February 7, 2009

River runners wishing to apply for the main lottery for a noncommercial river permit to raft Grand Canyon National Park's Colorado River for calendar year 2010 have until noon Mountain Standard Time on February 24, 2009, to enter the lottery. The lottery has been set up by Grand Canyon National Park to be strictly online based. The NPS will not allow applications via fax, mail or phone. Winners are notified solely through email.
 
A total of 224 standard sized permits and 42 small group permits will be awarded for twelve to twenty five day river trips. Available dates are posted at: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/cancelled-dates.htm  
 
As of February 6th, 1036 individual lottery applications had been filed. Applications are being accepted on the Grand Canyon National Park's lottery website at: https://npspermits.us 
 
This lottery requires all applicants to first establish a profile (free) if they have not already done so, by visiting https://npspermits.us at any time during the year. During the process, applicants also must update their last river trip information, as the Park does not automatically supply this data.
 
Unlike lotteries that award participants extra points for participating in the lottery and losing, this accounting system gives additional lottery points to do-it-yourself river running applicants for every year the applicant has stayed away from river trips in Grand Canyon. With these points, self guided river runners who last rafted the Grand Canyon in 2004 will receive the maximum of five points allowed. No such framework of awarding better chances to go river running by staying away exists for the river runners who purchase access to the river through the authorized river concessionaires.
 
River Runners for Wilderness (www.rrfw.org) continues to offer free lottery assistance through email and a phone hotline for the complicated sign-up and lottery application process. The RRFW telephone assistance Help-line is available at (928) 856-9065, throughout this lottery on a first-come first-serve basis.
 
RRFW's online guide to navigating the complex 2010 Grand lottery is at:
 
http://www.rrfw.org/sites/default/files/documents/Grand_Canyon_Lottery_Primer.pdf
 
In the main lottery for permits to run the river in 2008, 2304 individuals applied for 194 river permits. It was not uncommon to see over 250 applicants for one midsummer day. As in years past, the greatest demand for a launch permit occurred after the end of the concessionaire motorized tour boat season in mid September. 456 individuals applied for the one launch date on September 27, 2008.
 
The National Park Service has set up this lottery so that every applicant must create a user profile. The Park Service will not allow lottery applicants to participate in the lottery if they have not first created a profile. Only individuals who have set up a profile and checked the right box in the profile will receive email updates on upcoming releases of self-guided launch dates and river news. The Park Service has structured this process so that even if individuals are presently not seeking a river trip but are interested in a future date, these people must establish a profile first.
 
This winter, Grand Canyon National Park offered some self-guided permit dates for December, January and February launches on a first come first serve call-in basis, without a lottery.
 
The Grand Canyon lottery is set up so that all applicants must be at least 18 years old and not already members of other noncommercial or commercial trips launching in the same calendar year as the desired launch date. The NPS also notes that no one may be listed on more than one application within any individual lottery. Email notifications announcing the winners will be sent to all applicants in late February.
 
The Park Service charges a non-refundable $25 application fee to be able to play the lottery. This is the highest lottery fee of any federal land river application lottery in the country.
 
Unlike other river lotteries, Grand Canyon's lottery requires a substantial financial commitment from winners. Winners will have until noon, March 10, 2009, to pay a $400 trip deposit, both for small and standard sized trips.
 
The Park also encourages applicants to list at least one Potential Alternate Trip Leader (PATL) on their lottery application. This is important because PATLs cannot be added later, even if you win. By the lottery rules, listing at least one PATL on an application is the only way the permit holder can protect trip participants against a cancelled trip if for some reason the permit holder is unable to make the trip. Designation of a PATL is the only way for the trip to be transferred to another participant.
 
If you need help submitting an application online or navigating the website, you may send Grand Canyon an email to grca_riv@nps.gov or call the River Office at 1-800-959-9164 (open weekdays from 8am to 5pm.)