To the Woods, who recently took a "safari" on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon using a concessionaire [letters, Sept. 21]: Every year, 3,000 "average citizens" raft the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park without the use of river concessions. They have booked all available launch dates through 2002; there's an 18-year waiting list beyond that.
Meanwhile, 20,000 commercial passengers such as the Woods can call their travel agent today and book a "safari" for next year, if their credit card allows. Recent studies show that more than 44 percent of commercial passengers' income is greater than $100,000 a year. To raft the Grand as an "average citizen" costs less then $20 a day, while to do it the way the Woods did costs $250 a day. The underlying issue here is the use of political pressure to force the National Park Service to maintain business interests on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon at the expense of the "average citizen." We are missing equitable access to the river.
Co-Founder Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association
Like many commercial river passengers, Carol and Lou Wood mistakenly believe that big motorized boats are the safest way to raft the Colorado River through Grand Canyon.
However, a recent study reveals that passengers who travel on nonmotorized craft have fewer serious injuries and that the commercial motor-trip fatality frequency has been nearly three times higher than that on commercial oar trips.
No one is suggesting the elimination of commercial guides -- having spent the past 27 years running the Colorado as a guide, National Park Service river ranger and wilderness coordinator, I know that guides perform a needed and valuable service. But the experience of their clients in the unique wilderness of Grand Canyon would be improved by using oar-powered craft. Fairness also demands that folks who can and want to run the river themselves shouldn't have to wait a decade or two to do so.
Grand Canyon National Park Service
Grand Canyon, Ariz.