This "no adding" rule needs to be clarified, removed or consistently enforced.
As a Yampa trip leader earlier this year, I faxed in an updated passenger list two days prior to launch and it was 19 instead of the original 17 I had submitted. I was checked in at the put-in very thoroughly (had to have 27 PFDs for 19 people) but the fact that our passenger list had increased by 2 was not an issue at all. I had no idea at the time that other folks have had a problem with this exact thing. I read the regs/book and it doesn't say you cant add. I didn't even consider this could be an issue.
It is interesting to note that I went straight from the take-out of the Yampa to Idaho for a MFS and Selway trip. All of the required equipment and equipment requirements on the Yampa are designed to make river users safe (nanny state) while all of the Idaho river regs are designed to protect the river and wilderness (job of the govt).
For the record, I see the NPS side of this as well. Group size plays into campsite assignments. They have to come get folks when something goes wrong. However, a more flexible approach could be taken.
After a recent trip, these are my recommendations for changes:
- Remove "no adding" rule.
- Close some camps for restoration and add others, some camps have been totally hammered and there are lots of other great camp spots along the river
- Change spare life-jacket to 1 spare per 10 participants (rounding up). 3 spares should be more than enough for the max permit size of 25.
- Adopt some of the Grand Canyon rules which are more flexible for canyoneers/hikers joining/leaving mid-trip