It’s no secret that the Grand Canyon region has been experiencing drought conditions in varying intensities for the past twenty years or more. The impacts are many, including a greater wildfire threat in tinder dry forests, the dwindling flow of life-sustaining seeps and springs, and increasingly fickle water sources for those recreating in the backcountry, just to name a few.
The winter-in-progress has been exceptionally dry, with little rain since September, and just a few measureable snow events to dampen the parched landscape. For hikers and backpackers, the snow-free trails have provided an extended fall hiking season on the half dozen Grand Canyon trails that tumble from South Rim to the Colorado River.
For my fellow landscape photographers flocking to the overlooks to capture the canyon in winter splendor, the windows of opportunity have been few. I was able to make a few successful captures after last weekend’s modest storm while scouting shooting locales for an upcoming photography workshop.
Visitation on the rim has been brisk, with local hotels, restaurants, and other visitor services enjoying a sustained spike in traffic during what are historically the slowest months of the year.
With history as a guide, winter precipitation could come roaring back as it did last year, treating the ecosystem to a few feet of snowmelt to bank until the summer rains begin in July.
Time will tell, but if the specter of slick roads and trails have kept you from enjoying the park between the winter holidays and spring break, this may be the year for you to plan your visit.
Speaking of droughts, the Department of the Interior has announced a new acting director for the National Park Service, replacing acting director Mike Reynolds who was assigned after the resignation of Jon Jarvis in January of 2017. Secretary Zinke’s appointment of Paul Daniel Smith is being met with jeers from conservationists in light of a 2006 incident in which he authorized the clearing of trees on public land at the request of a wealthy park neighbor. Follow this link for details: