UPDATED: No Tripods Allowed in the Zion Narrows for Workshops
Today I received notice from the NPS that after hearing the concerns from the photographic community they will be revising this rule for 2019. Workshop leaders will once again be allowed to bring in clients with tripods in the Narrows! The only caveat is that they will be reducing the allowed group size, which I think is a great move, we always keep our groups to 6 or less. It is important to note that the rule is still in effect for 2018, so if a workshop leader takes a group in with tripods this year they are breaking the rules.
Official NPS Statement
We’re contacting you to clarify park rules on the use of photography equipment, specifically tripods, in Zion National Park.
Tripods were discontinued for use in the Narrows for Commercial Photography Workshops during the 2017 and 2018 seasons (although workshops could still access the Narrows using monopods). This was due to Park concern that groups of up to 14 people/tripods may impede hiker travel in the Narrows. Due to concerns expressed from the photography community, and the small size of the Commercial Photography Workshop user group, the Zion Commercial Services Office believes it is reasonable to authorize Commercial Workshop providers access to tripods in the Narrows in future seasons, provided that appropriate group sizes are established to maintain quality visitor experiences for other user groups.
The Zion Commercial Services Office is proposing to address concerns from the photography community in the following ways:
- Authorize Commercial Photography Workshop providers to use tripods in the Narrows to take effect during the 2019 season. During the 2019 season, the Zion Commercial Services Office will monitor this use to inform whether this practice should continue in future years.
- Prior to the release of the 2019 CUA application package, the Zion Commercial Service Office will work with Commercial Photography Workshop providers to inform (in part) the park’s decision on the appropriate group size for Narrows workshops utilizing tripods.
- Prior to the release of the 2019 CUA application package, the Zion Commercial Services Office will clarify where tripods can be used in the park during commercially provided Photography Workshops.
- The Zion Commercial Services Office will provide an addendum to 2018 Photography Workshop CUA conditions allowing the use of the Pa’rus Trail as already mentioned during a January 2018 correspondence to CUA holders. Otherwise, the conditions of use for commercial photography workshops are unchanged for the remainder of the 2018 operating season.
Concession Management Specialist
Zion National Park
Another notice came out today about having tripods on the Pa'rus Trail. Along with the narrows, this trail was also part of the 'updated' rules that forbided tripods. Thankfully, they have reconsidered and are now allowing tripods for workshops on the trail again, and this applies to 2018.
Official NPS Statement
Dear 2018 Photography and Painting Workshop CUA Holders,
Per the January 29, 2018, and June 29, 2018 emails to all Photography and Painting Workshop Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) holders, the Zion Commercial Services Office is providing an addendum through this correspondence to the 2018 Photography and Painting Workshop CUA conditions. This addendum formalizes tripod use on the Pa’rus Trail for Photography and Painting workshops including signed river access points (map attached). Please note that tripod footprints on the Pa’rus trail must NOT cover more than half the width of the paved trail.
It is not necessary to amend your original 2018 Photography and Painting Workshop CUA at this time. Please attach this memo to your current CUA permit for use in Zion National Park. All other conditions of use for commercial Photography and Painting Workshops are unchanged for the remainder of the 2018 operating season.
We appreciate comments received from our visitors and commercial user groups that help inform management decisions. Thank you for taking the time to offer your suggestions. If you have any questions about this correspondence, please contact Doug Dawson, Concession Management Specialist at (435) 772-0231.
Chief of Commercial Services and Partnerships
It is official, no more tripods on workshops in Zion. This was originally reported over on Fstoppers by JT Blenker earlier this month. In the comments I had questioned the article due to the fact that the permit wording had not changed at all from the previous year in which there were no clear restrictions on tripods, except that you could not use them on 'trails'.
This issue was very confusing because one of the authorized areas to take clients was the Narrows. I don't think anybody considered the Narrows a 'trail' when interpreting the permit, I would consider the Riverside Walk a trail, but not into the Narrows where there really is not a trail.
