Standoff at Lee’s Ferry

As the shutdown continues, permit holders face off against Park rangers

This story is an update to yesterday’s article on how the government shutdown has stymied Grand Canyon boaters. 

The park has decided to make a statement and brought jersey blockades, chains, and this front-end-loader in all the way from Page. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures

Well, it looks like they are digging in folks. Unfortunately the park has decided to make a statement and brought jersey blockades, chains, and this front-end-loader in all the way from Page. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures

By Eugene Buchanan

With the government shut down closing access to national parks, things are getting ugly for river runners holding permits to launch their Grand Canyon trips today and later this week.

After helping the last permit holders put on before the closure took effect at noon yesterday, Oct. 1, Lee’s Ferry Law Enforcement Rangers went to the junction of Hwy 89A and the Lee’s Ferry Road to set up a road block. When two groups of river runners with permits arrived to rig for an Oct. 3 launch, “things got ugly and hot words were exchanged,” says Tom Martin of river advocacy group River Runners for Wilderness. As of this afternoon, five groups of permit holders—as many as 80 would-be river runners—are waiting to put in but being held off by authorities.

The standoff began when two river groups arriving late Tuesday afternoon met NPS rangers under orders not to let anyone proceed down the river access road. By Wednesday, three more groups had appeared, as had concrete barricades called in by authorities.

“Now they’re spending even more money to keep people out,” says Erin Ulloa of rental outfitter Ceiba Adventures, which has a trip slated to put in today.”We’ve worked with a lot of these river-runners for months and months. It’s sad for them to have made it this far—some have even come from other countries—only to be turned away when all you need is a volunteer checking them in at the put-in.”

Marble Canyon Lodge, a restaurant and general store a few hundred feet from the barricades, is letting the groups camp in the lodge parking lot. Meanwhile, permit holders called congressional representatives and others in a last-ditch effort to find a solution. Just as on Capitol Hill, hopes for a quick resolution quickly faded with the sun setting over the canyon walls.

“It had an eerie resemblance to the standoff in Washington,” says Martin. “In this case, the NPS is being totally and unrealistically inflexible. Self-guided river runners have a very good safety record and the NPS Rescue personnel are still on duty.”

Yesterday after 9am, a truck, trailer, and van from Ceiba loaded down with river runners and gear headed north toward Lee's Ferry and Grand Canyon National Park. The rangers have barred Ceiba and others from going to the river. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures

Yesterday after 9am, a truck, trailer, and van from Ceiba loaded down with river runners and gear headed north toward Lee’s Ferry and Grand Canyon National Park. The rangers have barred Ceiba and others from going to the river. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures

When CBS caught wind of the altercation, it dispatched a film crew to spend the night.

Ulloa adds that this afternoon she received an email from Arizona House RepresentativeAdam Kwasman (R) saying he’s trying to call a special session together of lawmakers to try and get the park re-opened.

According to Grand Canyon National Park records, there are 16 river trips scheduled to launch in the first seven days of October, and 61 in all of October. The last government shut down in 1995 lasted 19 days, though Grand Canyon National Park remained open. Most groups attempting to gain access to the put-in are waiting at the road block in protest, and in hopes that they’ll be able to put on as scheduled.

“Our group has spent over $30,000 to plan this trip and make it happen, now we are being told to go home by unpaid park rangers,” rafter Drew Huemmler of Philadelphia told the Arizona Daily Sun.

Other permit holders are equally disgruntled. “We have friends flying in from as far away as Alaska on non-refundable tickets and have spent over $17,000 so far in NPS fees, food and equipment rental,” Kansas river runner Hilary Esry, who’s launch date is Oct. 7, told RRFW. “I have a contract with the FederalGovernment allowing me to launch, and so far, I have not been contacted from the National Park Service about a pending closure.

“We expect to be on our own and except for the mandatory orientation at Lee’s Ferry, we do not expect to interface with anyone from the NPS. I can’t tell you how nerve-wracking this is for our trip.”

