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Old 01-04-2011   #1
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 818
RRFW Riverwire - Grand Canyon River Lottery Review Released

RRFW Riverwire Grand Canyon River Lottery Five Year Review Released
January 4, 2011

Officials at Grand Canyon National Park have released a five year review of the Parks new lottery permitting system for obtaining a self-guided river permit to paddle through Grand Canyon National Park. This review comes after a complete overhaul of the self-guided river runners permit system, implemented in 2006.

As in all lotteries, the losers far outnumbered the lucky winners. The NPS has handled over 23,000 lottery applications for just over 1,600 permits released in 5 main lotteries and 27 follow-up lotteries since 2006.

Fortunately, about 100 additional permits will become available to the 2012 lottery. These permits were being used in the last five years to help exhaust some of the 7,000 permit holders waiting to go rafting from the previous permit system.

Unfortunately, 3,381 applicants competed for 266 launch opportunities in the main lottery for 2010, while 3,726 applicants competed for 274 launch opportunities in the 2011 main lottery. The NPS notes that while 50% of lottery winners will win their first choice launch date, 30% of lottery winners will win their third to fifth choice of launch dates.

Since 2007, the NPS has received over $350,000 in main lottery application fees alone from winners as well as losers. The $25 application fee required just to apply for the river lottery is the most costly river lottery application fee in the country.

The new river management plan greatly increased the number of winter time self-guided permits. The data released shows these winter permits are not being utilized as the NPS had hoped. The five year review shows NPS projections overshot actual demand for winter river trips by about 50%.

The review also shows that roughly 65% of all self-guided river runners apply for the lottery in the five warmer summer months of May through September.

In the face of overwhelming demand for summertime self-guided river trips, the Parks river concessionaires still account for roughly 500 summertime launches catering to 14,000 passengers. Only 2,000 self-guided river runners are allowed in the same time period, traveling on 180 launch permits.

In other released data, the NPS offers no explanation for the huge but very short spike in demand for self-guided river permits that occurs only in the second half of September. This spike, seen every year since 2006, occurs at the start of the time period that bars the launch of motorized tour boats.

Application to the NPS lottery is not necessary for river trip passengers who use the parks river concessions. These passengers book available seats on known trip dates directly through a concessionaire.

RRFW has put the entire NPS document (2MB) online at:


Permits for the highly coveted self-guided Grand Canyon river trips in 2012 will be issued through Grand Canyon National Parks Main Lottery February 1 through February 24, 2011.

RRFW has posted an online primer on how to navigate the complex multi-step lottery application at:


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Tom Martin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-06-2011   #2
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 60
Thanks for the info Tom.

I wrote the river office when they were accepting comments. I said that no one (specifically me) or not many people are going to want to raft the Canyon in the winter months. Seeing that they are dissapointed in the amount of winter month trips that have been used makes me wonder if they read any letters at all!

I do think their new system is working thou. I personally haven't "won" a permit but I have been able to go with friends that have. So it seems better than it was.


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Old 01-06-2011   #3
BCJ's Avatar
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1978
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 523
Thanks Tom.
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Old 01-07-2011   #4
Colo Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 597
This is forwarded by me, written by somebody else:

Isn't this the same information that was released and announced back in

Rather than continually harp on how rotten everything is about trying to go
boating on a private trip through the Grand Canyon, I see a very low number of
unused launches and many more non-commercial launches, user days, and passenger
numbers after the new plan was put into place than before.

I agree there is still an inequity between non-commercial and commercial use in
Grand Canyon. But pages 4, 5, and 6 tell me that more people are going boating
than did before the new plan was implemented.

I also want the next plan to be better for private boaters than what we have
now. I will continue to write to the NPS with my suggestions.

I don't see the glass as being not nearly even half full, as you constantly do.

What this update doesn't tell me is how many lottery applicants who didn't win a
trip still went on a trip, won by somebody else. I, for one, did. Certainly it
wasn't the same as if I had had my name on the permit, but I still went.

I don't see why you wrote "...NPS projections overshot actual demand for winter
river trips by about 50%".

It looks to me that in 2010, 4 of 31 January trips and 3 of 28 February trips
were unused (12% total). (There is no explanation of why permit holders chose
not to go).

In January & February of 2008-2010 140 of 177 available trips were launched
(79%). In Jan & Feb 2007 only 28 of 59 available trips were launched (47%).
Maybe that was so low because that was the first year of the new plan?

September trips are certainly wanted by most applicants (30-34%), twice as much
as June, the second most desired month.

But, rather than say there's a spike in the second half of September (which I
don't see, the chart is for the entire month) and saying that it "occurs at the
start of the time period that bars the launch of motorized tour boats", it would
be just as well to claim that it's because September is when trip lengths
increase from 16 days to 18 and 21 days. We don't know which reason is more
likely than the other. Perhaps they both are.

I also don't see your "overwhelming demand for summertime self-guided river
trips". People apply for April and May trips more than they apply for July and
August trips. Perhaps that's because of how hot it gets. Nobody I know will
apply for a mid-summer trip, no matter how high the chance of winning might be.

Also, I see that nobody in Kansas wanted to go boating in 2010. Every other
state is represented with at least one lottery application. China is, too.

David L is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2011   #5
Tom Martin's Avatar
Flagstaff, Arizona
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 818
Hi Dave, here's my post to JeMa where they originally posted. All the best, Tom

Hi Jen, thanks for your note.

While some of the information was released in November, there is additional data incorporated as well.

The 2006 river plan was championed by some as a 50-50 fair split in access counting user days. The reality was the NPS increased user days for self guided river runners in the off season. The recently released data clearly shows that for user days in the winter, actual use is 50% of projected.

If you lose the lottery, you can "try" to get on someone else's trip. A poster yesterday is seeking boat rowers, but look at the requirements the poster is looking for. Meanwhile, I can charter a concessions summer trip for next year, and I can join any number of concessions trips as a passenger.

If you look at the NPS data for September, the NPS used one (1) data point for the whole month. It is easy to hide the after Sept 15 spike with one data point. You can get a much better sense of that spike after Sept 15 looking at this graph:
How to Get a Permit - Rafting Grand Canyon

This graph, based on lottery date applications, clearly shows June demand is
> May demand is > April demand.

The present plan has a lot of problems, including the commercialization and motorization of a wilderness river in Grand Canyon National Park. We will continue to bring this issue to the attention of paddlers across the country.

All the best, yours, tom
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