Apparently with the overcrowding in Zion the park has decided to find ways to crack down and reduce congestion on 'trails'. So they are taking the language that has been in the permits since 2013 and interpreting it how they see fit. They have decided that the Narrows is a trail, therefore no tripods are allowed for workshops. Below is the official clarification letter sent out yesterday (click to expand):
Official Clarification from Zion National Park
TRIPOD USE FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Clarification for Participants of Commercial Photography Workshops
Dear Commercial Photography Workshop Operators,
We’re contacting you in order to clarify park rules on the use of photography equipment, specifically tripods, in Zion National Park. Misleading information on this topic was posted to several social media websites during January 15, 2018 and January 16, 2018.
There are regulations for Commercial Photography Workshops that are different than for park visitors engaged in photography independently as hobbyists. Visitors not engaged in a Commercial Photography Workshop may use tripods and other photography equipment without restriction throughout the park. The exception being the use of drones, which are prohibited from use in the park.
Participants in Commercial Photography Workshop groups, may only use tripods in designated areas of the park, such as road side pullouts. Because of the workshop group sizes, the use of tripods on park trails, including the Narrows, is not authorized so as to not impede access of other visitors not associated with the workshops, thereby preventing trail congestion, potential safety concerns in some areas, and to mitigate environmental effects. Large groups concentrated in one place can result in trampling of vegetation, soil erosion, widening of formal trails, and impact other visitors’ experience of the natural views and soundscapes along these trails.
In order to reduce roadway safety concerns for all photographers on the Canyon Junction Road Bridge, the use of tripods on the Pa'rus Trail will soon be added to the 2018 conditions of use for Commercial Photography Workshops. Otherwise, the conditions of use for commercial photography workshops are unchanged from 2017.
Your continued efforts to promote stewardship of Zion National Park and to provide quality visitor experiences is appreciated. Please let us know if we can be of additional assistance.
Concession Management Specialist
Zion National Park
I can understand their reasoning behind this with the overcrowding, but dropping a bomb like this without any warning is unacceptable. There was no reason to believe that the Narrows was a trail in the past and a large amount of workshop operators rely on this for business. Now these workshop leaders have workshops planned with clients booked already with the primary attraction of going into the Narrows. They only have a few options; cancel their workshop, go on without the Narrows, or go in and hope they do not get caught. The park should have clarified this and made it apply to 2019 permits so workshop leaders would not have to make this choice this year.
The rules extend beyond the Narrows of course, and the following areas are the only permitted areas workshop leaders can take clients:
Authorized Areas for Photography Workshops
- Angels Landing Trail
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Court of the Patriarchs
- Grotto Trail
- Kayenta Trail
- Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools
- Narrows but not into or above Orderville Canyon
- Pa'rus Trail
- Riverside Walk
- Sandbench Trail (November to March)
- Timber Creek Trail
- Watchman Trail
- Weeping Rock Trail
- Weeping Rock Trailhead to Observation Point
- Weeping Rock Trailhead to mouth of Echo Canyon (not into canyon)
- Weeping Rock Trailhead to mouth of Hidden Canyon (not into canyon)
These are the only areas you can go on a workshop (aside from roadways) and you cannot use a tripod on the trails, but you can go up to 100' off the trail and use a tripod there. Apparently the consider the entirety of the Narrows a trail so you cannot walk off the trail to use your tripod.
Workshop leaders take note; the park will be actively looking for groups violating the 'new' rules. I feel really bad for those of you who already announced their workshops and have clients signed up, what a terrible position to be in.
This will be the end of our workshops in Zion sadly, between this, the overcrowding, and the shuttle hours which do not allow you to get to locations for sunrise in the fall, it is not feasible to take people here anymore.
I feel the park is not tackling the real issue of overcrowding in the park. The 'Mighty 5' campaign needs to end, the overseas advertising is out of control. These are in the interests of money flowing into local communities, not in the interest of preserving the park.
The workshops we led were limited to six people and we ensured our clients were respectful of others and left no trace. Is a tour bus full of 50 tourists held to this same level? Of course not, many of them have no respect for the land. They leave trash behind, are extremely loud and disrespectful, and massively plug up the trails. What is being done about this?
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David is a professional landscape and nature photographer originally from Loveland, Colorado who is now traveling the American West full-time in an RV with his photography and life partner Jennifer Renwick, and their two cats.
David has published an eBook called Nightscape and has in-depth videos on post processing. David and his partner Jennifer Renwick find joy in teaching others photography in their photography workshops, and through their blog.