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Discussion Starter #1
I feel bad for contaminating so many trip planning threads with my anti - motor sentiment. The sort of threadjacking that myself and others have done to express our view is not a civilized way to make our point or to engage in this discourse.

That said, there is some really good discussion going on in a current thread (http://www.mountainbuzz.com/forums/f43/looking-for-motor-boatman-for-gc-trip-55167.html) and I propose that we move it here.

Again, sorry if I've been a dick. I hate motors, but my ears are now open to hear from those that use them.
 

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there's lots good to say about motor trips. on a selfish side, they have given us ice, wine, beers, etc. they add to the safety of all our trips because they all have sat phones and can transport somebody out if need be or get word out way faster. one year at deer creek we found these crazy flyboys and girls from carson air force base who had hiked in from the north gotten disoriented and dehydrated and were literally lying around in 100+ degree direct sun waiting to die. we couldn't get a sat call out but a couple motor rigs came along and together we carried them down and it was the motor boats that had the resources to save their lives.

almost all the motorists are super considerate on river giving as much room as possible when they pass, slowing down, even trimming the motor.

i think the motor boaters are good people. but, i think when we go down there we should take responsibility for ourselves and our needs.

no offense to the motors and no reflection on their character, but i too would like to see/hear/smell no motors down there. i'd love to see the whole area turned into wilderness although i doubt that's feasible.
 

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Good points about the resources the motor trips bring to the corridor, particularly the safety resources - though an oar trip with a Sat phone, helicopter rescue awareness, and good medical preparedness is probably unlikely to need these resources. I would chose to sacrifice this, and certainly the ice, etc.

On a lighter note, I once had a motor rig pass me rowing hard on Mead Reservoir, 25 days or so into a Canyon trip. They tossed me an ice cold beer - which landed in my boat. As I bent down to grab it from the foot well the second beer they had thrown slammed me in the head! Fortunately it was a light beer! (True story, except for the punchline - which I can't resist!)
 

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I think motors should be allowed, but the dams should be removed. Cat is often only a few thousand cfs by the end of the summer. Good luck with a J-rig on that! Georgie used to put in in Green River, WY and run the flood waters down to Mead. Even with an outboard, that still seems like more of a wilderness trip than our hyper-regulated oar trips. I think the reason motors are annoying in the canyon is the number of them. I dislike his approach, but Tom Martin trying to decrease the number of commercial launches would result in the motors not being so incessant.
 

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I applaud moving the comments to a different thread, good on ya' Randaddy.

On the personal side....I use to hate the concept of motors on rivers. My first Grand trip was in the winter and I thought one of the best benefits was the motorless aspect. But when I did my May trip last year the motor rigs didn't bother me one bit. To me the worst problem was crowding and that was just as bad, if not worse for me, with the dozen oar rigs that show up for a group compared to the 1-2 J-Rigs. After several Main trips now the jetboats don't remotely bother me.

On the policy side....the Grand Canyon is the prime example of why the Wilderness Act (WA) is flawed. Its a hell of thing to say on its 50th anniversary but I think many of the founding voices of the concept would be ashamed of what it has done to the idea of wildness. The WA has not furthered wildness in the United States very well. What it has done is pitted its established proponents against the broader population that people like Zahniser, Marshall and Leopold tried to educate. The political nature of a congressional act and the movement of American's into entrenched camps with battle mentalities has stalled the conversation and impacts of experiencing wild places. The designated wilderness we experience and discuss now so rarely holds the wild characteristics that once defined the conversation, and that is much the fault of the people who think roads/motors should be everywhere as those who think wilderness should be designated wherever they prefer. American ideology and politics have fragmented wilderness and its inherent experiences as much our diverse land use.

