Grand Canyon rafting fees inflate

  • Getting expensive: Rafting through the Grand Canyon

    Bob Woodall
  For many rafters, it doesn't get any better than a float trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Would-be boaters often spend as long as 10 years waiting for one of 200 private launch dates granted each year.

A new fee increase at Grand Canyon National Park may give them second thoughts: an 18-day private Grand Canyon trip for 16 people, which used to cost $159 in park fees, now tops $1,900.

When the fees take effect in February, it will cost $100 to get on the waiting list, $25 annually to stay on the waiting list and $200 to launch. Rafters must also pay a park-wide $10 entrance fee (up from $4) and a new $4 per night impact fee. It used to cost only $25 to join the waiting list and $50 to launch.

Canyon District Ranger Jim Northup describes rafting the Colorado River as a special use that the park must pay for. He says the new increases seem high because the Park Service should have raised rates earlier. "The private boaters have had the best deal for years," says Northup.

Private rafters and commercial boaters alike agree on the need to protect and maintain the river, even with funds out of their own pockets. But many are upset over the agency's failure to submit a fee increase proposal to the public. Instead, the agency sent approximately 6,500 people on the waiting list a letter describing the new fees and warning of a March 31 deadline for paying the $25 fee to stay on the list.

Will boaters pay? Some predict that the stiff price hikes will thin out duplications on the waiting list. Private rafter Jeff Stines, who has floated over 600 miles on rivers all over the Southwest, has been waiting since 1991 for a chance at the Grand. He says he's upset about having to pay more but will wait, and pay, and even pay to wait, for his shot.

"All my friends have done the Grand," he says. "It hasn't really worked out for me."

" Sarah Dry

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