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207 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is from the Grand Canyon River Permits Office. Good luck to everyone!

We have just opened a follow-up lottery for 2017 launch dates at the weighted lottery website ( The lottery will accept applications until Thursday, October 20, 2016, at 12:00 PM (noon) Mountain Standard Time. The available launch dates are:

Standard Size Trips (1 - 16 people):
January 2017: 9, 15, 17
March 2017: 30
April 2017: 1, 2
September 2017: 1, 27

Small Size Trips (1 - 8 people):
July 2017: 27

Winners will have until Friday, October 21, 2016, at 12:00 PM (noon) Mountain Standard Time to pay their nonrefundable deposits ($400 for standard size trips, $200 for small size trips).

We strongly recommended all lottery applications list at least one Potential Alternate Trip Leader (PATL). If the original trip leader becomes unable to go on the river trip, and there are no confirmed PATLs, the trip will be cancelled. PATLs can be added to a river trip by the trip leader only when submitting a lottery application; see Noncommercial River Trip Regulations for clarification.

FORGOT YOUR PASSWORD? You can request a new temporary password by clicking "Forgot my username and/or password" (located below the login box) when on the noncommercial river website. IMPORTANT: The worst time to request a password reset is during the first few hours after a lottery notification email has been sent. The email with your new temporary password will not go out until all lottery notification emails have been sent.

Grand Canyon River Permits Office


The Grand Canyon River Permits Office sends out emails announcing the main lottery and follow-up lotteries. You can choose to receive all, none, or any combination of these emails. To set your email preferences, login and then click on "Edit Personal Information".

To be sure our emails get to you, add the following two email addresses ([email protected] and [email protected]) to your email contacts. This should prevent River Permits Office emails from being blocked by a spam filter.

Grand Canyon River Permits Office Contact Information

Phone: 800-959-9164 (toll free)
928-638-7843 (optional non-toll-free number to same line)

Fax: 928-638-7844

Mail: National Park Service
Grand Canyon River Permits
1824 S. Thompson St., Suite 201
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

email: [email protected]
IMPORTANT: do not email personally identifiable information, such as date of birth or payment details.


Main River Permit Information: - click on River

Available Launch Dates:

Noncommercial River Trip Regulations:

Frequently Asked Questions:

Statistics From Past Lotteries:

Lottery Website:

Password Reset:


Posted by GCPBA.
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570 Posts

Given current application volume, if a reversion to the old system were to occur wait time for launch dates in months like October would be in the range of 60 - 300 years depending on the day. Unfortunately, the math suggests that you are off by a minimum of 40 years. Demand for private permits in months like October has increased markedly in the last 10 years since the change.

This math is based on the main lottery statistics from the 17 years.

and assumes that each application has an equal chance of winning a given date.

The best way to increase your chances of getting a permit in the current lottery to do the following:
1. Have a permit party with 15 other people who have 5 points each. In their apps have a NO PTL status.
2. Apply for a large range of winter dates. If each app is can apply for dates then apply for 16*4 = 64 different days in the winter season. Winter is best because the application volume is low.

3. This can be done with follow-up lotteries as well.


Lastly, I applied to and, "did not win" in the last followup lottery. So If that was you I feel your pain.

134 Posts
Boaters I know who want to go get to go all the time. Most have gotten to the point that they will only go on spring & fall trips with solid logistics and group dynamics. Here is what they tend to have in common.

a. Decades of river running experience
b. Strong, safe boaters
c. Specific skills and/or training - Nurses/ski patrolers/swiftwater certs/safety kayakers

You see it all the time. Permit holders want to fill their permit with a specific type of person. Honestly, the person who has the hardest time getting on a trip is the person with little experience on multi-day trips who doesn't have network of boater friends.

If you started boating in your 20s, progressed to solid IV skills, have been on double digit multi-days, and are someone other people like spending time around & have a somewhat flexible schedule, you'll get to go on the Grand.