So to motors on our rivers.....I don't know and I am not sure I care anymore. Places like the Grand and the Main have multiple stakeholders that all seem to have some rightful claim and history of use (though the degree of where that compromise happens does matter). Its hard not see the non-motorized who want to ban motors and designate wilderness as a colonizing force at moments when motors were used for ages before our ideology existed. And when we still want to have our safety nets and conveniences that fly in the face of the foundation of wildness (helicopter rescue is not consistent with "untrammeled" which meant "not being subject to human controls and manipulations that hamper the free play of natural forces") than I have a hard time being a spirited player in a political fight. Both sides honestly want their cake and eat it too.

I will always be an advocate and educator of experiencing wild places but my approach has changed over the years. To me its less about the place and more about showing those who currently don't know the powerful experience that is wildness that it exists and can be transformative. And I don't see that happening by political fights or condemning entire groups of stakeholders. I am more focused on the spirit of it myself and will let others fight over designations and motor versus non-motor debates.

Phillip
 

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Again, sorry if I've been a dick. I hate motors, but my ears are now open to hear from those that use them.
Randaddy, thanks for opening your mind. I'll play. In an effort to have a substantive conversation about the issues I think we all need to separate truth from the "straw man" arguments... such as:

Motors make a lot of noise
Motor rigs make a wake
Motors smell
Motors pollute
Motor operators are careless spilling oil and gasoline in the river
Motor rigs run over me in the rapids

Does that cover all of the objections?

I'll address this first two with video evidence. Please pay close attention to the wake and the noise of the motor.

Whitewater RV runs Hance - YouTube

Collectively, the readers here must have millions of photos and thousands of videos from their respective GC trips. I'd appreciate you sharing any evidence of wakes and noise so the impacts can be quantified.

I'll go into the other objections in subsequent posts.
 

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On one point here, we disagree. In my opinion you are engaging in a false equivalency. The fault of which you speak clearly lies much more with those who assert entitlement to make roads everywhere and ride their motorized toys there.

"The designated wilderness we experience and discuss now so rarely holds the wild characteristics that once defined the conversation, and that is much the fault of the people who think roads/motors should be everywhere as those who think wilderness should be designated wherever they prefer."
 

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Beware209, I disagree on the first two points. My problem with the noise and wake is rarely during the turmoil of the rapids on a river, it's when a big, noisy rig passes me while I'm rowing on a flat stretch. When a motor rig passes, an oar rig rocks back and forth in the wake and is noticeable disturbed. When the motor boat passes in a tranquil canyon it changes quiet peace into noisy chaos. It's not pleasant for those of us seeking that wild, quiet experience. Of course the wake and noise get drowned out by the chaos of Hance - but the majority of the Grand Canyon is flat, quiet, and peaceful until the motors pass by!
 

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On one point here, we disagree. In my opinion you are engaging in a false equivalency. The fault of which you speak clearly lies much more with those who assert entitlement to make roads everywhere and ride their motorized toys there.

"The designated wilderness we experience and discuss now so rarely holds the wild characteristics that once defined the conversation, and that is much the fault of the people who think roads/motors should be everywhere as those who think wilderness should be designated wherever they prefer."
In the context here I firmly disagree. Motors on the Grand and Main existed before the laws went into affect and the ethic, as we consider it today, became so established and entrenched. Hence why motor use was grandfathered into both places.

There are some places in which the equivalency would be false but the net cast in that direction by the most ardent defenders of wilderness designation are far too broad to be accurate.

And my personal experiences in wilderness, a political definition which I purposefully differentiate from wildness, have been significantly impacted by both sides. When we are constantly fed this mentality of diminishing resources, as far as wild places, is has an affect in the very experiences those places were assumed to provide. In the Grand Canyon I have seen it take the first couple days of interacting with motor crowds to actually get past the preconceived notions of conflict and develop a relationship with the boatmen that often, not always, leads to a quality experience on par with non-motorized boatmen. It became appearant rather quickly that the motor trips on my Grand trips rarely competed for camps nor impacted our soundscape or visual experience.

