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Colorado River Rafters Wait for Shutdown to End

October 07
17:35 2013

Lifetime Dream Thwarted by Shutdown

leesferryclosed

Closure of Lee’s Ferry at Colorado River Rafting Entrance

The general mood was sad at Lee’s Ferry over the weekend as would-be Colorado River rafters realized that their lifetime dream of rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon was not going to happen. Thwarted by the Government Shutdown which closed access to Lee’s Ferry, their plans were put to an abrupt hault.  While nervous Park Rangers and police stood vigil over the blockade to the river access, several expectant groups arrived at the Lee’s Ferry turnoff on the morning of October 1, 2013, only to be turned away. Planning to have the experience of a lifetime, they were in a state of disbelief. This was not just a bad dream.

As the reality set in, these expectant river rafters camped out in the adjacent parking lot of the Marble Canyon Lodge for almost a week.  They still had hope. A swift end to the government shutdown would open the National Parks and they would be allowed to get on the river. One member of an Arizona group from the Sedona/Phoenix area was trying to keep things in perspective:

We know this is not a life or death matter, but still we saved and waited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  This is costing each of us over $3000 of non-refundable money as well as saved-up vacation time from work.  We don’t blame the Park Rangers; in fact, they have been extremely polite.  We just feel that we are all pawns in this political battle.”

A special bonding that could only take place in the parking lot of the Marble Canyon Lodge was happening. Americans and Europeans shared food and stories. One Arizona man shared his photographs from a 1985 Grand Canyon trip he was lucky enough to have had; offering as much of a vicarious experience he could under the circumstances. Another group from Medford, Oregon was resigned to a long, unfulfilled trip back home.

I am a trip leader mainly from Oregon.  We are holding out because we have taken time off from our jobs.  Our group of 16 people has invested and will lose over $60,000 on this trip. I have spent over $2000 in entry and application fees to the National Park service alone and didn’t get anything in return.  I did receive a phone call from them that if Congress doesn’t authorize the spending bill, our trip would be over.  A trip like this is really difficult to put together, and this has been a frustrating experience for us. We’re trying to make lemonade here.

Trailer beds piled high with rafts, drybags, portapots, backpacks, and overnight gear were parked next to rows of tents. Loaded with special self-sustaining equipment that is required for the river run, these hopeful river rafters were unable to leave in order to hike elsewhere. They were stuck in the parking lot at the Marble Canyon Lodge, a stalwart of this small community that services visitors to the area.

Lunching on the food they had prepared for weeks on the Colorado, a group of young Austrians were astounded that a National Park could be allowed to close. These young adults had saved their money and taken vacation time off for their trip to the United States.  Another  international visitor from El Salvador expressed his disappointment about the shutdown and National Park closure:

I have waited 20 years to come to this beautiful place. Totally beyond circumstances of my control, I am stuck here with these nice people.  Finally at 52 years old, I don’t get to go down the river. It’s disappointing and expensive.  All collectively, it is just unacceptable.  The public officials need to get their act together.

 

Story by Kerry K, Lake Powell Communications

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