Who should float the Colorado?

  Dear HCN,


I seldom voice my opinion in the public arena, but I felt compelled by the recent articles in High Country News to share some of my experiences and opinions.


Like Brad Dimock, I am a recovering river rat. I got my start with Outward Bound School in the late 1960s. I started floating in Dinosaur, a spectacular place in its own right, paddle in hand, old Army surplus green river boat under my butt. Over the next decade I made it down the Selway, Middle Fork, Main, Desolation, Cataract and several lesser-known runs. My first trip in the Grand Canyon was as an assistant river guide; two trips later I had my own "pig rig." It was a religious experience; the Grand Canyon dwarfed any other experience I had. I lasted two summers.


It became apparent that the majority of my passengers had merely paid the money and often failed to grasp the reality of their surroundings. They seemed content to take some pictures and go home to brag. The clincher was a rich Englishman who said, "I've been on safari in Africa and this is for the Boy Scouts." I must have forgotten to serve tea. I summoned a chopper at Little Colorado - told them to charge double - and he flew away; the people on the boat cheered.


I managed to get on two private trips, both with people who had waited seven years for the permits. The participation of everyone, their outdoor skills, their boating skills, the group interaction and care for others on the trip, the awe and wonder, the respect for the Grand, are what makes it worth doing. River running has changed, as have so many of the outdoor experiences, with commercial operators, the public, technology and the government reducing it to a carnival ride. I have lost interest, after 30,000" miles of river trips over the span of 28 years. I've gone into hiding near the headwaters. I'm almost cured of what I always thought would be a life-long addiction.


While the Park Service believes that everyone has a right to float the Grand Canyon, I believe it is a great privilege that should be earned by something other than money.





David Lehr


Winter Park, Colorado


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