And as I have said before, if anything, I have experienced greater harm to my experience of wildness from large (# of rafts) non-motorized groups compared to the rather short interactions I have had with motorized groups. For example, crowding of oar rigs in 2-3 different spots impacted multiple elements of what is classically considered wild and wilderness. But the classic, simplified argument outside the place I recreate continues to center on an us-versus-them conversation against motors and their relevant users. Hence why I no longer see the benefit to that dichotomy. I have seen enough evidence in outdoor pursuits other than rafting to see how non-motorized stakeholders have compromised what I view as wild and wilderness as well. It doesn't take much looking in Utah to see how impacted our wild areas are by foot traffic alone.

The same goes for the claims of motorized land use and wilderness but that is less germane to this specific conversation. I started firmly in the wilderness defense and anti-motor camp and then both personal experiences and readings have shown me that being entrenched in that manner was neither consistent with my values or the outcomes I desired. The evidence that changed my mind tells me this is anything but a simple false equivalency.

Its unlikely that I will ever transition to a motor raft rig myself, as I personally enjoy human powered endeavors, but I don't see how forcing others to embark on that style is needed. (I have only been on one motorized whitewater trip an that as enough for me)

Phillip
 

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Anyone who thinks that folks who want to see the GC from the river runner's perspective should be able to do so on a non-motorized trip, in a non-motorized wilderness area, are unaware of who actually does get on the river and how. Yes there are a few outfitters that do special needs trips and do them very well. Peoples with disabilities enjoy access via motor boats also, but thats not what I'm getting at.

As Americans, many of us work year round to provide for our families, and or ourselves. For most, vacations are taken infrequently and money is tight. I'd like to remind everyone that a two+ week trip away from income isn't an option for the VAST majority of Americans. I believe, as most here would agree that we'd live in a much better country if everyone had the chance to experience a trip on the Colorado through GC. In a perfect world that would certainly be a nice long, quite float through, stopping to wander and explore.

The simple fact is that motors could provide that experience to almost anyone, while a non-motorized trip will always be limited to the able bodied few who have the means to not work for long periods. A commercial oar trip is expensive, and able private boaters like us are a very small % of the population. Motor trips include people younger and older than oar trips will allow, and unfortunately, the fitness of many, many Americans is a big hurdle to enjoying an oar trip. If you don't have two+ weeks in any given year for a vacation, and you aren't fit enough to hike in/out at Phantom, does this mean you don't deserve an experience down there? By advocating a ban on motors, that is the conclusion you've made, and I don't agree.

One of my favorite clients during my career guiding motors and oars, was a 65 y/o plumber who still was working. He saved for 10 years to afford the $1,500 week long trip. He knew that time was running out to fulfill his dream of seeing the Canyon on the water. He couldn't afford to be away for any longer, nor bring any other member of his family. This trip was his one chance, and he wanted to see the whole thing. Were it not for a fast, affordable, motorized option his dream couldn't have come true. I met many blue collar clients on motor trips, and very, very few on oar trips. I for one am for keeping motors to help facilitate trips for those who aren't able to enjoy an oar trip. Are motor trips better than oar trips? No...
 

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Well here's my take on things... my new Mercury is so quiet I can speak in a loud whisper and my daughter can hear me when she's sitting on the bow (lowest throttle setting) .... I have never spilled anything in the river, and will take great pains to ensure I never do... Do I leave a wake? If you consider a 3" wave a wake then I guess I do... Having grown up with power boats that leave a 2' wake, I don't consider my little Merc as leaving one, but everyone has their own opinion... we go to Harvey Gap every Sun night where they have a "no wake" policy, and even at full throttle I have never been "pulled over" so to speak, so I guess the rangers don't feel I'm leaving a wake either.... When I pass someone on the river I give as wide a berth as the river will allow, and throttle down as well so as not to create noisy chaos... like I've said the new motor is extremely quiet... Heck most people ask if they can tie on in exchange for some beer... Met some very groovy people that way...

