Not-so-fine Fine: River Runners Hiking in to Phantom Ranch Fined for Joining Grand Trip


Served with federal papers via certified mail as soon as they returned home from the trip in mid October, their court date took place Mon., Oct. 28. While the original penalty was $20,000, 30 days in jail and a five-year ban on entering national parks, the charges were reduced to civil instead of federal, resulting in a $750 fine for each of them..

It all started after the trip launched with 16 people on Sept. 30, the day before the government shut-down that closed the park. Hearing rumors from other trips and via satellite phone calls placed to check in on their ability to switch out participants as planned, when they arrived at Phantom Ranch five people hiked out on mules to be replaced by five new trip members hiking in on foot.

Boone’s daughter, Kaydee, 23 was allowed to hike down to join her father, but the remaining participants weren’t allowed, and had to forfeit over $2000 in fees that are unrecoverable. However Kehoe decided to ignore the rangers’ charges and hike down as well to join his family already on the trip.

“Safety-wise, we needed him on the trip,” says Oakley, Calif.’s Boone, adding that rangers were also waiting at the bottom at Phantom Ranch. “The rangers said I could only replace the five people who hiked out with one person, my daughter, but we needed Brian on the trip to help. They were jeopardizing the safety of our entire trip. With five people hiking out, we were relying on his help. So he decided to defy the order and continue on the trip.”

For his part in allowing them to continue, Boone, who had been waiting 17 years to run the Grand for his first time ever, was also charged.

After finishing the trip, which he called “as great as it could have been,” Boone and Kehoe, who’s from Chico, Calif., received the citations in the mail for Monday’s court date, listing the United States of America as the Plaintiff. They were able to handle the issue via a conference call and get the charges and penalty reduced.

Attorney Jim Moss, who specializes in Recreation Law, says Boone and Kehoe would have likely won the case had it gone to court, but that it would have been a more expensive proposition. “They probably could have beaten it,” he says, “especially with the argument that they needed Kehoe for the safety of the trip. If it went to trial in that area, I doubt a jury of 12 people would have sided with the government. But this was probably a lot cheaper alternative for them.”

Moss adds that he’s glad this story and others resulting from the shut-down in the park are receiving their due publicity. “The stories about closing the national parks made the front page of newspapers across the country, and hopefully this one will also,” he says. “The loss for all of us, besides the integrity of the NPS, is the people like this harmed by the closure who we will never know about.”

As for Boone and his boating crew, it’s water under the bridge and they were still able to pull off the trip of a lifetime, albeit it with a slightly higher price tag. “It was certainly a trip to remember, especially for our son and daughters,” he says.