Instagram posts help convict man who led illegal Grand Canyon trips

By Michel Marizco
Published: Saturday, July 15, 2023 - 8:05am

Grand canyon river trail
National Park Service
The Colorado River Trail at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Federal prosecutors have won a criminal case against a Utah man who twice led illicit backcountry trips, known as packrafting trips, through Grand Canyon National Park.

In 2020, commercial river guides spotted Samuel Hawkins Edwards and another defendant illegally traversing the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and reported them to National Park Service rangers. Prosecutors say Edwards ran the trip for about 100 miles of the river.

A criminal complaint filed in 2022 shows Edwards and the second defendant posted videos of illegal excursions on various Instagram accounts.

Federal records show he pleaded guilty in 2019 to conducting another illegal whitewater rafting trip within the Grand Canyon and camped overnight without a permit. Investigators noted that he had been charged previously in Zion National Park. 

The second defendant, Brittany Leigh Hunter, pleaded guilty in April, was sentenced to a year of probation and was banned from the park as well as Lake Mead and Glen Canyon national recreation areas for the year.

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