LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Samuel H. Edwards will have to pay a $2,500 fine for “packrafting” — and he can’t set foot in a national park for two years, either.
On Thursday, the National Park Service (NPS) announced Edwards’ sentence after he was caught for the second time leading an illegal packrafting expedition through the Grand Canyon.
Packrafting, an activity that combines hiking and personal rafting, is prohibited at Grand Canyon National Park unless visitors obtain specific permits for their trips, NPS said. Rafting the Grand Canyon is heavily regulated, and permits are used to control access and preserve the quality of the experience.
Edwards did not have a permit, and was in a restricted area.
“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,” NPS said. “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.”
Edwards pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges on May 15. As a condition of his probation, he is barred for the next two years from entering national parks, national monuments and federal recreation areas.
It was the second conviction for Edwards for leading a packrafting trip through the canyon.
Although the NPS news release did not specify how many people were in Edwards’ group, the potential to make money leading these trips could be increasing traffic along the Colorado River.
Standard raft trips, which are booked years in advance, can cost more than $3,000 per person. In packrafting, the raft alone can cost $2,000 or more.
“Unpermitted packrafting trips can lead to dangerous situations for participants, as the park has no knowledge of their whereabouts if something goes wrong,” according to the NPS release. “In 2022, there were 338 SAR (Search And Rescue) incidents and 11 fatalities in Grand Canyon National Park.”
“Legitimate and permitted guides” are also required to minimize risks and reduce impact on the land, according to park officials.