Officials at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area say that river runners already on the river will be able to finish their trips as scheduled. People who have parked their vehicles at Lee’s Ferry’s long-term parking lot will be allowed to retrieve them with a law enforcement escort.

CLICK HERE to check out the local coverage of the issue.

Here is a photo of the river runner refugee camp that is forming at Marble Canyon. Photo courtesy Caiba Adventures

Here is a photo of the river runner refugee camp that is forming at Marble Canyon. Photo courtesy Ceiba Adventures


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Add a Comment

  • ROgueBETTEy

    I work for the government as a fish biologist. As an employee i have no choice in who or what remains with a job or open to the public. It all sucks everyone should be writiing to their representatives. I am also an avid watersport person and so can understand peoples frustration when permits are subject to this bs. As a lowly employee not working in the capitol i have no say. People should be angry at congress and the senators not some lowly employee that has no choice in the matter.

    • brearly

      You always have a choice! Follow the Constitution.

  • Greg

    had you gotten rd of Obama years ago when he failed to live up to his talk, this would have been avided.

    • Jon Starr

      We should base all our election decisions on what to do so Republican obstructionists won’t hold the government hostage. Good plan, Greg. We could make all our lives easier by just asking them who we should all vote for so they won’t shut the government down.

      • Joltin Joe

        If you’re arguing R v D on this issue, YOU are the problem. Both are equally at fault and don’t give two $hits about america or americans

        • Keith Schiffner

          FALSE quit getting your news from Fox or CNN sheesh.

          • Joltin Joe

            Yeah ok dude, you have no clue. Good luck in life to you. Blindly following an ideology.

  • Bryan

    Greg, it appears you haven’t noticed that the Tea Party nutbaggers are refusing to let the gov’t pay bills that were already approved and spent. My monthly health insurance bills are about to go from $145 to $60, so I guess there is a silver lining. Thanks Mr Pres for that. It definitely helps.

    • Still Looking

      The Republicans in the House already passed a bill to free the budgets for the National Parks, Veterans Affairs, the District of Columbia and the National Institutes of Health (to fund the children’s cancer research). Harry Reid is refusing to allow votes on these bills on the Senate floor and President Obama is threatening to veto cancer treatments for children and rafting trips for tourists. You can blame it on he Tea Party all you want, but the evidences point to the Democratic Asses.

      • Keith Schiffner

        Sorry till hiding behind something other than a real name (only cowards and felons do that) But it all boils down to the fact republicans are having an internal fight and the useless bums dont’ give 2 shakes of a dogs leg if they burn the country down around their traitorus selves. YOU like every other tea bagger are delusional and dumber than a sack of hammers.

    • Frank Segesman

      Nice try Bryan. But, the water headed liberals are the ones stopping this from happening. Stop watching CNN and get the facts.

      • Keith Schiffner

        Uh, no they are not. I notice I’ve yet to see a tea bagger who wasn’t a lying pile of rattle snake crap.

  • Chris

    They are public lands. Tell the rangers you are going in and make them shoot you. Just because Demonrats and the pResident can’t figure out that America doesn’t want what they shoved down our throats, doesn’t mean public lands should not be open to the public.

    • Tim

      I agree. Public land that is owned by US citizens. Not the US government, NPS or anyone else. Are tax dollars are spent to maintain the parks not to keep us out!

      • Brian P. Martin

        Tim ~ our tax dollars ARE spent to maintain our parks…if you don’t like the way the Government is maintaining them…tell me who you think can do a better job. If you hesitate too long it will be maintained by Gangs…so tell me who should maintain….

    • Keith Schiffner

      SO brilliant…if you think being a dumb ass is a good idea, you go first, dumb ass.

  • Jon

    No money for ONE ranger to check people in, but they have enough money for THREE rangers to stand at the gate to keep people out? Not to mention time and money to make special signs, put in barriers, escort drivers to the parking lot, …
    Morons. No wonder the federal government is trillions in debt.