If you don't have to above resume, the next best qualification is....tits. The non-sausage party trips are just better. And not for any misogynistic, sexist reasons. It just creates balance. After boobs, the next best quality is just being awesome. I, and most of my friends, enjoy bringing some 0 trip rockies on the trip. Their level of excitement and naivete brings something to the trip. I don't like to hear old crusties argue about how many coals go on the top of the dutch.

Anywho, not trying to ruffle any feathers simply just sharing my experience that the new permit system has worked great for people I know.

134 Posts
Oh, Buckman...I could very definitely be wrong about premise #2. I'll leave it up to someone else to figure out, but I believe you can statistically improve your chances with a different strategy.

570 Posts
Jamie D.,

It sound's like your general argument is that the best way to get on grand canyon private trips is by having years of grand experience. I agree with this. Being a strong, medical and outdoor professional does make it easier to get invited on trips year after year.

Unfortunately, the current permit system does not favor folks with Grand Canyon rafting or medical experience. It does the opposite if you have never been and when you apply you get 5 draws for each launch day you apply for. Compare that to a person who has gone the previous year. They have will have only one point.

We could both be right though you could hold a permit, party with 8 people who have never been 8*5=40points of weight for days applied for. I will save the p-values for this example and say it is likely enough weight to land a winter permit. Now assuming a permit is won, that permit holder can now invite 8 other people that meet your definition of good trip candidates. Folks that are EMT's and outdoor professionals.


Ok I did the math and you can too using the sheet I created.

The sheet has two tabs both use the dates and stat's from the May 17, 2017 follow up lottery

The first one shows an application option like I presented in my original post. 16, 5 point people apply for a set of dates. The odd's of their group winning a permit are between 105%-220% for three of their dates and never drop below 37% for any given dates. See screenshots.

The second tab represents the outdoor professional / EMT type folks that go every year. If their group of 16 applies for the same dates their odds of getting a permit range from 0-35%

Now I know what your thinking. Who would go in the winter? That is just crazy. Well, plug in the stats from a follow-up lottery that includes October or March dates. What you will see is that the odd's for the one pointers even if they have permit party with other one point players stay below (less that) 1%.

Meaning collectively they have a less than 1% chance of winning a permit for most spring and fall dates released for a cancellation lottery. Lucky for them the folks actually winning these permits have no experience and may look for the 1 point experiences folks to invite on trips.

Say you believe this math and choose to apply it. Well, that is the challenging part. I have never met anyone that was able to organize a 16 person permit party made up of all 5 point people. However, if I was trying to win a grand canyon permit that is exactly what I would do.


~ B


134 Posts
You obviously know the maths and have put some time into figuring this out. I still say one of your basic strategies could be improved upon. Also, a very small percentage of people that go down the Grand will the lottery (1 in 16 or 1 in 8 depending on trip size).

2,335 Posts
Considering the system was designed to favor people who have never been over people who have been down 100 seems to be doing its job. They specifically set out to make sure that those people who have not been down but want to are able to and that it would not be dominated by people who have experienced the canyon multiple times already. The only people who had a better chance then first timers were people who held the lottery. As Ranger Patty said in her chat, 100,000 people want to go down and only 30,000 are able.

If you are flexible and ready to go on short notice, it really isn't that hard to get on a trip. I'd never been and still haven't applied to a lottery. I bought a raft setup a year ago and because of flexibility and frequenting places like Mountainbuzz I got to do a 2 Deso trips, a high water Yampa trip and a summer which culminated in a Grand Canyon trip in August of this year.

I didn't know a single person on most of those trips before I showed up to the put in and was hooked up with them through Mountainbuzz.

If you have to go in a certain two week period or can only go with friends, then its gonna take a little while. If you can be flexible and go on short notice, its certainly not impossible to go every year. This is especially true if you have your own raft and group gear to contribute. Experience helps, but isn't a deal breaker on a lot of trips, but your flexibiilty and ability to work with people is.

1,900 Posts
Yep, what Philip said.
But if you don't have a PATL and the trip leader can't go for some reason, you are hosed.
The Park Service will not let you launch without a trip leader.
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