Grand Canyon National Park has notified individuals on the old waiting list that the Park has delayed the initiation of the 2006 Colorado River lottery by one month.

The lottery will be for noncommercial trips launching in calendar year 2007. Because the lottery rules and procedures are complex, River Runners for Wilderness has put together the following Questions and Answers exchange to help noncommercial river runners understand the registration/application time frame, rules and procedures.

We have also included details that the National Park may not include when describing the Grand lottery. We hope this helps. Feel free to contact us if you have specific questions.

Question:
How does the Grand lottery application work?

Answer:
The Grand lottery is a two-step process. You must first register, then, once registered, you must submit an application.

Question:
Where do I register?

Answer:
Grand Canyon National Park will be posting a page on their website (http://www.nps.gov/grca/) for you to register.

Question:
When can I register?

Answer:
Registration will be on-line, by mail or by fax, and is set to open mid-September. Once registered, you will be assigned a username and password.

Question:
Once registered with a username and password, then what do I do?

Answer:
There will be an application period from October 1 to October 21, 2006. During this three week period you must apply using your assigned username and password for no more than 5 dates for the 201 available permits. For a complete list of available dates, see: http://www.nps.gov/grca/river/noncommercial-transition.htm.

Question:
I have heard there are regular group size and small groups size trips in the lottery. How many of each are there?

Answer:
In the 2006 Grand lottery for the year 2007, 153 dates are reserved for standard sized trips of up to16 participants, and 48 dates are reserved for small trips of up to 8 participants.

Question:
How many of us that were on the old waiting list did NOT get a permit through the phase out of the waiting list Stages I and II?

Answer:
There are roughly 5,000 waiting list participants still left after the completion of Stages I and II. This lottery is the last step in the transition to get rid of the waiting list, and is called Stage III.

Question:
Will all 5000 waiting list individuals apply to the lottery?

Answer:
There is no way of knowing. Some may want to apply for a river trip not in 2007, and hence, would not apply in the 2006 Grand lottery for 2007 dates.

Question:
Ok, I am on the old waiting list and did not obtain a launch date in either the Stage I or Stage II transition. Who can apply for this lottery?

Answer:
It doesn't matter if you were on the waiting list or not, anyone can apply to the new lottery.

Question:
I am NOT on the old waiting list and did NOT participate in the Stage I and Stage II transition. Can I apply even though I am NOT on the old waiting list?

Answer:
You bet! It doesn't matter if you were on the waiting list or not, anyone can apply.

Question:
How many times can I apply to the lottery?

Answer:
Your name can appear only once per lottery. You can apply only once, or be listed on someone else's trip as an alternate trip leader only once.

Question:
How many river trip dates can I list on my one application?

Answer:
Up to five only, in order of most to least desirable.

Question:
I've heard that this is a weighted lottery, similar to some hunting license lotteries. Does that mean that whenever I apply and lose, that will increase my future chances of winning?

Answer:
No, this lottery is entirely different than other "weighted lottery" models. Instead of increasing your chances with each subsequent lottery loss, only your number of years off the river will increase your chances in the lottery. All lottery applicants will be awarded points. You earn points based on the number of years it has been since you went on a trip down the Grand, up to a maximum of five points. FIVE points means five chances. Your name is entered 5 times in the lottery for the date you've chosen. So, if you floated the Grand last year, you will get 1 point, 2 points if you went two years ago, 3 for 3, 4 for 4, and 5 points if you boated the Grand 5 or more years ago.

Question:
So at six years, I get 6 points, right?

Answer:
No. The "wait" advantage is capped at 5 points, maximum.

Question:
Ok, I can apply for the lottery, and I can get up to 5 points maximum for doing so, depending on my "most recent trip." What about the points I had on the old waiting list?

Answer:
If you are one of the 5,000 people still on the waiting list who have no permit, you get to ADD the years you have been on the waiting list as well as your accumulation of "most recent trip" points. So, your point "weight" is number of years from the waiting list + 5 or fewer "most recent trip" points.

Here's an example:

Person A applies for the lottery, and has 10 years on the waiting list, and has never been down the river.

Total points then would be 10 points from the waiting list + 5 "most recent trip" points = 15

Here's another example:

Person A applies for the lottery, and has 10 years on the waiting list, and has been down the river 3 years ago.

