Busted on the Grand


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Busted on the Grand
Five boaters denied river access after authorities find marijuana at put-in

U.S. Senator Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) staff certainly has more important things on its plate than helping dope-smoking river runners access the wilderness. But when that wilderness is in the Senator’s own backyard, is governed by the National Park Service, and the callers in question are complaining of procedural violations, sometimes it takes a call from the Man.

That was the case when members of a non-commercial Grand Canyon river party had their permit revoked shortly before their scheduled launch at Lee’s Ferry on January 27, 2007. According to report by RiverWire, the group was supposed to embark on a 30-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon to South Cove at Lake Mead. That morning, however, thanks to a citizen’s tip, they were approached by law enforcement officials leashing a drug-sniffing dog that detected drug paraphernalia.

According to reports, one trip participant said the authorities seized three ounces of marijuana, with five trip members then taken into custody and appearing before a judge that afternoon in Page, Arizona. After misdemeanor possession charges were brought against all five, they were released on their own recognizance pending a future court date.

Current permit regulations for the Grand maintain the National Park Service allows anyone who has registered to call in and claim available trip openings. Paddler Mike Grijalva, however, who was on the original trip, was refused his request when he called in and tried to claim the aborted trip launch. (According to RiverWire, he had registered for the fall 2006 lottery and was eligible to claim a cancelled date.) While the group was later assured by the River Permits Office that there were unclaimed launches on Feb 1, 2 and 4, Grijalva was denied one of these permits on the basis of his association with the five arrested individuals.

One of the river party members then called Senator Harry Reid’s office, and one of his staff reportedly contacted Grand Canyon National Park officials on his behalf. Subsequent negotiations resulted in Grijalva being awarded a launch date for February 2, 2007. Grijalva’s initial request was to include all the trip participants, but the Park Service only allowed the nine people not charged in the investigation to go.

While Paddling Life has yet to hear back from calls placed to the Senator’s office, Tom Martin, co-director of River Runners for Wilderness, questions how the park handled the situation. “The park service basically said everyone else was guilty by association,” he says, “and no one’s even been convicted of anything yet. A better option would have been to postpone the launch and then wait and see what happens.”

“We support wilderness protection and equitable access for river runners,” he adds. “But we’ve seen a heavy-handedness on non-commercial river runners for over 30 years, and this is just a confirmation of that. Are they bringing in drug-sniffing dogs for commercial trips? I don’t think so…”

“It’s a shame the folks who were not implicated were initially denied even when they followed park procedures,” he adds. “It shouldn’t take Congressional intervention to get them what they are perfectly entitled to as citizens.”

Paddling Life’s View
Come on, a little dope on the Grand? What are they going to do next, take the glue from your patch kit in case you decide to take a few whiffs as well? Granted, three ounces sounds like a bit much, but don’t law enforcement officials have better things to do (like chasing down drug smugglers farther south)?
Given their handling of the affair, we couldn’t help but re-name a few of the Grand’s rapids and other features in honor of the park service.
Crystal=Crystal Meth
Lava=Lava Lamp
House Rock=Crack House Rock
Bright Angel Canyon=Bright Angel Dust
Red Wall Cavern=Red Eye Tavern

Many river runners, it seems (at least those posting on forums like Mountain Buzz) feel the same way. Check the responses/threads below for more on the topic…


Great article about smoking-down at the put-in. It’s hard to believe that all this time and effort would be put into this “bust”. I mean, were they going to pull off on a sand bar and offer bales to passers-by? No way. This is ridiculous and I applaud PaddlingLife for having the cahones to speak up about it and offer a little humor with renaming some rapids. The outdoor community and cannabis are synonymous in my long experience. How many paddlers and climbers do we hear about smoking a little doobage then driving 50 miles through the wilderness to illicit some dangerous crime in the nearest sleep town? NONE!

I for one, when I see folks partaking in the 420 festiveness in a semi-public, outdoor venue, it brings a smile to my face and makes my heart fill with joy seeing oddball and atavistic laws be transcended. There is usually a bunch of smiling and camaraderie involved. So yeah, these criminals, these menaces to society should all have holes drilled in their paddles. Sounds like it’s time for innovation: The new break-down 3-piece paddle. Each piece can hold an ounce of the finest bud. Besides, who wants to carry 16 pounds of brownies? Good Job!

Mountain Buzz Threads re: the Big Dope Bust:
Is there more to this story? Permits, shermits. I am a lot more concerned about the DPS and Coconino County sheriffs trucking in the drug dogs to bust some private trip.
Huh? What? I can’t believe this level of law enforcement for 3 ounces of dope. Was there all the bud in BC waiting for distribution conveniently thrown in the river?
Both the DPS and sheriffs (nevermind the drug dog) have to drive in from at least Page, AZ to effect this kind bust. More likely Flagsstaff. And about the tip from a citizen? Whaaaa?? I’ve worked there. Its pretty sleepy. Did they not tip someone at Marble Canyon for breakfast, or perhaps a bad divorce?? Huh?

And ummm, tent searches. Was there sufficient probably cause? Any you law students paying attention. I smell a Law Review article. Does anyone care about this??????
“Citizen’s tip”…there’s a special place in hell reserved for that dooshbag.
No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
First of all it’s a National Park . It is highly patrolled Families, Red neck fishermen and retired people. All use this area. And all people in this demographic are not fond of Pot Smoking. Law enforcement people in the area are not nice and will profile. You can bet your bottom dollar a businessman in Page would not be treated as badly for a DUI as these people were for a misdemeanor pot possession.

So once again smokers are their own worst enemy. They were being indiscreet someone in the general public got offended. Local law enforcement got overzelous and boom we all are gonna have to learn the trail at 4 mile. Be discreet it is illegal yano. Sj
Pathetic! I’d be soooooooooo pisssssssssed!

This is a perfect example of why we need at a minimum marijauna reform. The cost of the officers time, the dog, the court etc cost more than the stuff they seized I’d bet. Don’t they have anything better to do? What a pathetic waste of time. Snuffing someones grand trip is akin to pouring gas on the christmas tree and the presents christmas morning and torching the whole thing. Screwing the rest of the crew over it is equally as bad. For christs sake, give them a ticket, or a summons to show up in court a month later at least, and let them go on the grand trip. Bastards!

Nice post dsp. The fines these guys end up paying will be about the 85 in a 55 range. Just silly. But a point is that the Park Service Law enforcement people have a bit of the Mall Security gaurd mentality in them. And they will go over board everytime they think they have a live one. Just something to remember when dealing with these people. Sj

Unfortunately, sj is probably right about the “own worst enemy” quote. I have witnessed this personally, and it ain’t pretty. Super Dave and Capt. Kangaroo have almost nothing to do except drive their (our) $70000 crime fighting machines the 2 miles of pavement from the launch to the office to their (our) houses. For private trips, if you party at the ramp/launch you will hear about it from the ranger, guaranteed. If you do the same on a commercial run, same result. imho

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