I guess I have a live and let live attitude... If you hate motors don't get one... please don't dictate superior morality to me because I own one though...I'll do the same and not judge anyone because they don't... Do I use my motor non stop on my trips? Of course not! I love to swim, float, hike and generally just hang out. I've never even thought of running a rapid with it... However when the afternoon winds kick up and there are whitecaps where the should be glassy smooth water and I'm still 12 miles from the next camp cause we've been swimming or hiking all day I love having it as a option... How many Deso folks know what I'm talking about?;)

Anyway just my 2 cents, hope this doesn't sound like a rant, not meant to be. Thanks Randaddy for opening this up. Hope to hear other folks opinions as well. Hoping this could be a great discussion and not just name calling and preaching....
Happy Floating!
 

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Moon, I sure wish all motor rigs were like yours and all captains of them like you. I might not have anything to complain about if that were the case!

Jmacn, I can't say that I feel for the "blue collar" clientele you speak of. I run rivers as a poor, often unemployed, dirtbag. I have no job today and saved every penny I made this summer to pay for a trip to Peru. I just sold my TV and am selling my kayak to pay for our guided trek to Machu Picchu. If it takes a plumber 10 years to save $1,500 then he doesn't want it bad enough. Some great adventures take commitment and time - and sometimes more ability than the average Joe. I do not want everyone in America to have the opportunity, just those that want it bad enough.
 

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Hi Folks, the argument that motors are somehow grandfathered into Grand Canyon is without grounds.

The year of the passage of the Wilderness Act there were no motor trips in the Grand Canyon. On the Salmon, motorized boats are used to service private inholdings. There are no such inholding in Grand Canyon.

After much public participation, motorized tour boats were to be phased out to oar powered watercraft in Grand Canyon. 16,500 user-days were awarded to the river concessionaires as an economic incentive to make the transition. Congressional special-interest legislation was used to benifit the river concessions and allow them to not only keep thier motors, but they kept the 16,500 user day incentive as well. That thirty-five-year loan is long enough, Grampa.

To say motors on tour boats are somehow grandfathered-in means once Grandfather is gone, the incompatible use should be removed. It's time to acknowledge the Wilderness that the Colorado River in Grand Canyon IS with the removal of this non-conforming use. By the by, half the year is motor free on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. And why is that in the winter months only? There is just no rational reason to have them there.

Finally, anyone who says this-or-that special needs group or elderly or who-ever "needs" motorized tour boats ignores the fact that 1/10 of 1% of America will travel all the way through Grand Canyon in 100 years at present use levels. Right now, the folks who use motorized services are paying over $500 a night for the privilege (western), making them the privileged few.

Best to you all, tom martin
 

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I was going to stay out of this, but the post above by Tom Martin struck a bit of a nerve. In fact, this is exactly the type of elitist environmentalism that has alienated so many people from a cause that I believe in.

First off, I hardy see how one could consider the river corridor through Grand Canyon as wilderness. Let's look at the definition of wilderness as described in the Wilderness Act:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

So how do you consider a completely altered river just downstream of a massive hydroelectric dam as "untrammeled by man"? In fact it is so trammeled by man that most of the riparian species that once thrived in the Grand Canyon can no longer exist there. I make this point because the Colorado River has many real threats. Dams have completely altered the hydrograph. A nuclear power plant is planned on the Green River. Denver is calling for more trans-basin diversions from an already over allocated river. Oil and gas development is impacting some of our favorite upper basin canyons, and the threat of wholesale destruction from oil shale and tar sands remains. In recent years, the Colorado River has been labeled as one of the worlds most endangered rivers. In the big picture, motors in the Grand Canyon are insignificant.

Furthermore, removing motors from the Grand Canyon would either require a reduction in the number of people who can see the canyon or an increase in user days. for the 2015 season, a 14 day trip with OARS starts at $5180. A 7 day motor trip with HATCH starts at $2644. If I need to explain why average folks will find it easier to do a motor trip then I should stop now.

I appreciate non-motorized, wildness trips, but what you are proposing is to deny people acces that has been granted for several decades, hurt exsiting bussinesses, and put river guides out of work, all so an elite few can see the canyon in the way they would prefer.
 

