River Runners Denied Grand Canyon Access Now Offered Options

According to a press release from Grand Canyon National Park officials released today, “all river permit holders who were denied their scheduled launch due to the government shutdown will receive a refund for permit fees.” Each of the river runners who participates on a public, do-it-yourself river trip pays $100 directly to the National Park Service.

Grand Canyon river rafting permits are the most coveted of all National Park permits, allowing the public to recreate in the only place in the lower 48 states with 222 miles of road-free navigable river managed as wilderness. These permits also allow the public to spend the most days in a National Park on any one expedition, up to twelve days longer than the standard eighteen days used by climbers to ascend Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America in Denali National Park.

In the first seven days of the partial government shutdown which has closed the river and all National Parks, thirteen public river trips and three concessions guided trips have been unable to launch. In the next seven days, eleven public and four concessions trips are scheduled to launch.

Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent David Uberuaga, Chief Ranger Bill Wright, and River District Ranger Brian Bloom, along with representatives from Coconino County, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Trade Association, met with three public river runner trips to unveil the plan at the dirt parking lot at Marble Canyon Lodge, now known as Dirt Eddy, earlier today.

The plan, formulated late last week, allows public river runners the opportunity to choose a new launch date anytime in the next three years. River runners will not be assisted with financial losses they incurred due to the Government closure.

According to NPS officials, the river concessionaires will be able to move their unused trip days to the following year. When the Federal government re-opens, up to 4 public river trips will be able to launch per day for the first two days. First priority will be given to the launches assigned to the day, then to any standby trips that have already missed their launch date.

According to a representative of the Hualapai Nation, river runners with a Grand Canyon National Park rafting permit are allowed to launch at the Diamond Creek ramp, 226 miles downriver from the Lee’s ferry put-in. This would allow river runners to travel the last 14 miles of river with rapids and another 40 miles of flatwater to Pearce Ferry, AZ, the next take out point for Grand Canyon rafters. Grand Canyon National Park has written the Hualapai Nation asking them to not allow put-ins, but at this time, the Hualapai have not yet responded and are still allowing permitted trips to launch. The fee to access the Diamond Creek road is $64.20 per person, driver and vehicle.

An employee of one of the many business that rents gear to river runners noted “This is small condolence to river runners from around the world. Most have been planning for years, sorting out work schedules, changing or leaving jobs, saving money and purchasing rafting equipment, only to find a barricade staffed by armed Rangers between them and the River. And they have spent tens of thousands of dollars in travel, food and gear.

Below is the full announcement from the National Park Service:

Grand Canyon National Park announces plan to accommodate river permit holders once government re-opens

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – The National Park Service at Grand Canyon National Park announced today that all river permit holders who were denied their scheduled launch due to the government shutdown will receive a refund for permit fees.

River permit holders will also be entitled to reschedule for a Colorado River trip with their choice of dates in 2013, 2014, 2015 or 2016. The permit holder will be required to submit their choices within 60 days of the government reopening. No more than three launches will be permitted in a day and the new trip must adhere to the trip length of the chosen season.

Permittees who had launch dates three days prior to opening and including opening day, may choose to get a refund for permit fees and reschedule with the same parameters as outlined above or launch after opening. The maximum number of launches will be adjusted to four per day for the first two days after opening. After that, the maximum will be three launches per day until the backlog has been cleared. River permit holders with the current launch date will have priority to launch on their scheduled date.

Commercial river companies that have scheduled launches during the government shutdown will be able to carry over lost user days that occurred under the government shutdown in the 2014 season. A user day is equal to one passenger on the river over the period of one day. Therefore, if a company was to launch with 10 passengers for 10 days, they’ll be able to carry over 100 user days in the 2014 season.

Twenty-one private river launches and six commercial launches were scheduled over the first two weeks in October. 

“The Park worked closely with affected parties to develop this plan, and I appreciate their understanding and support,” stated Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga. 

Details will be sent to each river permit holder outlining the options in the plan and any priority each may have. 

The Park is also looking at options for other permit holders, and will provide information on any options it may offer in the near future.