Total points then would be 10 points from the waiting list + 3 "most recent trip" points = 13

Question:
So I get to claim my "most recent trip" points, and my waiting list points. Can I combine with other folks on the waiting list?

Answer:
Absolutely. The NPS wants to get everyone who has been on the waiting list down the river as soon as possible. So your lottery application will allow you to also list "Potential Alternate Trip Leaders" (PATL), folks that may be assigned your permit should you not be able to go. A PATL can be someone on the waiting list, or anybody over 18, for that matter. If you list PATLs, the NPS will determine your application's "most recent trip" points by looking at the most recent trip of anyone listed on the application, including the PATLs. If one person listed as a PATL floated the Grand last year, then your application can only have 1 "most recent trip" point. So your total points in the lottery will be determined by combining your waiting list years, your PATLs waiting list years, AND the "most recent trip" points, 1 through 5.

Here's another example:

Person A applies for the lottery, and lists two Alternates B and C

Person A has 10 years on the waiting list, and has never been down
Person B has 5 years on the waiting list, and went down 3 years ago
Person C wasn't on the waiting list but went down 2 years ago

Total points then would be 10 + 5 + 2 = 17 points. That's 10 + 5 = 15 points from the waiting list, and 2 points from the "most recent trip" list, for a grand total of 17 points. In this case the application would have had more points in the lottery if Person C were not listed as a PATL. Total points in that case would be 10 + 5 + 3 = 18.

Question:
How many times can a Potential Alternate Trip Leader (PATL) be listed in the lottery?

Answer:
Once only, on one application.

Question:
Ok, let's say I am on the old waiting list and did not obtain a launch date in the Stage I and Stage II transition. I want to better my chances to win the new Grand Canyon lottery. I have not gone down the river in the last 5 years. How do I better my chances?

Answer:
The only way to increase your chances under the current lottery rules would be to list PATLs who were also on the waiting list. If you don't know other people who were on the waiting list, you can ask around on the various online rafting groups. It's easy to sign up with the RRFW group by sending a blank email to Rafting_Grand_Canyon-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Question:
Well, what if I want to better my chances to win the new Grand Canyon lottery, but I went last year and am NOT on the old Waiting list. How do I do that?

Answer:
Ask a friend who has not been down the river in the last 5 years to enter the lottery registration and application process. You can offer to come along on their trip if they win.

Question:
What do you mean?

Answer:
Remember that the longer it has been since you went down the river, the more points you get (up to 5, maximum) in your lottery application. The lottery applicant who has not gone in 5 or more years has a better chance of winning, since they will get the full 5 points! So you should not be the permit applicant since you would only get 1 point. You want a "not-gone-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years" friend to apply so that you get 5 chances to win.

Question:
That's still not clear. I thought I needed to apply to the lottery. So what should I do to go boating with this new lottery?

Answer:
It's simple. Have someone who has "not-gone-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years" register and then apply. They will have better chances of winning than you. If they win, bingo, off to the River you go.

Question:
How do I get more than 5 points?

Answer:
You can't, unless you are listed on the old waiting list. If you are part of the waiting list and have been waiting longer then 5 years, you will have more than 5 points.

Question:
Ok, but can't I increase my points by getting some alternate trip leaders who have not gone in the last 5 years and have them sign on to "not-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years'" application too?

Answer:
Alternate trip leaders (remember, the NPS calls them PATLs) are listed so the river trip can simply be passed to someone else if the permit holder can't go. Just make sure the alternates, those PATLs, are "not-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years" people. Remember, five (5) points is the maximum number of points anyone who submits an application can get, with or without naming alternate trip leaders, AS LONG AS none of the applicants is on the old waiting list AND has not had a "most recent float" more recently then 5 years ago.

Question:
Why does this remind me of the Tax Code?

Answer:
No comment!

Question:
Ok, so if I have boated the canyon in the last 4 years or less, I don't want to apply, and I want a friend who has not gone down the river in at least the last 5 years to apply. Alternate names on the application, PATLs, also need to be people who have not gone in the last 5 years. Got it! So, how does my "not-gone-down-in-the-last-5-years" friend apply?

