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  1. #1
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    Kayaking in Yellowstone Park - Don't do it!

    A few months ago BB RidgeKid posted a thread about him and three of his teenage buddies getting ticketed for trying to kayak a waterfall in Yellowstone Park. They were subsequently charged with boating within the Park and intent to kayak. He deleted the thread soon after.

    Yesterday the boys went before the U.S. Magistrate in Mammoth. The U.S. Attorney had set a plea bargain of a $500 fine, 3 years probation, and a 3 year ban from the Park. The maximum penalty for this could have been up to 6 months in jail and a $5000 fine. The boys read some well thought out statements and apologies, the judge then sentenced them to a $300 fine, 1 year probation and a 1 year ban from the park. The parents and boys were hoping for a little more leniency, especially with the probation issue. I know my son is relieved to have this finally behind him after waiting 3 months for the court appearance.

    There are many who would like to see the rivers opened up to boating within the Park boundaries but until that ever happens(doubtful) beware of the consequences. I have a feeling they will get tougher on this issue.

  2. #2
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    I was wondering how it was going to play out. What would the punishment have been if they actually got on the water? The "Intent to kayak" citation seems similar to citing someone with "intent to speed" just because they have a sports car and they were close to a road. It could have been worse I guess.

  3. #3
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    sucks, but at least it will finally be behind them

  4. #4
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    Good lessons to be learned here; when poaching Yellowstone rivers, come up with a good plan, Implement it when the rangers are on a donut break. I'e read some good poach yellowstone stories, over the years. would be cool to hear some more.

    Sounds like a BS charge unless they were in a parking lot all dressed and ready to go. I'd hate to get that ticket if I was in the parking lot with boats on the rack, just taking pictures and dreaming of a potential line.
    Last edited by SuperChief; 10-09-2008 at 09:52 AM.
    All stunts performed without a net!

  5. #5
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    Probation...lame!

    Oh well, there are lots of ways to learn lessons about dealing with the law, guess it could have been worse.

    What river/falls?
    Last edited by RootSkier; 10-09-2008 at 10:49 AM.

  6. #6
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    My brother got pulled over and lectured by a Yellowstone park ranger on how it was illegal to kayak within the park, just for having kayaks on his vehicle. He was contemplating poaching, so I guess it was good that he was made aware of the severity of getting caught.
    Last edited by cmsummit; 10-09-2008 at 11:07 AM.
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  7. #7
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    what is the 'reason' that they ban boating in the park?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 406 View Post
    what is the 'reason' that they ban boating in the park?
    [donning flame-resistant outerwear]

    It's really never been fully legal to paddle rivers in yellowstone. They did a pretty brief analysis or plan back in the...late 80's maybe? It's conclusion was to not open it up. Then Cully Erdman blew out his shoulder in Black Canyon around that time and was helicoptered out. That upped the awareness that it was going on. Then American Whitewater got all up in arms, pushing the nps hard and, IIRC, published articles from some who had poached it. Really kinda ticked off the park service.

    Imho the main reasons they haven't opened it have to do with impacts on the riparian zones, the likely crowds impacting the natural scenery that kinda defines yellerstone, and the management that would be required in terms of search and rescue, etc. Those points have certainly been and will be debated. Personally, i'd be thrilled to see a limited permit based system for black canyon, but would hate to see all rivers opened up. The thought of a few hundred boy scouts on the Yellowstone river thru hayden valley, or on the Firehole, etc, ain't pretty... [/outerwear]
    Neil Young said Harvest put him right in the middle of the road, so he headed for the nearest ditch. I think we've kind of just gone ditch to ditch to ditch a lot of the time.

    Patterson Hood of the DBT's

  9. #9
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    How about NO commercial boating. NO descents of the Grand Canyon of the Y in the famous part, regulations on backcountry camping like every other BC user deals with, closing rivers that are especially fragile, etc.

    Common sense things...Almost every other NP allows boating, why not Yellowstone?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by RootSkier View Post
    How about NO commercial boating. NO descents of the Grand Canyon of the Y in the famous part, regulations on backcountry camping like every other BC user deals with, closing rivers that are especially fragile, etc.

    Common sense things...Almost every other NP allows boating, why not Yellowstone?
    a) Please be careful carelessly throwing common sense around such an issue.

    b) The folks in Yellowstone that i have spoken with basically agree that the impacts could be managed, and aren't any more severe than with many of the existing uses i.e. horses, cars, snowmobiles etc. Some of them, however, aren't very supportive of adding another use, given the same level of staff support available to manage it. Sure, there's those that say hell, they waste so much $$, what's a few canoes, but imho they try to manage activities safely and successfully there.

    c) There's a pretty vocal group in and outside the service who really try to keep the brakes on new uses/developments in Yellowstone, the world's first national park. To some, they want your kids to see the same place your grandpa did. Not saying it's right, but it's out there...

    d) There's more than a few other rivers in NP's that are also closed. The Buffalo Fork and Pacific Creek in the Tetons to name 2...

    e) Unfortunately some look at all the outlaw boating that was blatantly publicized as evidence regs wouldn't likely be followed anyway...

    f) Refer again to a).
    Neil Young said Harvest put him right in the middle of the road, so he headed for the nearest ditch. I think we've kind of just gone ditch to ditch to ditch a lot of the time.