    • Joltin Joe

      It’s not about money, it’s about making you believe you “NEED” the government in your lives. This is why they intentionally hurt Americans by closing the parks etc..

    • Keith Schiffner

      Hey dummy, they aren’t getting paid and if they didn’t show up they could have been FIRED, FINED and THROWN in jail for up to 5 years. That’s due to a law written in 1870….y’all ignorant people ought to get a clue. Yes, I am married to someone that works in IHS. 40 miles just to get to work…when she runs out of gas money we are screwed. So, go cry your river to someone that gives a hoot what you ignorant losers think.

      • nathan

        and you’ll get back pay for time worked during the shut down.
        I see that you left that tidbit out.
        It’s not anyone else’s fault that you didn’t have money saved or a contingency plan.

  • jb

    This is how the government is going to win the argument. By showing people how horrible life is without the government being involved in every aspect of our lives. They have stripped our rights one by one and take away freedoms daily and show us that without them we can’t survive. Remember when the government was controlled by the people? Let’s get these idiots out of office and strip government of its abusive power

  • Jp

    It’s all a stupid political ploy by people we sent to Washington with $200k salaries to act like petty greedy envious children and bicker and argue over who gets to be the thimble in monopoly and flip the board when they don’t get their way.

    • Keith Schiffner

      Finally an intelligent comment.

  • Location Manager

    I am a location Manager for several Reality Shows & feature films for 25 years , I have obtained hundreds of Permits for clients like “The Bachloer” MTV Real World, Shawshank Redemption, Twighlight Breaking Dawn. And I also represent independent & non profit Films. In 2009 I noticed a huge shift in the (US DEPT OF INTERIOR) Parks were I obtain Permits. 100% of all my Independent projects have been denied . And my Clients with connections to Washington Don’t only get Approved the Fees are Waived and I have flown Helicopters into Bird Sanctuaries that landed on beaches with turtles nesting. It’s clear to me that the Same people Who are sicking the IRS on Dr Ben Carson A Hero to our Black Family , Are Using National Park & federal Recources to try to get political advantage & control more low information people. Just Swarm the Parks in numbers that they can not stop you it’s about We the People , Not Them the Government !!!

    Peace :-)

  • Wendy Redal

    This is an outrage. I am a staunch Democrat and the hard-right Republicans have enraged me – I blame them entirely for the government shutdown – but the Dems are using the opportunity to stir fury by going overboard on park closures, such as barricading the WWII memorial in D.C. (which is normally completely on view – no reason to bar access) and blocking access to the Grand Canyon. I support Harry Reid’s refusal to allow the Republicans to concede “one hostage a time” by allowing funding for parks and a handful of other programs, but this is doing nothing to further the administration’s just cause in not caving to the Tea Party. So very sorry for these rafters being left high and dry.

  • Max Mogren

    It’s not democrats vs. republicans. It’s a broken system. Representative Democracy is totally corrupted by corporate and financial interests. The only real solution is Direct Democracy and now the technology exists to make it happen. Should we wage endless wars overseas? 70% of Americans say NO. Next issue… Should we fire missiles at Syria? 90% of Americans say no. Should we bail out the banksters who intentionally crashed our economy? 80% of Americans say no. Should we close the National Parks because of bickering by corrupt politicians? 100% of Americans say no so let these river runners float!

  • pagosanative

    Ha Ha, you get what you vote for!…Romney would’ve never let this happen. Stupid tree huggers!

  • James

    I say we take it back!!! If the federal government is unable to keep
    our public lands open then they need to give that land back to the state!!!

  • Kerry Johnson

    Obama voters should be so proud! He’s doing exactly what he wants and what is happening is what he is making happen..

  • Vidnay

    Sorry folks, park’s closed. When you have unsupervised people in the wilderness it suddenly becomes defaced and full of garbage. Animals start to die, artifacts get removed and vandalism is rampant. It’s your own fault.

  • RiverRunner

    Fuck you Politicians…… and you idiotic morons “guarding” the put in.

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