Grand Canyon National Park opened the main 2014 river season lottery for self-guided river trips through Grand Canyon on February 1, 2013. The lottery will remain open through noon Mountain Standard Time on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.
River Runners for Wilderness continues to offer an online guide to navigating the complex 2014 Grand lottery at: https://www.rrfw.org/lotteryguide
The lottery is strictly online based. The National Park Service (NPS) will not allow applications via fax, mail or phone. Winners are notified solely through email.
Of the 450 trips available in the 2014 season, 180 full sized trips of up to 16 people are in the winter season October through March. There are 194 full sized trips open in the six summer months, with an additional 76 summer trips for small groups only, of 8 people or less. This is in comparison to the park’s river concessionaires who have 600 summer launches of 32 people each trip.
A listing of the available 2014 river trip dates are posted at: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/cancelled-dates.htm
The NPS no longer shows lottery applicants when two self-guided trips are launching on the same day in the online scheduler as they have in the past.
Applications are being accepted on the Grand Canyon National Park’s lottery website at: https://npspermits.us
The NPS reports that in last year’s 2012 lottery for trips in 2013 there were 3,629 applications submitted for 449 launch opportunities. As in all the main lotteries run since 2006, the highest demand dates are the first available dates after the start of the motorboat-free period beginning September 15. In 2012, there were 379 applications for one date alone at the start of the motor-free season.
Lottery applicants must first establish a profile by visiting https://npspermits.us. During the application process river runners must update their last river trip information, as the Park does not supply this data and will collect $400 if the lottery applicant wins the lottery without updating this information, then will revoke the permit and all paid fees.
Unlike lotteries that award participants extra points for participating in the lottery and losing, this lottery gives up to five additional points to do-it-yourself river running applicants for every year the river runner has stayed away from participation in any self- guided or concession river trip in Grand Canyon. River runners who purchase yearly access to the river through the authorized river concessionaires face no parallel obstacles and are free to purchase a trip year after year.
All self-guided river runners are required to show photo identification to law enforcement rangers at the start of their river trip. No such enforcement is required for concessions passengers. River Runners for Wilderness continues to hear anecdotal reports of passengers who participate on two or more concessions river trips per year.
For the last seven winters, Grand Canyon National Park has been unable to find applicants for most of the self-guided permit dates for December and January launches. River Runners for Wilderness continues to ask Grand Canyon National Park to decrease the restrictions imposed for obtaining these unclaimed winter permits.
In a letter to RRFW dated December 12, 2011, Park Superintendent David Uberuarga requested patience while his staff considered ways to make these trips more attractive to river runners. No changes were implemented for the 2012 winter season and the NPS admitted that more permits went unclaimed in the dead of winter 2012 season than in any past season since 2006.
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. Last year’s main February lottery alone generated $90,725.
Unlike other river lotteries, Grand Canyon’s lottery requires a substantial up-front financial commitment for winners, and possible forfeiture of those funds. Winners will have to pay a $400 trip deposit, both for small and standard sized trips. This deposit goes toward the $100 per person river running fee.
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 after a trip date has been awarded. The number of chances an application has with a PATL listed is determined by the most recent trip of all the applications listed members. RRFW would like to remind applicants to carefully select a PATL that will likely be able to go if the permittee cannot, to avoid fee forfeiture and disappointed participants.
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. To this date, the NPS has provided no data to show how often a trip is turned over to a PATL.