During the federal government shutdown, it will literally take an act of Congress for rafters to float the Grand Canyon, and those who already have permits are protesting.
On Tuesday, three groups of rafters—48 people total—with permits to launch met armed National Park rangers and law-enforcement officials blocking off the entrance to Lees Ferry, the put-in for the Grand Canyon.
The rafters protested and were dispersed by law enforcement officials. They were forced to camp in the parking lot at a nearby lodge for the night.
“Our group has spent over $30,000 to plan this trip and make it happen,” Drew Huemmier of Philadelphia told the Arizona Daily Sun on Tuesday. “Now we are being told to go home by unpaid park rangers.”
There are hundreds of fortunate rafters already on the Colorado River. But groups with a permit scheduled for today forward will be turned away.
In the coming weeks, two to three groups of rafters per day are scheduled to enter the river, which means that the crowd outside of Lees Ferry will likely grow.
As of Wednesday, the entrance to the river was still blocked off, and rafters were back at the barricade.
“If I try to go back tomorrow, we'll have to pay hundreds in flight-change fees,” said Scott Lee, one of the many rafters stranded at Lees Ferry. “I think we all have no choice but to just try to wait it out.”