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RRFW Riverwire – Grand Canyon River Lottery Eight Year Review Released
November 23, 2013

Officials at Grand Canyon National Park (GRCA) have released an eight year review of how the Park’s do-it-yourself river running lottery permitting system is preforming. This lottery is now used for obtaining a self-guided river permit and was implemented after a complete overhaul of the self-guided river runners permit system in 2006.

Unlike the five year review, the eight year review does not show how many successful lottery winners were awarded the date of their first choice launch date. The five year review showed that while 50% of lottery applicant winners received their first choice launch date, 50% of lottery winners were awarded their second to fifth choice of launch dates.

Not mentioned in either report is that since 2007, Grand Canyon National Park has collected over $4,380,000 in do-it-yourself river runners permit fees and an additional $715,000 in main lottery application fees alone, for a total of over $5,000,000 in six years.

Missing from both the five and eight year review was information on lottery applicant success to loss ratios. According to information available elsewhere in the GRCA web site, the Park has handled almost 19,500 lottery applications for just under 2,000 river permits released in the six main lotteries from 2007 through 2012. Projections still indicate lottery applicant chances of actually winning a permit are about once every 25 years.

The 2006 permitting system greatly increased the number of available off season permits. The eight year review, like the five year review, continues to show that off season permits are not being utilized as Park officials had hoped. The eight year review shows that GRCA projections overshot actual passenger counts during the months of November through February by roughly 50%.

Park officials are proposing changing trip lengths in the eight year review. The proposed change is based on one year’s worth of data showing that for four days in the spring, the number of river trips in the entire 280 mile long canyon exceeds 60 trips, reaching up to 64 trips for two consecutive days. The recommendation suggests decreasing river trip lengths from 21 to 18 days from April 15 to April 30, with an increase to self-guided trip lengths from 18 to 21 days from September 15 to September 30. No consideration is given to changing the length of concessions trips to adjust for the four day overrun.

Data available elsewhere on the GRCA web site also shows that oar powered concessions river trips have exceeded the 2006 river management plan projections by 81 trips in the 2008 through 2012 seasons, while the do-it-yourself river runners have fallen short by 151 trips during the same time period. Park officials offer no information on the reasons behind these unclaimed do-it-yourself launch dates. There are no recommendations on how to make changes to the do-it-yourself lottery regulations to help these trips launch.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to make winter river trips more attractive to paddlers, for the last six years River Runners for Wilderness (RRFW), a non-profit river runner’s advocacy group, has been asking the NPS to return the winter trip lengths to 30 days from the 25 days allowed since 2006. RRFW has also called for the elimination of the one-trip-per-year rule for winter river runners. RRFW was recently joined by other river running groups asking for the lifting of the one trip limit in the winter. Park officials did not even consider these recommendations in their list of possible changes to the river permit system.

Another recommendation offered by Park officials is to increase lottery points for river trips listing a backup permit holder. According to information in the eight year review, only 18% of do-it-yourself river trips list a back-up trip leader. The Park offers no information on how many river trips cancel per year because the permit holder did not identify an alternate trip leader.

To see the entire five and eight year reviews, visit:

https://rrfw.org/lotteryguide

and click on the links to the guides.

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