A Conversation From the Barricades

River Runners hunker down for extended Grand Canyon standoff during shutdown


C&K editor Jeff Moag spoke Wednesday afternoon with Scott Lee, one of more than two-dozen river runners camped near the barricaded road to the Grand Canyon put-in. Lee and his 16-person party had a valid permit to launch Wednesday morning, but National Park Service rangers barred access to the river, citing the government shutdown.

How are you?

I’ve been better. (laughs)

Our permit was for today, so we’re not that far gone yet. We’re going to hunker down for a few days and see what happens. We’ve paid the bill, our food is packed, the boats are ready to go.

The biggest unknown, even should the government open up tomorrow, is whether they’ll let us go down. They’re not telling us whether they will or not. The other option is maybe they’ll be a cancellation we’ll be able to get on.

There could be a lot of cancellations. People with launches in the next few days are making some hard choices right now.

Yeah. We’re not giving up yet.

During the 1995 shutdown, the State of Arizona stepped in and paid to keep the park open. I understand there’s an effort underway to ask Arizona Governor Janice Brewer to intervene.

There’s absolutely no progress. We’ve talked to all the congressmen, all the senators. We’ve tried the governor’s office. I’ve had the head U.S. correspondent for the National Park Service on the phone today, and his answer was “our hands are tied.”

Tell us about your group.

We’re kind of an extended family. We’ve got some kids—two 8th-graders, a senior in high school, a couple of college students. My son is with me. We’ve got three uncles who are here with either their nieces or their nephews.

I’ve been putting in for permits for a number of years. My trip leader has put in for this every January since 1995. Yeah, a long time. He’s never been down the Grand Canyon. He’s never had the opportunity. And you’ve run the Grand, so you understand the money right?

About 30 grand for a 16-person trip, yeah. But as a river-runner I don’t think about that. I think about those uncles and nephews and nieces who are never going to share that once-in-a-lifetime trip.



Other media are reporting that the NPS rangers have volunteered to man the barricades. True?

They will not tell us whether they’re being paid or not. The first time we asked them, they said they’re not getting paid. And now they are just completely skirting the question. But one thing I can tell you is it’s the same four people that have been working pretty much around the clock. I’ve tried to get their supervisors’ phone numbers, and I’ve tried to contact the park superintendent but I’ve been unsuccessful there.

How has your interaction been with the rangers?

It’s definitely been civil. There were a couple of tense moments yesterday when this thing first started, but we’ve been working really hard to patch that up. So now we’re working together and understand that we’re all in the same situation, because hopefully when the opportunity comes they’re going to be lenient and let us through, right?

Have you thought about either taking some back roads in to the river, or a civil disobedience action where you’d walk across the barricade and force them to arrest you?

We’ve certainly thought about getting in that way, but we rented our gear. All of our boats and gear is on the outfitter’s two vehicles, and they have a future out here with the Park Service. They’re not going to go renegade.

So we’ve been talking about going from Diamond down (the non-permitted section of the Colorado below the Grand Canyon). We’ve been talking about doing the San Juan. We’ve been talking about going to Westwater. I don’t know. Our options aren’t many, ‘cause there’s 16 of us, in two vehicles. And they aren’t our vehicles.

Read more about the standoff in Wednesday morning’s story and Tuesday’s breaking report on how the government shutdown has stymied Grand Canyon boaters. 

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Add a Comment

  • Tom Martin

    Thanks for helping to get the word out Jeff. This is so unfortunate. Yours, Tom Martin

    • Charli Kerns

      You are welcome.

  • JH

    but they can pay for the signs and people to stand there? Duh all drama to make us beg for them to stop. Personally I start dragging my gear may take a few days but better than sitting. If they arrest me I would go but raise hell in PR. Your not stealing or defacing anything just walkin to the river. A river and walk we paid for and forefathers paid for. The only cost now is the government employees standing in your way.

  • ROgueBETTEy

    Do you think those rangers REALLY want to be there manning any kind of barricade and dealing with this BS? No they don’t they would rather be doing something else than turning away permit holders that have planned a river trip that will cost them a lot of money. It is funny that all government workers are the ones that are doing this and that is just NOT TRUE. The representatives in DC are doing this and then as it is happening they are getting on the bandwagon and blaming the other side of the aisle. All of it is a bunch of grandstanding that in affect is causing mass disruption in our lives, many of which we take for granted and just expect them to go on when the shit in DC hits the fan. Take a moment to thank those guys in DC who are still raking in $170,000+ a year while on average more than 81% of the federal government employees that would otherwise have a job and a pay check are struggling with how to pay their bills. How also on average make between $30- $40k a year and may have to apply and compete for those positions annually. Not to mention these same furloughed employees CAN NOT collect any kind of assistance because they technically are not out of work but furloughed (no pink slip but no pay either)

  • Revulooshun

    Then why DON`T they do something else and let the owners of this land,ALL OF US!!! do their thing? It`s already paid for.If ANY of these land NAZIS had any heart or soul with a little bit of Patriotism thrown in they would lead these fantastic people to their destination and tell the govt. to EFFF off!!

    I know WITHOUT ANY doubt if I was one of those “rangers” I would ABSOLUTELY,POSITIVELY,WITH OUT any doubt round up those poor people and take them into the canyon myself.Job or No job. I WOULD DO THE RIGHT THING!!

    That`s what it`s ALL about people!! Doing what is RIGHT! Not worrying about some dumb job.DOING THE RIGHT THING!!!!
    I would be VERY hard pressed to not go through the Nazi barricades and go about my business on OUR own land,if I was there.They cannot arrest everyone!!
    WOW!!! This closing of OUR land really,really pisses me off!!!

  • Bodacious1kc

    Be careful, if you find another way into the Colorado River, Chairman Barry will turn off the spigot and the river will dry up!

  • Been There – Swam That

    When the dust clears on this they will have been paid for all of their days off – just like last time. The hole thing is a frigin’ farce.

    • Been There – Swam That

      Sorry folks my information was incorrect, It appears the “essential workers” that was working will get paid twice and the furloughed ones will get paid only once..

      BTW the is the first time the parks has been closed during a Govt. shutdown..

      Have a great day now!

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