Grand Canyon Town's Big Plans Don't Include Water

Tusayan is a great place to stop, shop, eat and stay while visiting the Grand Canyon. Visit the National Geographic Visitor Center and IMAX theater.
Tusayan, Arizona. Photo by NPS

Tusayan, Arizona. Photo by NPS

Natural Beauty Surrounds the Little Town of Tusayan, Arizona

It's located just two miles from the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and the Kaibab National Forest surrounds the town.

A gateway town to the Grand Canyon, Tusayan is a great place to stop, shop, eat and stay while visiting one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The town also makes it easy to visit the Grand Canyon. Just hop on the free shuttle bus (purple route) that makes four stops in Tusayan starting at 8 a.m. For two weeks during July, the bus also offers a Sunrise Shuttle Bus with a 4:15 a.m. pick-up in Tusayan.

When visiting this sleepy little town of just about 600 people, you'll also want to swing by the Grand Canyon Chamber Visitor Center, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and the National Geographic IMAX Theater to watch "Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets" with its incredible footage and riveting story about the adventure and discovery of the national park.

Tusayan Shuttle in front of the IMAX

Tusayan Shuttle in front of the IMAX Theater. Photo by NPS.

Newly a Town, Tusayan Has Big Plans

Although people have lived in Tusayan for nearly 100 years, it only recently became a town in 2010 under legislation that allows any community of 500 or more to incorporate if located in proximity to a national park or monument. The town's relative newness however, hasn't stopped it from making big plans.

Over the next 10 years, Tusayan hopes to add much more to its current recreation, public services and transportation offerings. Stilo Development Group USA, an Italian company proposing much of the growth, has included a dude ranch, high-end boutiques, five-star hotels, hundreds of homes and a high-density shopping area off of the highway in the development, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The town itself plans for:
- an expanded trail system
- a town park with softball, baseball, and soccer fields
- additional Grand Canyon shuttle stops
- additional residential housing opportunities for Grand Canyon employees
- a public art program at bus stops
- a winter park to provide areas for sledding and other snow activities

Read the March 2014 version of the plan

Tusayan plan for town park

Tusayan plan for town park

Tusayan plan for expanded trail system. Current trails in orange. Proposed trails in purple.

Tusayan plan for expanded trail system. Current trails in orange. Proposed trails in purple.

Where is the Water Plan?

One major flaw in these plans, however, is where the water will come from. In short, nobody knows. And because water is a scarce resource in the area, this is a significant question. Currently, most of the town's water comes from wells, but officials and environmentalists from the Grand Canyon and American Indian Tribes warn that more pumping could be detrimental to the area's seeps and springs.

Water sourcing won't significantly harm the Grand Canyon though, promises Tusayan town manager Will Wright, who notes that development won't begin without an assurance of this.

"We're here to provide necessary services for those wanting to visit the Grand Canyon," he told the Santa Fe New Mexican. "If the Grand Canyon were damaged in any way, we'd be shooting ourselves in the foot."


Illustration of proposed gondola tramway and riverwalk. Click on image to see more rendering at

Plans for Grand Canyon Gondola Tramway & Resort

In what’s being called the Grand Canyon Escalade project, developers are hoping to build a cable-car that would transport tourists from the top of the Grand Canyon’s rim to its bottom, where a newly built river walk and resort area would await.