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Tom Smart, KSL

Desolation Canyon float trips: What they might cost and why that matters

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Posted - Jan. 19, 2020 at 7:48 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in Utah is struggling under a fee structure that hasn’t changed in 12 years and yet has seen its visitors dramatically increase to take in one-of-a-kind vistas that make it a popular recreation choice.

The Bureau of Land Management is now proposing to double the fee for the special recreation permit from $25 to $50 for the 2021 season under a draft business plan out for public comment.

The agency says an estimated 6,000 visitors make the Desolation Canyon float trip, with 1,500 of those who take commercial trips and another 4,500 visitors who are private boaters that take advantage of multiple launch and pullout sites along the way.

An individual special recreation permit for Desolation Canyon includes the use of all facilities in the special area, including parking, toilets, trash removal and other amenities.

The BLM is also proposing to raise camping fees from the current $6/$8 per night for individual sites to $20 per night and also institute a group site fee increase. In addition, it will add 12 new campgrounds.

The future campground locations include New Joe’s, Cottonwood Canyon, Buckhorn Wash, the Wickiup, the Wedge, South Temple Wash, San Rafael Reef, Temple Mountain Townsite, Little Wild Horse, Sand Wash, Jurassic and Millsite. Eight of these locations currently have some facilities; four have no facilities.

According to the agency, the campground fee structure has never fully considered the replacement costs of the campground infrastructure. In fiscal year 2018, revenues for the fee campgrounds were $16,000, while expenses totaled $242,000.

The BLM says a fee increase is necessary to keep the campground program operating, as well as to provide for safe and enjoyable camping experiences through maintenance and added facilities.

Approximately 5,800 visitors go the Desolation Canyon area each year for camping and to take in its uniquely rugged characteristics. Rafters can spot black bears, bighorn sheep on the canyon cliffs and gaze at a treasure trove of unspoiled archaeology sites.

The BLM Price field office will accept comments through Feb. 12.

Submit comments for the draft business plan for the Desolation Canyon River Program to Jaydon Mead at jmead@blm.gov (put “river business plan comment” in the subject line) or BLM River Business Plan Comment, 125 South 600 West, Price, UT 84501.

Submit comments for the draft business plan for BLM Price Campgrounds to Myron Jeffs at mjeffs@blm.gov (put “campground business plan comment” in the subject line) or BLM Campground Business Plan Comment, 125 S. 600 West, Price, UT 84501.

Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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