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Roman Dial makes history by securing the first permit for a packraft/backpack trip in the Grand Canyon and on the Colorado River.

Floating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is a once in a lifetime thrill for some and an oft repeated adventure for others. Highlights are the magnificent scenery, killer rapids, and camaraderie. The typical expedition floats in large, multi-person rafts, but the Colorado has been tackled by a menagerie of other types of craft. John Wesley Powell and his men famously ran the Colorado in 1869 in wooden boats as part of a geological survey. Paddlers in kayaks and, more unusually, three women on river boards (four foot long boogie boards) have also run the big Grand Canyon rapids.

What hadn't been done (legally) until this year was run it in a packraft. Packrafts are inflatable rafts small enough to fit into a backpack and light enough to be toted enjoyably for a combined rafting and hiking expedition. The Grand Canyon is ideal for packrafting, with world class backpacking terrain surrounding miles of exciting river.

Roman Dial, a long time packrafter from Anchorage, Alaska, wanted to share a Grand Canyon packrafting/backpacking adventure with his son. He considered an outlaw run, but his wife Peggy vetoed that idea, as it would set a bad example for twenty year old Cody Roman. So Roman the elder set out to secure a permit for the trip. He studied the regulations: Under the newly revised river runner's permit system, some undesirable, unclaimed launch dates can be claimed by phone. Several dates were available during his son's winter break from college. On December 12th, Roman was able to lock in a launch date from Lees Ferry for December 25th.

...But Roman had no intention of being in Arizona on Christmas day. The typical winter raft trip through the Grand Canyon starts from Lees Ferry and ends at Diamond Creek several weeks later. Roman wanted his dream trip to last about a week. They would hike down to the Colorado River from the South Rim, run a section of the river, then hike back to the Rim. He figured he could fit the trip in any time during his twenty-five day permit period. Roman's initial e-mail to a Park Ranger describing his trip plans was met with astonishment at his misunderstanding of the river permit system and a rejection of those plans.

Roman enjoys a challenge, and he took the Ranger's response as merely the first volley, thereby opening communications between the Park and packrafters. Here, Roman talks about the communications adventure of turning reluctant Rangers around to become inventive allies in meshing Park regulations with packrafting.


  • Overview (By Carol Crooker)
  • The Story (by Roman Dial)

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