Shutdown scuttles group's dream of Canyon float trip - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Shutdown scuttles group's dream of Canyon float trip

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People hoping to raft the Grand Canyon ran aground when the federal government shut down Tuesday. (Source: CBS 5 News) People hoping to raft the Grand Canyon ran aground when the federal government shut down Tuesday. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Road blocks at Lee's Ferry met many people hoping to use their rafting permits. (Source: CBS 5 News) Road blocks at Lee's Ferry met many people hoping to use their rafting permits. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Pete Wisniewski said he applied for a permit to raft the river in 1995, and that his group has spent about $40,000 for the trip that might never be realized. (Source: CBS 5 News) Pete Wisniewski said he applied for a permit to raft the river in 1995, and that his group has spent about $40,000 for the trip that might never be realized. (Source: CBS 5 News)
"I am going to do everything within my power to salvage this trip," Elisha McArthur said. (Source: CBS 5 News) "I am going to do everything within my power to salvage this trip," Elisha McArthur said. (Source: CBS 5 News)
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LEE'S FERRY, AZ (CBS5) -

They have paid tens of thousands of dollars and waited nearly 20 years for the opportunity to raft down the Colorado River.

But their hopes were ruined Tuesday after the stalemate in Congress forced a shutdown of the federal government, which included the closing of Grand Canyon National Park.

Thomas and Elisha McArthur and Pete Wisniewski had been waiting for their chance to float the river Tuesday afternoon when they were met with closed roads and a lost opportunity.

One group of rafters was able to launch early Tuesday morning from Lee's Ferry, but that was before the National Park Service's soft shutdown at 8 a.m.

Thomas McArthur is familiar with the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

"I first came down the Grand Canyon in 1983," he said, and he was looking forward to doing it again.

"This is one of the natural wonders of the world," he said.

But rafting down the Grand Canyon isn't as easy as just putting a boat in the water and taking off.

"There are a lot of people that want to do it and that they only allow so many private trips to go a day," said Pete Wisniewski.

Like McArthur, Wisniewski has spent more than a decade waiting to make the trip.

"In 1995, I applied for the permit to float the Grand Canyon," Wisniewski said.

And it's not just the wait time - there's the expense once one gets a license.

"We easily have $40,000 into the trip," Wisniewski said.

Not to be forgotten is the year and a half of work it took to make the trip happen.

"To 'throw together' a 23-day wilderness expedition, there's no such thing as throwing it together," Elisha McArthur said.

Now, the government shutdown threatens to dash the group's hopes and dreams.

Until the political fighting ends, barricades and park rangers will continue to block traffic and threaten the efforts of the groups.

"All we need is those rangers to move a couple of barrels and let me go on the river," Wisniewski said.

The group is trying hard to remain optimistic.

"I am going to do everything within my power to salvage this trip," Elisha McArthur said.

The group is in danger of losing out on their opportunity. They are not able to renew their permit. It's a use-it-or-lose it proposition.

They said if the shutdown ends soon, they will apply to take over a reservation that someone else has canceled because of the government shutdown.

Or they might try to launch from a location further down the river, which would shorten their trip considerably.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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