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An Arizona River Runners motorized raft stops at camp during a trip through the Grand Canyon in 2005. Boaters will no longer be able to receive packages at Phantom Ranch starting on April 15. (Jill Torrance/Arizona Daily Sun, file)

Mules hauled more than 100 pounds of unclaimed packages from the bottom of the Grand Canyon last fall -- some of it food that had sat for weeks in 100-plus-degree heat.

The packages were gifts and treats for river runners headed down the Colorado River and stopping in at Phantom Ranch, the most developed point inside the Big Ditch.

But a fair number of the people and packages never connected, so now the practice is ending.

"It used to sit in the Cantina, but then it got to be too much stuff and it started to overrun the Cantina," said Jon Streit, executive director of operations for concessionaire Xanterra on the South Rim.

Xanterra debated it for some months, then sent letters to boaters saying Monday would be the last day for packages "mailed" (hauled by mule) to Phantom Ranch.

"We thought you should be able to get a letter from home or something, but maybe not a box of chocolate chip cookies," Streit said.

Letters and postcards are still a go; packages are not, except items getting a paid $60 trip by mule in a duffel bag.

Xanterra will work with boaters and others to bring in urgently needed equipment or other such supplies, but it will no longer ship packages down for free.

The boaters haven't had issue with it, Streit said.

"Surprisingly, we've gotten very little pushback from the river community," he said.

Jo Johnson is a Colorado River runner, and she sent out notice to other boaters that the rules were changing.

"It was becoming a novelty for people to get mail at Phantom, and eventually it was brownies and cookies and the pest problem was pretty bad," she said.

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