    Patterson Hood of the DBT's

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tye 1on View Post
    [donning flame-resistant outerwear]

    It's really never been fully legal to paddle rivers in yellowstone. They did a pretty brief analysis or plan back in the...late 80's maybe? It's conclusion was to not open it up. Then Cully Erdman blew out his shoulder in Black Canyon around that time and was helicoptered out. That upped the awareness that it was going on. Then American Whitewater got all up in arms, pushing the nps hard and, IIRC, published articles from some who had poached it. Really kinda ticked off the park service.

    Imho the main reasons they haven't opened it have to do with impacts on the riparian zones, the likely crowds impacting the natural scenery that kinda defines yellerstone, and the management that would be required in terms of search and rescue, etc. Those points have certainly been and will be debated. Personally, i'd be thrilled to see a limited permit based system for black canyon, but would hate to see all rivers opened up. The thought of a few hundred boy scouts on the Yellowstone river thru hayden valley, or on the Firehole, etc, ain't pretty... [/outerwear]
    Not true... it was originally legal to paddle any of YNP's waterways. In the 50's or 60's (sorry, I'm not sure exactly when), the park started getting much heavier use... especially from fisherman. In an attempt to slow this down, the park decided to ban all watercraft from the rivers. This was done to curb the number of fisherman on the waterways. It is very unfortunate that they decided to go this route rather than just offering fewer fishing permits. There is absolutely no better way (or less impactful way) to see and experience the park than from the seat of a kayak. I can only imagine that the ever adventurous (and National Park founder) Teddy Roosevelt would cringe if he knew of the policies YNP currently has with regards to kayakers. We can only hope that new blood circulating through higher rankings of the YNP bureaucracy will take note and help change these completely asinine rules... hopefully they're reading this right now.

  12. #12
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    The national park service has a management view of how much money they spend per visitor. This is much like the way businesses work. It's much cheaper and easier to manage a bus load of tourists who never leave the parking lot than it is to manage a few people who walk in unpredictable directions. Add to that how much work it takes to evacuate a chest grabber from said tour bus versus any type of injury just a mile from the trailhead. This creates an imbalance of expenses and resources for the "off-the-beaten-path" group of users. Unfortunately for them, the parks are stuck managing the "historical" users, like climbers in Yosemite and rafters in Grand Canyon NP. Unfortunately for us, they are constantly aware of the resource imbalance at these parks and they'll fight tooth and nail to prevent another activity from popping up. The reality is, people have safely run the sick lines in Yellowstone for years, but an evac would be very difficult for the park service there since they know nothing about swiftwater rescue and rivers are generally difficult to access.
    Understand this: I think the entire Park Service has a bullshit perspective. Parks are for recreating and to suggest that kayaking will be high impact on anything environmental is a total blatant lie. Sensitive riparian zones are not affected by a couple of guys hoping on rocks in neoprene booties and they're certainly not affected by a plastic boat floating on water! To suggest that tourists wouldn't like to see kayakers is naive at best. They line up to watch every other "extreme" activity and kayaking would be no different. I'm a firm supporter of poaching the park, just be stealth about it. If you pay $3-500 for a once in a lifetime run it should be totally worth it.
    See if you can find Earl Alderson's American Whitewater article from several years ago on running the clark's fork of the Yellowstone. It's pretty bad ass.
    Last edited by jm2e; 10-10-2008 at 04:14 PM.

  13. #13
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    The only Earl Alderson/Yellowstone article I found in a search of the AW Journal was about the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone...not illegal but still epic and badass.

    Here is an article from the AW Journal about poaching: http://americanwhitewater.org/conten...e_5_year_1993_

    Article starts on page 56.

