Stories From Grand Canyon National Park

By the Grand Canyon Trail Crew, September 1998

During the last week in September 1998, the Grand Canyon Trail Crew installed a new Phoenix R-200 composting toilet at the Hermit Creek Campground, located seven miles form the South Rim on the Hermit Trail.

This campground accommodates overnight hikers from the Boucher, Tonto West, and Hermit Trails.

The existing unit, a dehydrating toilet, constructed more than twenty years ago, had fallen into disrepair and was no longer functioning efficiently. The liquid was not evaporating, and the heavy, wet waste needed to be flown out by helicopter. The structure housing the toilet had become a safety hazard as well. These factors, along with the recent increase in the use of the Hermit Trail, dictated the need for a new toilet.

The new composting toilet will not only improve the visitor experience, but will also provide a more environmentally and economically viable alternative to the old.

The Phoenix R-200 is a fully contained structure that will not permit leaching into nearby Hermit Creek.

The new toilet can effectively reduce the waste mass up to 90%; creating a humus-like substance that can be packed out on mules as opposed to being flown out by helicopter.

Individual maintenance schedules are being devised for this toilet and others, taking into consideration the use patterns of each location.

The simple maintenance required by a composting toilet could be performed, not only by the Trail and Compost Crews, but also, by Corridor, River and Wilderness Rangers on routine patrols.

In the near future, the remaining dehydration toilets in the backcountry will be replaced with composting units, which over time will yield many positive results. There will be a decrease in sanitation-related flights and a switch to mule packing as the primary method of waste removal. By providing better backcountry toilets, the use of "one specific spot" will be promoted, thus mitigating erosion and vegetation damage caused by hikers going off trail to find their own spot.

See the Hermit Trail when it was new PENNY POST CARDS