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Hi Folks, the argument that motors are somehow grandfathered into Grand Canyon is without grounds.

The year of the passage of the Wilderness Act there were no motor trips in the Grand Canyon. On the Salmon, motorized boats are used to service private inholdings. There are no such inholding in Grand Canyon.

After much public participation, motorized tour boats were to be phased out to oar powered watercraft in Grand Canyon. 16,500 user-days were awarded to the river concessionaires as an economic incentive to make the transition. Congressional special-interest legislation was used to benifit the river concessions and allow them to not only keep thier motors, but they kept the 16,500 user day incentive as well. That thirty-five-year loan is long enough, Grampa.

To say motors on tour boats are somehow grandfathered-in means once Grandfather is gone, the incompatible use should be removed. It's time to acknowledge the Wilderness that the Colorado River in Grand Canyon IS with the removal of this non-conforming use.

Best to you all, tom martin
No motors by 1964? Really Tom:

http://www.gcrg.org/docs/gtslib/50th_aniversary-jet_boat_up_run.pdf

Motors had been used to descend and uprun the entirety of the Colorado through the Grand by July 1960. This is 4 years before the passage of the Wilderness Act by my math. I assume you know this and are just trying to spin it semantically to look better for your argument.

Even Ingall's book is riddled with evidence that supports the conclusion that by the time the Colorado River was up for designation, motorized travel was established. Ingalls throws out the fifties (in a generic wilderness versus motorized debate in his book) as a well-accepted date of use in the canyon. Is this untrue?

You also oversimplify motors on the Main. They are also used by a ton of wild place loving non-motorized rafters to shuttle between the takeout and Corn Creek. People who are obviously fine with motors in designated wilderness.

Phillip
 

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As I said before Randdaddy, you and obviously others have determined that the average Joe doesn't deserve the experience of a GC river trip. I disagree, as does the National Park Service, who's mission is to help facilitate access for all Americans to recreate in special places like GC. If you don't understand why the dirtbag lifestyle doesn't work for most people, I'm certain that I can't help you figure it out. I myself choose seasonal (un)employment, save up for special trips, and prefer to run uncrowded rivers. Perhaps I'm still too young and idealistic. Maybe someday as my favorite places get ever more crowded, I'll adopt opinions that try & limit access to the masses. But for now, having seen the affect the GC has on folks who will only be there once, I'm convinced the more people who experience it, the better. And, as others have noted, if every motor trip was replaced with 6-16 oarboats, that wilderness experience you seek would feel a lot busier indeed. There is an abundance of true wilderness experiences to be had in North America and abroad. It may not be found on the Colorado or the Machu Picchu trail, but wilderness is still there for those that really want it.
 

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Hi Mike,



Thanks for your note. Your posting of language from the Wilderness Act is great, as is your question “So how do you consider a completely altered river just downstream of a massive hydroelectric dam as "untrammeled by man"?

You may be unaware that Congress has designated Wilderness below dams. And, Congress has designated landscapes that have been mined and logged. These man-made impacts outside of Wilderness Areas may temporarily detract from Wilderness areas, but that does not mean these areas should not be preserved for their wilderness character. Nor does the existence of Glen Canyon Dam justify other non-conforming uses down-stream that are so easily rectified.



Thanks for posting pricing data. The Oars trip you quote is $398 a night. The Hatch trip is $440 a night. Look at Western. It’s over $500 a night. Your numbers show that “Average folks” simply can’t afford these trips. I also pointed out that 1/10 of 1% of America will see the entire Colorado River in 100 years. We have left any sort of “average” long back.



If your point is MORE PEOPLE need to see Grand Canyon from River view, there is a Utah congressperson (thankfully no longer in office) you might want to talk to. He wanted a highway on pylons through the Canyon so the average American (who does not boat but drives a car), would have a real chance to see the Canyon from the river level.



Yes indeed, after many river management plans that attempted to address the motor issue by simply adding more river runners, the removal of motor rigs may cut back the total number of river travelers. Many would say there are too many now. Motorized tour boats should not be a justification for resource damage to make sure people see a damaged resource.



