3/23/2010 11:42:00 AM Editorial: Mule rides will always be a part of Canyon
A mule train makes its way up the Grand Canyon at the South Rim.
One day mule trips to Plateau Point, once part of daily life at the Grand Canyon, could change as part of an alternative being proposed by the National Park Service (NPS), but it may lead to other forms of mule rides that could appeal to a number of visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park - in the form of an above rim ride. With these changes, it is possible that weight limitations will rise, allowing riders up to 225 pounds, an increase to the 200-pound limit. The trips would likely be less strenuous for riders, as there would be no decent into the Grand Canyon itself.
Rides into the Canyon have been an attraction in the area since before it was a national park. Mule trains have utilized Bright Angel Trail since around 1891. Over 20,000 mule riders were said to have taken trips upon the animals by the early 1990s. The rides remain so popular that reservations typically have to be made six months to a year in advance. Besides trekking Canyon visitors down to Phantom Ranch and other locations, the sure-footed creatures have also been utilized for other uses. The animals have been used to deliver mail, as have other stock animals such as horses, to areas within the Canyon like the Hualapai Reservation and Phantom Ranch.
Mules have been made famous at the Canyon thanks to the number of visitors that have ridden atop them at one time or another, including former President Theodore Roosevelt and other celebrities. The creatures have been depicted in Grand Canyon art work and in a number of books as well, including the famous "Brighty of the Grand Canyon," written by Marguerite Henry. The popular young adult novel was made into a film in 1967 starring Joseph Cotton, Dick Foran and Pat Conway.
The environmental assessment for mule operations and stock use is currently available for public comment and review through the NPS. The assessment can be found online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grca. Click on the project's name and scroll through to the public comment area to leave online comments. Comments can also be mailed to Steve Martin, Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, attention: Stock Use EA, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ, 86023. A number of meetings are also planned, including one today at the North Rim. Today's meeting will be held from 4-6 p.m. The North Rim meeting will be held at the Holiday Inn Express, located at 217 South 100 East. A public meeting will also be held tomorrow in Flagstaff from 4-6 p.m. at Little America Hotel, 2515 E. Butler Ave.