No Tripods Allowed in the Zion Narrows for Workshops

UPDATED: No Tripods Allowed in the Zion Narrows for Workshops

UPDATE 6/30/2018

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

UPDATE 8/1/2018

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

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

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

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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About the author David Kingham

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.

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  1. I totally agree with everything said here. The only thing the Utah government cares about is the amount of money the tourism brings to the state, and they totally disregard the impact these hordes have on the parks. I haven’t been to any of the “Mighty Five” in years, until the last two weekends when I went to Zion to do the Subway and the Narrows. The Subway was interestingly much less crowded 🙂 than I have experienced the 5 previous times, but the Narrows was horrible even this time of the year.

  2. Bureaucrats are insulated from consequences for making decisions that impact people. The least they could’ve done is as you stated in the article; wait until 2019. Some bureaucrat weighed the amount of probable blow back created by either cutting tour buses or cutting photography tours. The photographers, with the smaller numbers took the hit although the ones that have the great impact on the park are the tour buses. Doesn’t make sense — except to a bureaucrat.

    1. Exactly, would you rather run into a small group of photographers with tripods who have been briefed by their leader on proper etiquette and leave no trace principals or a hoard of tourists coming off a bus?

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