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Know the West

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