News Release

Man Pleads Guilty to Leading Unpermitted Packrafting Trips

a woman stands on a riverbank next to two inflatable rafts
Packrafting in the Grand Canyon

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News Release Date: July 13, 2023

Contact: Grand Canyon Office of Communications

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. – Following an investigation by rangers of the National Park Service (NPS), Samuel H. Edwards pled guilty to leading an illegal packrafting trip in Grand Canyon National Park. On May 15, 2023, Edwards entered a guilty plea on misdemeanor charges of leading a backcountry packrafting trip without a permit and entering a restricted area.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona ordered Mr. Edwards to pay a $2,500 fine and submit to two years’ probation, during which time he will be banned from all national parks, national monuments, and federal recreation areas. This was Mr. Edwards’ second conviction for leading an illegal packrafting trip at Grand Canyon National Park.

Packrafting, or River Assisted Backcountry Travel (RABT), differs from traditional river rafting in that it is utilizing the river for short distances in order to access another route or trail. Hikers typically will have a backcountry permit and use the river to connect portions of their itinerary via the Colorado River. Mr. Edwards utilized approximately 100 miles of the river.

A backcountry permit with the specific RABT designation is required in order to lead or conduct a packrafting trip, per the Grand Canyon Superintendent’s Compendium.

Unpermitted packrafting trips can lead to dangerous situations for participants, as the park has no knowledge of their whereabouts if something goes wrong. In 2022, there were 338 SAR (Search And Rescue) incidents and 11 fatalities in Grand Canyon National Park.

By employing only legitimate and permitted guides, visitors can minimize both their own risk and the impact they have on the land.

Last updated: July 13, 2023

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