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Mules In Grand Canyon National Park: Should They Stay?


Grand Canyon National Park officials are asking for public input on the continued use of mules in the park. NPS photo.

Mules in Grand Canyon National Park. They can be a bane, and they can be a beast of burden that makes your trek down into the chasm somewhat easier. Now park officials want to know if mules should continue to be utilized in the Grand Canyon.

Folks who have more than a few hikes down into the canyon can speak harshly of mules, largely for the mess they make with their urine on the trails but also for the spacing of steps in the trails to accommodate the beasts. But mules no doubt have made the canyon accessible for folks who otherwise wouldn't have ventured down the trail.

So what do you think? Grand Canyon officials are now accepting comments on mule operations and stock use in the park as they begin to develop an environmental assessment. The presence and use of mules in and around the canyon is a long-standing tradition and one that the park would like to continue.

But park officials also are interested in continuing to provide opportunities for stock use in a manner that is sustainable. This planning effort will address the following management objective identified in the park’s 1995 General Management Plan: “Where livestock and visitors share the same trails and areas, minimize conflicts and resource impacts, and enhance safety.”

The planning process will consider the following:

* Commercial and private stock use (including horses, mules, and burros) throughout the park.

* Appropriate levels of stock use on park trails.

* Appropriate locations for stock use in the park, which may include: keeping commercial stock use on the North Kaibab Trail down to Supai Tunnel; moving stock use to one of the South Rim corridor trails (Bright Angel or South Kaibab); keeping stock use on the Uncle Jim Trail, Whitmore Trail, and select corridor trails; initiation of a concession-operated day ride on the South Rim; the need for new stock facilities or modification to existing facilities on the North and South Rim, including compliance with laws and regulations for mule health and safety.

The Park Service encourages public participation through the National Environmental Policy Act (commonly known as NEPA) process during which the public has two opportunities to formally comment on the project – once during initial project scoping and again following release of the EA which is expected this fall. The NPS is currently in the scoping phase of this project and invites the public to submit their comments in a variety of ways during the next 30 days.

Three open house meetings are scheduled in June where Grand Canyon National Park staff will be available to answer questions and take comments on stock use in the park. Meeting dates and locations are as follows:

June 2, 4-7 PM (Arizona Time) – Flagstaff Public Library, 300 W Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff, Arizona

June 3, 4-6 PM (Arizona Time) – Community Building, Room B, South Rim Village, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

June 4, 4-7 PM (Utah Time) – Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Kanab Visitor’s Center, 745 East Highway 89, Kanab, Utah

You may also submit written comments on this web site or by mailing them to: Steve Martin, Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, Attn: Mule Operations and Stock Use EA, P.O. Box 129 (1 Village Loop for express, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023 by June 22, 2009.

The park expects to prepare an EA this summer, with a decision document for this project anticipated in December, 2009. Additional information about this project can be found at this web site or by contacting Rachel Stanton, Project Planning Lead, at (928) 774-9612.


In my opion it would be a terrible thing to remove the mules from the park. Not only are they an historical part of the park , but for some people the only means of tranportaion down into the canyon. Therefore removing them would jeopardize a large part of the publics Grand Canyon experiance just to satisfy the grumblings of what appears to be a special interest group.

As I read the article I was trying to come up with a reply. But, after reading John's reply. I must say I agree with him.

Ditto for me to John's reply.

I also agree with John. If they remove the mules I will have no reason to vist the park as the ride is on my bucket list.

Craig W. I did the same thing you did; sat at the computer trying to come up with what I wanted to say, finally left the computer and came back to it, with your comment in place. I agree with you and John 100%. Its time The Majority, i.e., the Interest for All People Groups, make some decisions for us rather than mostly being dictated to by The Chosen Few, i.e., Special Interest Groups. Leave the mules alone.

I like mules, do not mind their leavings and believe it is a great experience for folks that would otherwise just snap
a few pictures from the rims parking lots.
Historical (?) not in the least when compared to the canyons history, sounds tritely hubristic to my ear.
Anyway, I agree with the park that it is time again to take a look at the commercial / private stock use, safety and impact issues, etc..

"...adventure without regard to prudence, profit, self-improvement,
learning or any other serious thing" -Aldo Leopold-

Since the parks are open to ALL THE PEOPLE of this country that also includes handicapped as well. Without the mules in place, those persons that have disabilities would never have the opportunity to see what others of us can without the mules. Leave the mules there. I get so tired of the country making decisions for just a few people and really not considering what is best for everyone, not just them. I concur with all comments already made.

All should be able to enjoy the park to the fullest. The mules provide an ambiance and real feel as well as a method for some visitors who may not otherwise be able to experience the canyon floor. It would not be the same without them. Lord knows what some may purpose to replace them in order to find a way to get to the bottom. They should stay - that's the bottom line.

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