Outlaws on the river


There are excellent reasons why paddling is not permitted in most streams in Yellowstone ("Forbidden waters," HCN, 11/11/13). Many streams meander through large meadows replete with grazing bison and elk. Paddlers would not only disrupt wildlife feeding along the steams, but the visual pollution caused by a parade of boats would spoil the magnificent scenes visitors presently enjoy.

As for the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River, this segment of river represents a wild and pristine setting for wilderness travelers. There are fabulous trails that hikers and backpackers can take that provide access to the river. Unlike Arizona's Grand Canyon, which requires a 5,000-foot descent to reach the Colorado River, the trails along the Yellowstone River are really not that difficult. Trains of rafts and kayaks frolicking through this wild canyon would take away from the peaceful setting cherished by hikers and backpackers.

Perhaps more important, this section of river is extremely dangerous.  The Black Canyon is very narrow, deep and remote. Any boating mishap here is going to require a very risky and costly rescue effort by National Park Service personnel who are already overtaxed. Your article failed to mention that outlaw paddler Rob Lesser also flagrantly broke park regulations in July of 1981 by attempting to kayak the Yellowstone River. One member of his party suffered a serious accident in a deep section of the canyon and separated his shoulder.  The park had to contract with a helicopter for the rescue. Your article states that Rob Lesser said "F--- off" when he got caught in 1986. I wonder if he said that when the rescue helicopter arrived in 1981? I also wonder who paid the bill for the rescue?

Orville Bach
Bozeman, Montana

David Nix
David Nix Subscriber
Dec 23, 2013 10:12 PM
Yes, please do list some "excellent reasons" for banning paddling on rivers in Yellowstone. YNP does a pretty good job keeping fishermen out of site and off sensitive habitat. Why couldn't they do the same with paddlers? No one is arguing for unregulated access. Paddling is a traditional use, just like fishing, backpacking, and mountaineering. If you're going to discriminate against paddling shouldn't you ban these other traditional uses?
lou carvelas
lou carvelas
Dec 25, 2013 08:28 AM
There is no affront to paddling and paddlers. It goes far far deeper than the needs of a sport and its sportsmen, whom are nature & wilderness lovers.
Yellowstone is the marrow of our continent and the source waters of three great river systems - Thoreau understood that wildness is a rare quality, and strict wildness preserves..us. Yellowstone is as great a wild place on earth as we have, and it is being encroached upon exponentially, paddlers/kayakers being exactly another in a list. I have to say it disrespects this great ecosystem - nothing is more endangered than Yellowstone.
This type of water recreation is not integral to Yellowstone's identity - so, I say respectfully, "too bad that it has great kayaking waters" - your great sport mustn't belong there, and it impacts nature grandly despite your reasoning.
Yellowstone needs nothing, it gives everything it is and far more. Yellowstone is a near primordial system, and a liminal place for many. It is apoplectic to think how man tries and tries to evolve it in his own image and his own wants.
Leave what we have of this 'magic' as it is...please and thank you.

Lou Carvelas
grant mcbee
grant mcbee
Dec 29, 2013 06:01 PM
In a 2000 letter from the Park Superintendent to American Whitewater the NPS explained that boating would “adversely impact park wildlife, conflict with other park users, impact vegetation, require infrastructure development, and create sanitation and safety hazards, [and] impair park resources and values.” Paddlers provide no evidence this is not still true and instead argue it is 'unfair to the. Yet these paddlers argue to the National Parks that motorized boats should be prohibited from rivers frequented by paddlers. What we have is a bunch of paddling brats trying to circumvent the public process used to manage our National Parks.
Rj Neff
Rj Neff
Jan 30, 2014 01:00 PM
Who paid for the rescue in 1981; likely the US taxpayer.