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Parks Ask For Comments On Paddling Prohibitions

Posted: 05/29/2013
by Kevin Colburn


Earlier this month, the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service published their draft management plan for 5 newly designated Wild and Scenic rivers in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  In a misguided 3-page legal argument they dismissed any consideration of allowing paddling on the rivers except where it is currently allowed.   They aim to maintain paddling bans on the following rivers:

  • Upper Snake River: A remote and mellow hike-in pack-rafting river.
  • Lower Lewis River: An accessible and impressive Class V canyon.
  • Buffalo Fork: A scenic 1-day float trip away from the road.  
  • Gros Ventre River: The tail end of a popular whitewater run with scenic vistas. 
  • Pacific Creek: A scenic and accessible day trip, and also the final section of a pack-rafting destination. 

Thankfully for all of us who care about rivers and their responsible enjoyment, excluding paddling from this analysis is against the Park Service’s own binding policies.  In fact, their full suite of legal arguments simply doesn’t hold water.  American Whitewater will be filing comments highlighting their errors, and requesting a fair hard look at allowing the public to float these Wild and Scenic rivers. 

Importantly, the agencies propose many strict monitoring and capacity limits that will protect the rivers from harm or overuse with or without visitors being allowed to paddle.   The exclusion of paddling from analysis was not intended or needed to protect the environment or enjoyment of the rivers. 

These agencies need to hear from you about why you would like to take a canoe, kayak, or pack raft trip down these Wild and Scenic Rivers.  If you think you ought to be able to float these rivers, please consider attending one of two public meetings June 4th and 5th, 2013, or submit written comments.   Personal comments are best, reflecting the value of paddling to you as a means of directly experiencing National Parks and natural wonders.  Comments are due by June 30, 2013.