Paddlers Fined for Running Grand Canyon During Shutdown

River Runners hiking in to Phantom Ranch were charged with federal trespassing charges

John Boone and Brian Kehoe on the Grand Canyon, just before being served papers by the federal government for criminal trespassing

John Boone and Brian Kehoe on the Grand Canyon, just before being served papers
by the federal government for criminal trespassing

River Runners Fined for Running Grand Canyon during Shutdown

By Eugene Buchanan

When rangers on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon forbid Brian Kehoe from hiking down to the river to join his river trip at Phantom Ranch, the river-runner from Chico, Calif., weighed his options. The penalty for defying the Grand Canyon closure and government shutdown could be as much as $20,000, 30 days in jail and a five-year ban on entering national parks. On the other hand, his party needed an experienced boatman to safely finish its trip.

Kehoe decided to hike.

When they returned home from their trip in mid-October, Kehoe and his trip leader, John Boone, were served with court papers by certified mail. Both faced federal trespassing charges, Kehoe for hiking down the Bright Angel Trail to meet his party, and Boone for allowing him to join the trip. On Monday, Oct. 28 they had their day in court, so to speak. In a telephone conference call, they plead to lesser charges. Each paid a $750 fine.

It all started after the trip launched with 16 people on Sept. 30, the day before the government shutdown closed the park and NPS rangers barricaded the put-in road. Kehoe and Boone’s party had arranged in advance to switch five members at Phantom Ranch, one week into the three week trip. Boone sent five boaters out on mules, to be replaced by Kehoe and four others hiking in on foot. But rangers at the South Rim permitted only Boone’s daughter, Kaydee, 23, to hike in. They told the others that they could not join the trip. Three complied, forfeiting more than $2,000 in fees and outfitting that are unrecoverable. Kehoe decided to ignore the rangers’ orders, and hike down to join his family already on the trip.

“Safety-wise, we needed him on the trip,” says Boone, of Oakley, Calif. Other rangers were waiting at Phantom Ranch. They too forbid Kehoe from launching, and Kehoe again ignored their orders. Says Boone: “We needed Brian on the trip to help. [The rangers] were jeopardizing the safety of our entire trip. So he decided to defy the order and continue on the trip.”

For his part in allowing them to continue, Boone, who had been waiting 17 years to run the Grand Canyon for his first time ever, was also charged.

After finishing the trip, which he called “as great as it could have been,” Boone and Kehoe received the citations in the mail for Monday’s court date, listing the United States of America as the Plaintiff. They were able to handle the issue via a conference call and get the charges and penalty reduced.

Attorney Jim Moss, who specializes in Recreation Law, says Boone and Kehoe would have likely won the case had it gone to court, but that it would have been a more expensive proposition. “They probably could have beaten it,” he says, “especially with the argument that they needed Kehoe for the safety of the trip. If it went to trial in that area, I doubt a jury of 12 people would have sided with the government. But this was probably a lot cheaper alternative for them.”

Moss adds that he’s glad this story and others resulting from the shutdown in the park are receiving their due publicity. “The stories about closing the national parks made the front page of newspapers across the country, and hopefully this one will also,” he says. “The loss for all of us, besides the integrity of the NPS, is the people like this harmed by the closure who we will never know about.”

As for Boone and his boating crew, it’s water under the bridge and they were still able to pull off the trip of a lifetime, albeit it with a slightly higher price tag. “It was certainly a trip to remember, especially for our son and daughters,” he says.

More stories on how the government shutdown affected the national parks:

Standoff at the Grand Canyon
Park Service to Boaters: Come Back Later
States May Come to National Parks’ Rescue
How River Runners Helped Open the Grand Canyon

Related Posts:

Add a Comment

  • Art B

    Government has become way to intrusive in our lives. If you want to change it and send a message, vote for no incumbent this coming election. Maybe then they will get the message.

    • Johnny Goofball

      Or, why not vote for people who don’t **hate** government by its very nature, by their very nature? There actually is an entire party full of candidates that believes in less government intrusion into our personal lives (and actually there are a few Republicans in this camp too but they are afraid to admit it publicly). Not all incumbents are bad, but I can sure understand the “throw the bums out attitude”.

      • Frustrated at government

        Goofball, there is a party that “believes in less government intrusion into our personal lives” and it is the Republican Party. Not just some of them but almost all of them and none are afraid to admit it. The left has been shoving government control upon us and now they are fining Cheerleaders for car washes as well as rafters in the Canyon. They are punishing citizens for demanding less government. That’s why they were fined. Government employees got back pay.

  • susie

    What a bunch of CRAP!! Its OUR country to enjoy!! Just because the idiots in Washington can’t agree. They should refund these people their hard earned money.

  • LadyArtemis

    good for them! show the government that the parks belong to the people!!!!!!

    • tiredofthewhining

      And demonstrate to their children that it is good and proper to break laws in the name of fun. Selfish interests and a sense of entitlement should apparently rule the day. They could have been hurt as could have their family and then they would have sued…notwithstanding they broke the rules in the first place. They should have had to pay much higher fines.

      • formerMarine

        Brian and John are great role models for all of our children, in its usual fascist disregard for U.S. citizens the Feds targeted average Americans during the contrived “shutdown”. According to LadyArtemis the observance of the law is a requirement, au contraire my fascist Lady good Americans break the U.S. Code every day.

  • Sarah

    I wish they had asked one of the rangers their perspective.

  • B Mo

    Boone and Kihoe – start a kickstarter. Maybe the boating community can give you a few bucks to pay off those BS fines. I would.

  • bruiz

    I see an equal protection under the law issue, and arbitrary and capricious application of the law. Still, they had a fantastic trip. $750 additional was well spent.

  • CHARLEY from TX

    NO! They should not be fined. We are suppose to be a free country and the land that allegedly is owned by the people of this country should not ever have been shut down in the first place! Our idiot government needs a major overhaul. Remove politicians and put real caring people in office.

  • Ptown Bob

    It is quite obvious in this that the NPS has NO integrity!!! The are just useful idiots!

  • zacman

    Because the legislators want to hold the country hostage, everybody else is supposed to stop living?? We need to make those politicians go find real jobs!

  • Tina Judd, Fredonia AZ


  • Blake McPherson

    Great story and kudos to the persistence of a competent experienced boatman. You are to be commended sir!

  • Rick

    they have a lot of nerve denying any american the access to their parks when the Government is shut down. how could he be working to say no to the group

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