Stretching for 277 miles through the Arizona desert, the Grand Canyon is amongst the more impressive natural wonders you’ll ever see. It is over 6000 feet in depth and at its widest point, it is 18 miles across. Everything about the place is truly epic in scale, and that is why the park receives nearly 4.5 million visitors a year. But all those visitors can have an impact on the environment there, which is why the National Park Service recently took steps to protect the Canyon, while serving its visitors better at the same time.
A few weeks back the NPS completed the installation of nine water bottle stations in the park. Those stations, located in the highest traffic areas, will provide visitors with plenty of water while hiking in the canyon, which can be quite warm in many months of the year. Visitors are now encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles or hydration packs, and refill often while on the trail.
Keeping visitors hydrated during hot days in the park was only one of the reasons these stations were installed however. The Park Service estimates that about 30% of all the waste removed from the park comes from plastic water bottles, and they are hoping that these filling stations will become a more viable option for hikers, while cutting down on litter and the use of plastics in general. The Park’s leadership has made a commitment to being more environmentally friendly, and they’re encouraging visitors to do the same.
Six of the water stations have been installed along the South Rim at Hermits Rest; the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trailheads; the Canyon Village and Desert View Marketplaces; and
Grand Canyon, Verkamp’s and Desert View Visitor Centers. An additional three refilling stations have been installed along the North Rim at North Kaibab Trailhead, North Rim Visitor Center, and at the North Rim Backcountry Office. Two of those, the North Kaibab Trailhead and the North Rim Visitor Center are for seasonal use only, while all others provide access year round.
Considering how environmentally unfriendly plastic water bottles are, this is a great move for the Park Service. It is also a fantastic resource for travelers in the Grand Canyon as well. The hot, dry weather often surprises visitors to that park, and there are a high number of evacuations there each year for heat and dehydration related issues. Hopefully a readily available supply of water will help address that issue as well.