Boaters "Mad As Hell" After New Lottery

For the first time in twenty-six years on October 23, 2006, officials at Grand Canyon National Park conducted a lottery to distribute 197 river permits to non-commercial river runners for the year-round 2007 rafting season.

The lottery caused a lot of frustration for many river runner participants.

Even before being conducted, the lottery entry process presented problems. Applicants were greeted with a webpage default that appeared to have only a fraction of available launches and problems with accepting entry fee payments.

Worst of all, some applicants, upon receiving a message from the Park that they had won a trip, had their joy turned to confusion and sorrow when next day the message instead said the lottery was still being conducted, and still later turned into a rejection message. Baffled applicants endured hour-long phone waits to speak with Park personnel about the conflicting messages.

According to the Grand Canyon River Permits staff, due to an oversight, the lottery website was not shut down while the lottery was being run and verified. Park staff belatedly shut it down late on Tuesday, October 24th. This resulted in erroneous information being posted prior to Wednesday evening. The mismanagement of this lottery has many river runners angered. "I'm mad as hell" said one river runner.

Grand Canyon National Park officials admit that some of the applicants' confusion over the lottery was caused by the unusual lottery timing, occurring as it did after the summer boating season had just ended. According to the Park, future lotteries will probably be held much earlier in the year, before the start of the summer boating season.

The October lottery for 2007 began with January 2007 launch dates. According to the Park Service website, there were 2,534 applications to the lottery for 197 trips. There were 7 unclaimed mid-winter dates: January 13, 14, 16, 20, 25, 2007, and Dec 9 and 14, 2007 in spite of the number of lottery entries. The Park also says the unclaimed dates, along with any already-forfeited dates, will be re-released in a run-off lottery in approximately two weeks.

At $25 per application to join the lottery, the Park generated $63,350 while conducting the lottery. Deposits of $400 (large trip) and $200 (small trip) were due immediately upon notification of a successful lottery draw with the remaining fees of $100 per person due 90 days before launch.

Another boater noted "Why should some citizens of the United States have more access to the National Parks than others? The National Parks were set up for the enjoyment of everyone, not just the rich and famous. In my opinion, this is a wilderness and capitalism does not belong here, neither do games of chance!"

The last time the Park conducted a lottery for do-it-yourself river rafting permits was 26 years ago. The lottery was stopped at that time due to overwhelming public disapproval. In the last few years, Colorado River managers at Westwater Canyon and the popular Desolation-Gray Canyons have converted from lotteries to open registration permit applications, citing user dissatisfaction with lotteries.