If you’ve read the reviews, you probably heard about the 14 mile dirt road leading to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Many have asked why they didn’t pave the road before opening the Skywalk to the public. Well, the short answer is…they couldn’t. The unpaved portion of road is actually county land and has to be paved by the county. Now the good stuff – it hasn’t been paved because of a bitter dispute between the Tribe and the owner of Heli-USA.
According to the story I heard (aka not verified) a while back, an agency in charge of protecting the Grand Canyon asked the tribe to limit access to the canyon floor. The tribe agreed and arranged with the nearby tour operators to limit boat and helicopter landings to specific areas.
I was also told that after this agreement with the tour operators was made one operator had setup an unauthorized helicopter landing site. When the tribe found out, they banned that operator for life. I was told that operator was Heli-USA.
Finally, when the tribe petitioned the County to have the 14 mile dirt road paved, the owner of Heli-USA blocked it by demanding a 7-year environmental study done. Now that study was completed and the County was prepared to pave the road but the owner of Heli-USA blocked it again by trying to reject the initial report and demanding a new report. This is where we are today but the court is likely to accept the first report and the county will pave the road soon.
The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook said this about Heli-USA.
There are aspects of this company that trouble us. they had a fatal crash in 2005, and the flight was considered so reckless that the pilot was indicted for manslaughter. (Very unusual in an aviation accident)
From the Hawaii Channel…
For the first time in Hawaii’s history, a pilot has been indicted for manslaughter after a deadly crash of a tour helicopter.
The crash happened on Kauai’s north shore on Sept. 23. Pilot Glen Lampton and five passengers survived the crash.
However, three passengers were killed when the Heli-USA flight went into the water. – source
And more recently…
In the course of three days, two helicopter crashes have occurred on the island of Kauai. On Thursday, March 8, 2007, a Heli USA Airways helicopter crashed at the Princeville Airport killing four, including the pilot, and injuring three others. On Sunday, March 11, 2007, an Inter-Island helicopter crashed while attempting to make an emergency landing near Haena, also on Kauai’s North Shore. One fatality and four injuries are reported in the second crash. – source
4 thoughts on “Skywalk dirt road”
I canâ€™t really comment on the background of the dispute but I can tell you a little about the road situation. I have seen the comments by visitors who believe the road was not paved because the Hualapai chose not to pave it. Not true! The unpaved portion of the road is not part of their reservation, it belongs to Mojave County. Anyone who has been to Grand Canyon West will remember that after driving on the unpaved road, they come to a stretch of paved road. The paving a starts as soon as you drive onto the reservation.
Though Grand Canyon West is a destination that is cultural and remote, the Hualapai strive to make it as accessible as possible to their visitors. Improvements are constantly being made to their operations to meet the growth of their tourism.
I should have news about the status of the road very soon and will be sure to let you know when I do so that you can inform your readers.