Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks contain an environment without parallel, and their rivers, in many ways, define and create the region’s dramatic landscapes. The Parks' rivers and streams could provide a spectacular opportunity for Park visitors to experience the landscape's natural splendor. However, all but one segment of each Parks' rivers are off-limits to paddling. The ban on paddling impacts citizens throughout the country and is inconsistent with National Park Service management policies and priorities. Below is the timeline of the Ban's histories:
- 1950 - YS - The YS Annual Report noted under the title “Management and Protection of Fish Resources”: “Heavy fishing pressure exerted on park waters during the post-war period made it necessary to add two new provisions to the park regulations. The first of these provides that fish may be taken from the Madison and Firehole Rivers only with artificial flies or single baited hooks and prohibits the use of other lures. The second prohibits the use of boats on park streams. These new regulations, which became effective on the opening of the fishing season on May 30, 1950, and the limit of take of five fish per person per day, which became effective a year earlier, have met with general approval of anglers and others who are interested in the protection of sport fishing in park waters.”
- 1951 - GT - Boating banned within 500 feet of Jackson Dam on the Snake
- 1955 - GT - Boating banned within 1000 feet of Jackson Dam on the Snake
- 1956 - GT - Boating banned within 1000 feet of Moran Dam.
- 1959 - Regs allow Superintendents to close areas to boating. YS, in the same reg, bans boating on all park rivers and streams except on the Lewis Channel and the Yellowstone River from YS Lake to a point 300 yards below the fishing bridge.
- 1962 - GT bans boating on all rivers except the Snake River (but not within 1000 feet of Jackson Lake Dam) and the stream between Bearpaw Lake and Jackson Lake.
- 1971 - GT reiterates their boating policy with a rulemaking.
- 1982 - YS management plan recommends additional consideration of paddling
- 1986 - Draft YS boating “analysis” released for public comment.
- 1988 - First and only “analysis” of boating in YS released, with a recommendation to continue the ban. Analysis was deeply flawed.
- 2009 - YS reg reiterating boating ban on all waters except Lewis Channel (thus officially closing paddling on the previously legal section of the Yellowstone River).
- 2010 - YS Superintendent's Compendium references their boating regulation brochure as having the force of the Compendium, which simply echos the standard YS policy.
- 2013 - May. YS and GT release their Draft Comprehensive River Management Plan for several new Wild and Scenic Rivers, in which they refuse to consider paddling in any alternative.
- 2013 - November. Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis introduces the River Paddling Protection Act to ease restrictions on paddling in YS and GT.
In 2009 Several rivers in the Parks received protective status under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act requires the Parks to create new Comprehensive River Management Plans that fully assess current and potential recreational opportunities, which includes paddling. The plans must also recognize and protect the Outstanding Remarkable Values of the rivers which can and should include paddling, and must support additional recreation unless it substantially interferes with those values. In short, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act support sustainable human-powered recreation on rivers.
In 2013 Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced HR 3492, the River Paddling Protection Act to lift the federal-level paddling prohibitions and make way for modern river management that includes paddling. American Whitewater submitted written testimony and is actively involved in the progress of the legislation.
American Whitewater is representing conservation-oriented paddlers in asking for the full consideration and return of sustainable paddling on the Parks' rivers.
A Deeper Dive Into Yellowstone
02/14/2014 - by Kevin Colburn
Earlier this week we posted a quick article informing our community that American Whitewater would not pursue the Senate version of the River Paddling Protection Act, ending our exploration of a legislative solution to the management of paddling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. We’ve obviously gotten some questions about this decision and would like to offer a more robust explanation.
AW Not to Pursue Yellowstone Legislation in Senate
02/11/2014 - by Kevin Colburn
American Whitewater has decided not to pursue a Senate version of the River Paddling Protection Act, ending our exploration of a legislative solution to the management of paddling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Advocating for this legislation in the Senate with insufficient support would exhaust resources better spent on promising conservation projects, would damage valued relationships, and would be unlikely to produce a favorable outcome.
Yellowstone Bill Passes the US House of Representatives
02/08/2014 - by Kevin Colburn
The River Paddling Protection Act, introduced by Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), passed the US House of Representatives on Thursday and now moves to the Senate for consideration. The bill grants the National Park Service three years to replace 60 year-old paddling prohibitions in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks with modern science-based management. Doing so would allow Americans to experience these iconic landscapes through non-commercial paddling in a low impact, sustainable, and carefully managed manner.
Yellowstone Bill Hearing Goes Well
11/22/2013 - by Kevin Colburn
Last week the River Paddling Protection Act, HR 3492, was discussed in a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee. This bill aims to lift a 60-year-old federal-level ban on paddling rivers in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in favor of normal and flexible river management. Aaron Pruzan testified on behalf of conservation-oriented paddlers, and we are actively working to improve and pass this landmark legislation.
Parks Ask For Comments On Paddling Prohibitions
05/29/2013 - by Kevin Colburn
Earlier this month, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks released their draft plan for managing several new Wild and Scenic Rivers. They dismissed any consideration of allowing paddling on the rivers except where it is currently allowed. If you would like to be able to take a canoe, kayak, or pack raft trip down these Wild and Scenic rivers, please consider attending one of two public meetings June 4 and 5, 2013, or submit written comments.
Public Comment Opportunity on Yellowstone Paddling
12/20/2010 - by Kevin Colburn
The Park Service is seeking your advice on how to manage several newly designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Paddling is currently prohibited on most of these rivers. We encourage paddlers to offer management suggestions that support river recreation and conservation before the end of 2010.
The contacts below include staff and volunteers working on this project. Make sure you are logged in if you wish to join the group.