By Forrest Brown, CNN
Havasu Falls, one of the most intriguing features of the Grand Canyon system, will be reopening to visitors after a three-year closure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s with a catch.
The reopening is scheduled for February 1; however, access will be limited initially to a certain, small group.
People whose previous reservations were suspended will get first crack at rescheduling a visit to the falls and the enchanting aquamarine pool at its base.
Havasu Falls is on the lands of the Havasupai Indian Reservation and is controlled by the tribe. The reservation is adjacent to but not part of Grand Canyon National Park. The tribe controls all access to the falls.
No new 2023 reservations are being offered, but if you’re really itchin’ to go this year, there’s a potential loophole if you’re lucky and able to be flexible.
If people whose visits were suspended aren’t able to reschedule their visit, their spots will become open via an online list.
On its official Facebook page, the tribe says that “the only way to get a reservation for 2023 is to purchase off the official transfer list. Open an account at www.havasupaireservations.com to see what is available.”
Tight time schedule to see Havasu Falls
The response time for people to reschedule is tight, and the tribe warned that “this is a new check-in process and there may be some delays as we work through the system.”
On Thursday, January 26, the tribe sent detailed, instructional emails to trip leaders who had arrival dates of February 1-28, 2023, according to its latest Facebook post.
Some hopeful visitors posted they were having a hard time making new arrangements that quickly and working with check-in times to begin the trek.
One person posted: “I appreciate the update but I really wish this would have been more timely. This really changes my travel plans, therefore my childcare arrangements. You are providing a 1 week notice. My reservation is for 2/3.”
Why was Havasu Falls closed for so long?
Havasu Falls is just one part of the broader Havasupai Reservation. The unique health-care problems faced by Native American tribes contributed to the lengthy closure, the tribe noted.
“We closed our Reservation in March 2020,” the tribe wrote on its website. “With limited access to meaningful healthcare, closing the reservation was the best way to keep our community safe and healthy. We have remained closed to tourists since that time.”
Then in October 2022, severe flooding damaged trails and bridges used not only by tourists but also by members of the tribe in Supai Village, where about 200 people live, according to VisitArizona.com.
Finally, the tribe said it had problems with its third-party tourism operator.
But with debris cleaned up and a new tourism operator on board, the Havasupai set the February 1 reopening.
The hard trek to Havasu Falls
It’s no easy feat to get to the site — or to leave it.
First of all, this is not a day-trip hike, according to the US National Park Service’s information page on the adjacent area. This is an overnight affair. You must arrange to stay at a campground or at the Havasupia Lodge.
It’s a long hike from the canyon rim — eight miles (13 kilometers) to the village of Supai and another two miles (3.2 kilometers) to the falls. And then you have to hike back up and out.
Rock climbing and night hiking are not permitted, according the tribe’s instructional page. No one is allowed to bring in drones, alcohol or weapons.
Visitors should be physically fit, able to carry at least a gallon of water (there are no water sources on the trail) and be ready for a hard desert hike, NPS said.
During summer, temperatures can reach up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius). Trails are closed when the temperature goes over that number.
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Top image: Havasu Falls in Supai, Arizona. (Photo by Richey Miller / Cal Sport Media via AP Images)