location: Grand Center, Room 3 

The public comment period ends March 28. This comment period is the initial phase of the plan and future opportunities to provide input will be announced as the plan develops.  You can submit public comments online at the project website.

Among the questions park staff has raised are:

  • What experiences at Canyonlands National Park on the Green and Colorado rivers are important to you?
  • What kinds of experiences do you want future river visitors to have when they visit?
  • What barriers get in the way of you enjoying or visiting the Green and Colorado rivers in Canyonlands National Park?
  • What barriers prevent you from achieving your desired experiences?
  • What strategies do you recommend the planning team consider to address barriers and/or key issues and opportunities?.
  • The Green River and Lower Colorado are zoned Primitive while the Upper Colorado is Semi-primitive to Spanish Bottom. Desired conditions would help to achieve and maintain those resource conditions and visitor experiences. Do you think current conditions match desired conditions? If not, what new management actions and strategies would be needed to preserve these desired conditions?
  • What other thoughts would you like to share with the project team?

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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