by Phil Clark
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced facility and fee system improvements starting on March 10 until May 2021, at the Wire Pass Trailhead on House Rock Valley Road. Improvements include expanded parking, new restrooms, new information kiosk and an improved internet based fee collection system.
When Wire Pass Trailhead was relatively unknown, recreational users were required to pay a day use fee using an envelope and depositing the envelope into an “Iron Ranger” (a large steel pipe with a slot in it). This system worked well for many years. Last fall the BLM started a web-based fee payment system at the trailhead with fee payments made on recreation.gov using a cell phone. Due to the remoteness of the site, connectivity to cell phone data signals has not been dependable causing frustration to people wanting to hike the narrow canyon. The number of visitors to Wire Pass Trailhead has greatly increased in the last seven years, according to the BLM, especially in 2020. The increase is due, in part, to the closure of Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona, and other attractions on the Navajo Nation. Americans and residents have been focusing on needing to get outdoors in the United States.
With the influence of social media, Buckskin Gulch and other areas are becoming more popular. According to a BLM employee, sometimes there are as many as 200 vehicles parked at the trailhead, overflowing onto House Rock Valley Road. On a recent Saturday, this reporter counted 60 vehicles in the early afternoon. According to a recreational planner at the Kanab Field Office of the BLM, the new system has been chosen to address the reality that many land management agencies have limits in staffing and budgets due to a variety of reasons including funding and availability of affordable housing. Existing BLM staff work long hours for the benefit of the public, even sometimes forfeiting annual leave due to the high workload. The new project and restroom maintenance contract will free up employees to perform other duties including interacting with the public. The BLM is in the process of hiring employees for the season.
With the increase in visitation, the existing double vault toilet has seen a lot more use and sometimes runs out of supplies. Currently BLM employees are responsible to clean and maintain the restrooms. A contract is planned to have a contractor become responsible for keeping the restrooms clean and stocked with supplies. The new project will also increase the number of restrooms and relocate the existing restroom to a better location. Recreational users are urged to call (435) 644-1200 and let BLM staff know if the restrooms are in need of attention.
The Kanab office of the BLM is receiving engineering and site design assistance from BLM designers in another BLM office. Once the project design is complete, the construction contract will be sent out for bids. The improvements will improve internet connectivity at the trailhead, allowing users to pay the day use fees on-site. When the improvements are completed, there will be no other way to pay the fees at the trailhead. Hikers are urged to pay the user fees in advance and start hiking once arriving at the trailhead. Permits to North Coyote Buttes, where the Wave is located, will still have to be obtained in advance. Users who plan to hike at the Wire Pass Trailhead should pay the user fees on https://www.recreation.gov/search?q=Wire%20Pass%20Trailhead.
If users cannot pay the fees online, they can pay the fees at the BLM Kanab Field Office, if all other efforts fail.
The fees for day-use at Wire Pass Trailhead are $6 per person, including children, and $6 per dog.
Basically every adult, child and dog must pay a fee. Since this is a user fee and not an entrance fee, no discounts apply, including the Federal Recreational Lands Passes, also known as America the Beautiful Passes (such as Annual, Senior, Access, Military or Volunteer passes). Overnight permits and permits for the North Coyote Buttes (The Wave) area are sold separately and must be obtained in advance.