Answer:
The lottery will start October 1st and run for three weeks. There's nothing you can do today but have "not-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years" register for the Lottery in mid September. We'll send out another Riverwire when we hear the NPS announce the opening of the registration. Once the three week long lottery application period opens, have "not-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years" enter the lottery application fray.

Question:
What's it cost?

Answer:
It cost $25 per application. Be aware though that if you win, you will immediately be charged $400 (for a standard trip of 16 people) or $200 (for the new small trip of 8 or less people). You will not be able to change your mind once you get the permit. If you win, you pay. If you lose, you just donated $25 to Uncle Sam.

Question:
Will you have a better chance of winning if you apply for a trip during certain times of the year?

Answer:
Yes, late fall, the dead of winter, or very early spring. The folks with waiting list points will all be jostling for the primary summer dates. You also might want to apply for the small trips. There may be less demand for them, but that's not a certainty. This lottery is in October, 2006, with trips awarded by November, 2006. The lottery includes January 2007 river trips. Groups available to go on short notice will have a good chance of getting a January 2007 river trip.

Question:
That'll be c-c-c-cold?

Answer:
You bet! Don't forget to bring your woolly hat!

Question:
If I am successful in getting a trip in the lottery, and for some reason can not go, can I defer the trip?

Answer:
No, there are no deferrals. The trip is cancelled and goes into a cancellation lottery.

Question:
I see-ok, can I transfer the trip to someone else who played the lottery but did not win?

Answer:
No, that's not allowed either.

Question:
How will cancellations or unclaimed lottery dates be handled?

Answer:
Cancellations and unclaimed dates will be put into another lottery. Interested parties will have to register again, and join the cancellation lottery.

Question:
Ok, what if I want to go boating in 2009 and I AM on the waiting list. Should I apply every year until then, to get "more" points?

Answer:
No. You will want to wait until the 2008 lottery for 2009, and then apply. If you went boating in less then 5 years, you'll get your waiting list points plus your 1 to 5 points for the number of years since your last trip. The lottery works the same every year. Remember, if you don't go in 5 years, then you have maxed out your "most recent trip" points.

Question:
I want to go boating in 2009 and am NOT on the waiting list. Should I apply every year until then, to get "more" points?

Answer:
No. You will want to wait until the 2008 lottery for 2009, and then have "not-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years" apply for you. By then, you may be "not-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years" yourself, in which case, apply yourself. But if you went boating in less than 5 years, you'll need "not-down-the-river-in-the-last-5-years" to apply for you. The lottery works the same every year. If you don't go in 5 years, then you have maxed out your points.

Question:
Wow, it seems like I'll be competing with folks on the waiting list, and there are thousands of them. Why even apply?

Answer:
You never know who's going to apply for what dates. It is a lottery, after all. If you are flexible, you'll want to get into the "system" to apply for cancellations, if there are any. The NPS has yet to explain the details of how cancellations will be handled.

Question:
I've participated in river permit lotteries before on the Rogue, Dinosaur, and the Four Rivers Lottery. In those lotteries, we have permit parties, apply for a lot of dates, and all go if one person in our party wins. Why not do that for this Grand Canyon lottery?

Answer:
You can, but consider this: If you win, you get charged the $400 full trip or $200 small trip fee immediately. If your group of friends wins twice or more, you'll have to pay the fees and cancel one or more of those trips. Say goodbye to your lottery fee and trip fee. Not only is there the fee issue, but also you can only go on one trip a year, and your name can only appear on one application.

Question:
This is a mess. I'm frustrated, confused, and don't even want to apply. Who benefits?

Answer:
The majority of river access is still, by far, going to the river concessionaires for their customers. If the noncommercial access system is a nightmare, the concessionaires benefit.

Question:
Why do they benefit?

Answer:
Because you can book a commercial trip for a known date anytime. It's just a credit card and phone call away. And, the concessions passengers, though limited to one trip a year, are NOT penalized if they have gone rafting within the last 5 years. Since getting a seat on a commercial trip is straightforward, people are apt to just buy one. Additionally, confusion and disagreement about the lottery system among noncommercial boaters divides them and makes them a less effective lobby for people who want to do the river themselves. This helps commercial companies Cooktain their influence over how access to the river is managed.

Question:
So what can I do about that?

Answer:
Tell your congressperson. Join RRFW at www.rrfw.org and stay active. This IS your National Park after all.