Twenty years of change on campsites in the backcountry of Grand Canyon National Park

David N. Cole, Pam Foti, Mathieu Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This article draws on three separate research and monitoring studies to describe 20-year trends in the number and condition of campsites in the backcountry of Grand Canyon National Park. Results are used to assess the effectiveness of a complex and innovative management program, adopted in 1983, that sought to concentrate use on designated campsites in popular places and disperse camping in more remote places. In 1984, conditions on 12 high-use campsites and 12 low-use campsites were carefully assessed. Conditions on 22 of these campsites were reassessed in 2005. In addition, campsite-monitoring surveys were conducted between 1985 and 1992 and again in 2003 and 2004. In these surveys, all campsites were located and their condition rapidly assessed. The detailed assessment of a sample of sites suggests relatively little change in condition during the 20-year period. The high-use sites were more highly disturbed than the low-use sites, but they did not change more during the study period. In contrast, changes at larger scales were dramatic. The total number of campsites more than doubled during the study period. Surprisingly, the proliferation of new campsites was greater in places where camping was only allowed on designated campsites than in places where camping was allowed anywhere. Concern that concentration of use on designated sites would cause unacceptable impact was unfounded. Management implications for other internationally significant protected areas that allow backcountry camping are explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-970
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Campsite impact
  • Designated campsites
  • Recreation management
  • Trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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