Did you know in the last river management plan, the NPS ran the numbers on the motor-free alternatives. The result would be a boost to the regional economy with more guide jobs. And studies in the 1970’s demonstrated profitability was a direct result of how the company was managed, not the number of user days the company had or the type of craft the company ran.



Mike, your argument in support of the elite few in the status quo who want to motor through a wilderness simply makes no sense.



Phillip, nice attempt at a twist in language. My quote was ” The year of the passage of the Wilderness Act there were no motor trips in the Grand Canyon.”


You said “No motors by 1964?” Please read the sentence above. Where is the word “by”?


Again, there are no in-holdings on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. There is no need for motorized commercial services. There are no jet-backs on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.


Best to you all, tom
 

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Sorry, I want back and looked at the numbers again. It's not that less than 1/10 of 1% of Americans will see the entire Grand Canyon by boat in 100 years, it's that less than 1/10 of 1% of Americans will see any of the Grand Canyon by boat in 100 years.

Any arguments for managing the river resource for anything other than Wilderness fall flat given the actual visitation numbers.

All the best, tom
 

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Hi Mike,



Phillip, nice attempt at a twist in language. My quote was ” The year of the passage of the Wilderness Act there were no motor trips in the Grand Canyon.”


You said “No motors by 1964?” Please read the sentence above. Where is the word “by”?


Again, there are no in-holdings on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. There is no need for motorized commercial services. There are no jet-backs on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.


Best to you all, tom
I didn't twist your language (do you see quotes in my response)....I put it back into the context of the previous comments in this thread that you were adding to. What does the lack of motors trips in 1964 have to do with the previous comments about motors being historically used in the Grand before the Wilderness Act? The affect of your comment, hard to know the full intention, is to lead one to believe that this one year of no motors is somehow defining of the characteristic of the river in that era. And that is an inaccurate conclusion, as I have highlighted. Motors were well established tools by then hence why we have 50 years of debate about conflicting ethics.

I also think you are skewing the conversation into a traditional us-versus-them direction by making it solely about commercial motor trips. Its not remotely that simple but you continue to default to that language. Plenty of people across the West use motors on private river trips. They are part of that "them" you are fighting and no manner of politicking (sorry Tom but RRFW is very much one of the special interest groups you previously wrote off in a pejorative manner) hides that fact. Couching it as a private versus commercial sentiment may seem to make your argument clearer but it just exposes the lengths one has to go to make your conclusions seem simple, clean and "rational". Both history and law clearly show a muddled political situation that doesn't fit so cleanly into any box (my 20 year old self would be disappointed that I am arguing for the status quo).

That was the reason I initially mentioned the problems with the Wilderness Act as I think this a predictable and unavoidable outcome when you force a new ethic onto an existing/historical framework. There is nothing simple, clean or "rational" when it comes to competing stakeholder values and experiences. I have become extremely wary, skeptical and outright resistant to organizations that try to sweep that complexity under the rug and foster what I have come to believe is an inaccurate and untenable narrative. I see it as fundamentally dishonest and it often uses the very political machinations they deride.

I think Randdaddy attempted to sidestep this and start a new conversation and I fear my response played into derailing that potential. Taking the conversation out of the other thread and starting a conversation is admirable and shows a willingness to hear other sides. I obviously have an position that conflicts with the politicking of some but by no means do I need to invalidate those who experience the river differently than I. Despite my views I can still have sympathy for those who outcomes are not met, even if its by stakeholders I defend. Sorry if that is not always obvious.

Phillip
 

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Just personal preference, I would prefer no motors in the Grand Canyon or on 99% of all rivers.

One major exception is Cataract. As someone who has rowed out on the lake three times, I can say for a fact that trip is infinitely better with a motor. In the future I will always choose motors on Cat if given the opportunity.

Which leads me to my personal philosophy - no motors on rivers, but motors are ok on lakes/reservoirs. It's arbitrary, but I'm comfortable with it.
 
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