  14. #14
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    Here's another good link from American Whitewater, basically spelling out the whole issue:
    http://www.americanwhitewater.org/re...4_analysis.pdf

  15. #15
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    P.S.
    mtcham, I'm genuinely sorry your boy got in trouble over this, but I think the title of the thread should be changed to "Kayaking in Yellowstone Park-DO IT!" With an explainer about being stealth, having a plan and making sure you can afford the fine.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by jm2e View Post
    Parks are for recreating and to suggest that kayaking will be high impact on anything environmental is a total blatant lie. Sensitive riparian zones are not affected by a couple of guys hoping on rocks in neoprene booties and they're certainly not affected by a plastic boat floating on water!
    I have to disagree with you on this point and will get flamed, but fuck it. Harlequin ducks are affected by kayakers. The chicks get scared and pushed down stream, get separated from their parents and ultimately do not survive because they can't fly or attain class 4 whitewater to find their family

    To throw out statements like that is just an example of misleading vividness. Unless you are actively participating in impact studies on watersheds and have academic or field experience related to these impacts then you possibly should re-evaluate your point of view. I just can't believe we really know what impacts we really do make on an environment when we are using it.

    I'd like to poach that run someday, just for the thrill of a poach and run mission on a stretch of river that is unique.
    All stunts performed without a net!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperChief View Post
    I have to disagree with you on this point and will get flamed, but fuck it. Harlequin ducks are affected by kayakers. The chicks get scared and pushed down stream, get separated from their parents and ultimately do not survive because they can't fly or attain class 4 whitewater to find their family

    To throw out statements like that is just an example of misleading vividness. Unless you are actively participating in impact studies on watersheds and have academic or field experience related to these impacts then you possibly should re-evaluate your point of view. I just can't believe we really know what impacts we really do make on an environment when we are using it.

    I'd like to poach that run someday, just for the thrill of a poach and run mission on a stretch of river that is unique.
    Well said. I was halfway thru typing a similar response but also understand and respect that this board is populated, largely, by some of the most talented, skilled and motivated outdoor recreationists on the globe. They shouldn't be expected to be in favor of keeping yellowstone closed to riverboating any more than i'd expect a hooker to be in favor of abstinence.
    Neil Young said Harvest put him right in the middle of the road, so he headed for the nearest ditch. I think we've kind of just gone ditch to ditch to ditch a lot of the time.

    Patterson Hood of the DBT's

  18. #18
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    Like I said above, close the key parts of the rivers with harlequin nesting sites for whatever part of the season they need for the chicks to survive.

    McDonald Creek in Glacier is an example...while Glacier is open to boating unless otherwise specified, the best, most accessible creek is closed during the best time of the year to run it. But you don't hear boaters complaining.

  19. #19
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    To answer a few of the questions.

    No the boys were not being stealth. They had all their boats on top of the truck. They were on their way to Mesa Falls and the idea of running a warmup on a nearby falls just inside the park came up. As they were driving in the long access road they passed a vehicle, probably a fisherman, who alerted the rangers.

    When the 4 rangers came into the lower lot the kids were geared up and had some cameras ready. The kids at the upper lot were told by their friend that rangers were in the lower lot-so they hid their boats in the woods.

    After a very lengthy interrogation, roughly 2-3 hours, they were charged with intent to kayak. Their camera cards were confiscated also.

    As a parent I know that the kids really let their passion and living for the moment overide their judgement. I seriously doubt they ever thought about the possibility of getting in trouble or thought what they were doing was wrong.

    I am still quite pissed about the whole INTENT law but I'm not sure even a good lawyer could have won. For me it is more black and white, either they are on the water kayaking or not. In their written statements, some of the kids alluded that they were in fact going to run the falls so intent was noted.

    As far as why kayakers are not allowed on the Park's rivers, the Judge gave the following reasons. Safety and the logistics of rescuing an injured boater. He gave an example of a boater who broke his leg in Black Canyon. Sensitive bird nesting areas also in Black Canyon. And lastly the need to keep the Park a wilderness and pristine experience for the tourists.

    Our family has spent many days in YNP, this experience has left me a little bitter and we won't be doing any more Park trips. The manner in which the boys were treated by the Park rangers was outrageous. One in particular had a real hardon about kayaking in the park and kept pressuring the boys for information that they had no idea what he was talking about.

  20. #20
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    On a side note, just as a reminder of being in YNP.

    While standing on the Courthouse steps after the trial we hear a guy screaming. This badass elk had just rammed his antlers thru the guys car doors while he was trying to take a picture of it. I asked one of the Rangers how many times the bull has done that and she tells me that was number 37 and the third time he did it that day.


  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperChief View Post
    I have to disagree with you on this point and will get flamed, but fuck it. Harlequin ducks are affected by kayakers. The chicks get scared and pushed down stream, get separated from their parents and ultimately do not survive because they can't fly or attain class 4 whitewater to find their family

    To throw out statements like that is just an example of misleading vividness. Unless you are actively participating in impact studies on watersheds and have academic or field experience related to these impacts then you possibly should re-evaluate your point of view. I just can't believe we really know what impacts we really do make on an environment when we are using it.

