Hoping to Travel to the Grand Canyon? Better Tread Lightly.

Approximately 5 million people travel to the Grand Canyon every year, and it's no surprise that the park is struggling to maintain the environment. Today, the National Parks Conservation Association issued a report that the park conditions are deteriorating primarily due to human impact.

Water contamination is one of the main threats for the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River, which flows into the Grand Canyon, is one of the most abused river basins in America. More than 40 dams take water from the river, and 20% of the river water evaporates in reservoirs each year. While the river once flowed into the Gulf of California, it now usually disappears as soon as it crosses the Mexican border. Contaminates in the river include human waste, percholorate (in rocket fuel) and radioactive mill waste. All that gunk travels downstream into the Grand Canyon.

Uranium mining is also a potential problem for the Grand Canyon, and a number of new mining claims will likely arise due to the price of uranium. The specific consequences of uranium mining are unknown, but since the area is so dry, it is likely that mining will have significant impact on the purity of the water. Furthermore, scientists predict a drought due to climate change. This is a huge problem for the eco-system, and a disappointment for the 25,000 people each year who travel to the Grand Canyon to take an epic rafting trip.

Soundscape management is also under investigation. Some people travel to the Grand Canyon to take a scenic flight, without realizing the impact of the noise made by the airplane. Flying over the Grand Canyon is having an impact on wildlife mating habits, as they can't hear their predators. The noise also breaks the natural quiet of the park, enjoyed by many Grand Canyon hikers, and disrupts the traditional activities of the affiliated American Indian tribes.

Increased visitation is also an issue for the Grand Canyon. Approximately 14% of the backcountry hikers travel across American Indian Lands without awareness of tribal concerns. There are no funds to foster understanding between the park staff and American Indians, and the NPCA suggests that the two groups need to work together to preserve back country resources. The NPCA's senior vice president for policy, Ron Tipton, declared that the Grand Canyon is not well funded by federal officials. The NPCA report suggests an additional $6.2 million is needed for the sake of basic park functions.

Photo credit: Zaui