Sacred Little Colorado River and the Hopi Salt Trail

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Sacred Little Colorado River and the Hopi Salt Trail

Date: 09/22/2023     State: AZ     Issues: Mining, National Parks, Renewable Energy, Watersheds, Wild Lands, Wildlife     Partner: Hopi Tribe Airport Origin : Tuba City, AZ    


Showcase the threats to the scared Little Colorado River to Hopi Village representatives to highlight the importance of supporting legislative protections.

Palavayu, or what’s known as the Little Colorado River (LCR), and surrounding lands are the spiritual and cultural homeland for the Hopi people. The Hopi people live in the region and have relied on the LCR to drink, cook, and farm, as well as for ceremonial and cultural uses. The Hopi historically settled along the LCR.


We flew above the river and the surrounding region that is scattered with shrines and areas of ceremonial practice. The Hopi Salt Trail, a Hopi Traditional Cultural Property, climbs steeply from the LCR up the canyon. Near the confluence of the Colorado and LCR is Sipapuni, an emergence point that symbolizes where the Hopi people came into this world. Hydroelectric projects jeopardize Palavayu, sensitive species, and culturally significant Tribal lands.


A Phoenix-based company, Pumped Hydro Storage LLC, withdrew two hydroelectric proposals for projects on the LCR, but has one remaining application for Big Canyon, a side canyon of the LCR. If approved, four dams will be constructed entirely on Tribal land. Billions of gallons of groundwater will be pumped from the same aquifer that feeds springs along the LCR, depleting the river's water source during a period of drought. Additionally, the dams' operational processes annually lose more than 3 billion gallons of groundwater to evaporation - while many surrounding Tribal communities lack access to running water. The Big Canyon Project overlooks Indigenous communities and will disrupt the spiritual and cultural practices of people who have called the Grand Canyon home since time immemorial. Sacred places where ceremonies are conducted, prayers are held, and people come to reflect and find peace would be destroyed by flooding, industrialization, and noise. Protection from hydroelectric projects is needed to protect the watershed, ecosystem, and cultural heritage of the Grand Canyon.

Click for geo-referenced photos from the flight. This .kmz file is best viewed in Google Earth

Flight Images

Flight Location