Grand Canyon Lottery Starts May 1st

Grand Canyon National Park will accept lottery applications for calendar year 2008 self guided Colorado River permits, beginning May 1, 2007. The open period to join the lottery will close at 12:00 noon (Arizona time) on May 28, 2007. 

The lottery drawing will take place on May 31st. The lottery is a new permit distribution system which only applies to the rafting public who does not use park river concessionaires. In contrast, open spots are available with river concessionaires for the 2008 river season, at prices of up to $450 per night.

Lottery applications will be accepted through the website and all lottery applicants will need to have set up a user profile before applying for the lottery at

Applications for the lottery cost $25, and must be paid online when the application is submitted.  Applicants who win a permit through the lottery will immediately be charged an additional $400 trip deposit.

This deposit is non-refundable even if the permit is cancelled immediately after the lottery. The trip deposit will be applied towards the final $100 per person cost of the permit. The Grand Canyon river permit and lottery charges are, by far, the highest do-it-yourself river running fees in the country.

Groups of river runners are forming to apply for prearranged dates. Called "permit parties", these groups are comprised of river runners who have not boated the Canyon in five or more years and would each separately apply for one or two common dates, thus increasing the group's chances to win.

The Grand Canyon lottery awards up to 5 points to potential permit holders, with more points being awarded the longer an individual has stayed away from the river.

"This system ensures that the majority of permit holders will have no recent experience on the river" notes Tom Martin, co-director of River Runners for Wilderness. "One's increase in chances should be based on one's failure in previous lotteries, not on one's absence from the river" says Martin. "Hunting permits work this way. If you apply for but don't win a hunting permit this year, you get more chances next year. You don't get more chances for not trying to hunt."

A total of 213 river trips will be available through this lottery for calendar year 2008. Forty one of these are for small size (1 to 8 person) trips and the rest are for standard size (1 to 16 person) trips. 

A calendar showing the available lottery dates is at

This calendar also shows permits already assigned in 2008 to individuals from the prior river permit access system, the Waiting List,which still has over 4,000 pending permit applications.

In order to assist self guided river runners looking to try their luck in the Grand Canyon Lottery, River Runners for Wilderness has published an online Grand Canyon Lottery Information Primer.

This step-by-step tutorial features web page images captured from the Grand Canyon National Park website during last year's lottery with text explanations to help you navigate the entire process.

The Primer covers the two step registration and lottery process, group size, fees, and Potential Alternate Trip Leader information.

The Primer is available for download as an Adobe PDF file of 9.5MB at: by clicking on the link:

Detailed information with copies of actual NPS web pages about the lottery application process (9.5MB PDF).

Competition for last year's initial lottery was high. The initial 2007 lottery was held October 23, 2006, and had 2,534 applications in the lottery for 197 dates, or a 1 in 13 chance of winning.

A follow-up lottery was held December 5, 2006, and had 1,038 applications for 45 winter dates, or a 1 in 23 chance of winning a winter off-season date.

The lottery is part of the contested 2006 Colorado River Management Plan. The new plan, presently in litigation, offers do-it-yourself river runners an increased opportunity to get permits, but nearly all of the new trips are during the winter months. The new plan also mandates cuts in self guided trip lengths throughout the year, and imposes a one-trip per year policy on all river runners.