    I'd like to poach that run someday, just for the thrill of a poach and run mission on a stretch of river that is unique.
    Just read the AWA Article please. It address the fact the the park service has not taken a scientific approach to their statements concerning these concepts as they relate to boaters. I don't need to be a Yellowstone watershed ecology expert to have a fucking opinion. Fortunately my favorite advocacy group does call upon the scientific community to help them address these issues.
    If you want to pick on me for making an all or nothing statement, then fine. Touche'. If you want to convince me that the population stability of Harlequin Ducks can be affected by paddlers I'm all ears. I have never heard of any studies showing that private paddlers affect any wildlife population, so please help me out. A couple of ducks disrupted is certainly sad and boaters should have a sense of obligation to avoid hurting them. But a couple of ducks does not equal disruption of populations justifying an activity restriction. If that's the way we worked, there would be a lot fewer roads and visitor centers in our parks.
    But if you can't be convinced by the scientific approach AWA takes, then just listen to Root. Every hurdle can be overcome and most of them have been overcome elsewhere.
    Again, if you just need someone on whom to take frustration, be my guest. I lay myself down for your convenience.

  22. #22
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    First off, the INTENT law is elkshit. Sorry to hear the boys got in trouble. Better luck next time?

    This, however...

    Quote Originally Posted by jm2e View Post
    Just read the AWA Article please. It address the fact the the park service has not taken a scientific approach to their statements concerning these concepts as they relate to boaters. I don't need to be a Yellowstone watershed ecology expert to have a fucking opinion. Fortunately my favorite advocacy group does call upon the scientific community to help them address these issues.
    If you want to pick on me for making an all or nothing statement, then fine. Touche'. If you want to convince me that the population stability of Harlequin Ducks can be affected by paddlers I'm all ears. I have never heard of any studies showing that private paddlers affect any wildlife population, so please help me out. A couple of ducks disrupted is certainly sad and boaters should have a sense of obligation to avoid hurting them. But a couple of ducks does not equal disruption of populations justifying an activity restriction. If that's the way we worked, there would be a lot fewer roads and visitor centers in our parks.
    But if you can't be convinced by the scientific approach AWA takes, then just listen to Root. Every hurdle can be overcome and most of them have been overcome elsewhere.
    Again, if you just need someone on whom to take frustration, be my guest. I lay myself down for your convenience.
    No offense, but your fucking opinion doesn't mean much, and AW's doesn't either. Unfortunately for you (and all paddlers) AW is, at best, scientifically biased towards their own agenda. Arguing about "science" for advocacy's sake is akin to a being a retard. Science can be and is custom tailored to specific group's agenda's on an hourly basis. A snippet here, a snippet there - it usually gets the job done. For better, or for worse.

    Kayaking isn't a right, its a privilege, and AW isn't as great as it appears. I find it so amusing that AW badmouths environmental "atrocities" every chance they get, yet every kayaker hops in their car and drives to the river, drives shuttle, then drives home. We paddle in plastic kayaks, no less.

    "Don't remove large woody debris from our rivers," AW barks, even though it might unnecessarily kill paddlers.

    A few deaths in the name of stream ecology is alright, right? Don't even get me started on the "science" of ecology.

    I guess it makes sense that fucking up a few ducks in the name of "getting out into nature" via the river is justified. I hope you're catching my sarcasm.

    AW is so two-faced that I get sick just thinking about their website. Reediculous. I stopped believing that they were doing any good a long, long time ago.

    Of course, that is just my fucking opinion.

    We follow the rules, or be prepared to face the consequences. You're caught poaching (on the water making downstream progress - the intent law is still elkshit), you pay your dues. Whiners need not apply. It makes us look bad.

    end rant.

    Flame on. I can certainly take it.
    The greatest effort is not concerned with results.

  23. #23
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    On 'intent'. Reading posts carefully, it sounds like the kids were in pfd's and spray skirts, with boats off the vehicles. Yes? If so, why should a ranger let them run the waterfall illegally? If they got hurt, it would've been that ranger's ass on the line.
    Like well stated above, this is only my fucking opinion, flame on, and whiners need not apply.
    Neil Young said Harvest put him right in the middle of the road, so he headed for the nearest ditch. I think we've kind of just gone ditch to ditch to ditch a lot of the time.

    Patterson Hood of the DBT's

  24. #24
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    I was just in Kings Canyon NP in CA and they don't allow boating in there at all for one good reason...you'd fucking die. Both the deadwood in the river or class VI gnarliness would do you in...infuckingcredible section of rapids above Boyden Caverns. Makes me glad my boat was no where near me the first time I was in there in the spring.
    Last edited by Flaskman; 10-15-2008 at 10:02 PM.

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    Hahhaaa Im so glad I didnt go with you guys that day.

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