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Construction on the cross-canyon water pipeline in Grand Canyon National Park has been put on hold following the recent discovery of a human burial site, park officials announced this week.

The burial site was uncovered during excavation work on the Transcanyon Waterline replacement project. The pipeline carries water from Roaring Springs on the North Rim to the South Rim, supplying the park’s water needs.

“The Park is currently in the process right now of taking initial steps to secure and protect the site and undergo tribal consultations with associated Tribes of Grand Canyon,” said Joelle Baird, the park’s public affairs officer.

Consultations are being conducted in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which provides guidelines for handling indigenous burial sites found on federal land.

Baird stated that there is limited information available to share publicly at this time and asked for patience while the proper protections and notifications take place.

The Transcanyon Waterline replacement project began last month in an effort to update the aging pipeline infrastructure. The new pipeline will change the water collection point from Roaring Springs to Bright Angel Creek near Phantom Ranch, reducing the total length of the line.

Construction on the estimated seven-year, $100 million project was expected to continue until 2027. It is unclear how long the work will be delayed due to the discovery.

One of the most impacted areas is the popular Plateau Point hiking trail, which is currently closed and slated to remain so until at least March 2025. This area is considered one of the most challenging for the pipeline replacement.

The National Park Service emphasized that protecting the newly discovered burial site and consulting with associated Tribes are the top priorities right now. They request that the public be patient as this process unfolds.

New pipeline-related trail closures were issued today as well, although it is unclear if these closures have to do with the burial site discovery. These new closures are as follows:

  • Rim Trail in front of Bright Angel Lodge (a detour will go around the Lodge): Nov. 16, 2023-April 4, 2024
  • Tonto Trail east of Horn Creek to the South Kaibab Trail junction near the Tip Off area: Dec. 1, 2023-April 14, 2024

The park also stated that the existing closures and their schedules remain the same for the following areas:

  • Plateau Point Trail from the Tonto Trail junction to Plateau Point: Oct. 12, 2023-March 14, 2025
  • Bright Angel Trail approximately 1/2 mile from the Trailhead to Silver Bridge, including Havasupai Gardens Campground: Dec. 1, 2023-April 14, 2024
  • Bright Angel Trail from Havasupai Gardens to Silver Bridge: Dec. 2, 2024-March 14, 2025
  • Bright Angel Campground: Dec. 19, 2024-May 9, 2025
  • Silver Bridge: Sept. 15-Dec. 31, 2025

Any further information will be released as it becomes available.

Cover photo courtesy of: J. Brew

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