For the second time since permits have been required to raft the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park, the National Park Service will be implementing a lottery for non-commercial river runners. The Park abandoned their last non-commercial permit lottery for river runners in the late 70s, citing widespread public discontent. The NPS initiated the permit waiting list in its stead. Grand Canyon officials are phasing out the waiting list and implementing the new weighted lottery hoping it will be more favorably received.
Park officials tentatively plan to conduct the lottery online and through fax and mail registrations from August 21 to August 29, 2006, offering a total of 200 river trips for the 2007 season. 153 of those dates are reserved for standard sized trips of up to16 participants, and 48 for small trips of up to 8 participants. The 48 small trips will be available April, 2007 through August, 2007. 58 of the standard trips will be in the winter, for January, February, November and December 2007. Twenty two standard trips will be available for March and April 2007, and 34 standard trips will be available for the popular summer season of May through August 2007. In the fall, September and October 2007, 38 standard trips will be available. A lottery will be held for every day a launch is available.
The upcoming lottery is open to anyone who wishes to apply whether one was on the waiting list or not. The river lottery is the third and final transition from the waiting list system to the lottery. In the first two transition stages, over 7,000 permit holders were offered 1,200 river trips. Those on the permit waiting list who were unsuccessful in the first two stages may apply for the lottery, or be refunded any deposit they may have paid. for January, February, November and December 2007.
Every applicant to the lottery will be charged $25, and if successful in obtaining a date, will be required to pay $400 as a deposit to secure the date for a standard trip. Each person on the trip will be charged $100. All fees paid will be forfeited to the NPS if the trip is cancelled, and all fees due must be received 90 days before the trip launches.
Participants in the lottery will acquire one additional point for every year they are unsuccessful in obtaining the date of their choice. Applicants who have a launch date already awarded in a year outside of the lottery year may apply to the lottery as well.
The Park plans to notify the public about the upcoming lottery through press releases in a couple of weeks. Those waiting list members who have failed to win a launch through Stages I and II have been notified by mail. Additional information, including specific open launch dates, is available on the Park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/grca/river/noncommercial-transition.htm.
While he expressed regret about the short notification time for the upcoming lottery, Park representative Steve Sullivan admitted, “If there is a smaller applicant pool, that just means those that apply will have better chances than they would have otherwise.”
Meanwhile, up river in the popular Desolation Grey section of the Green River, Bureau of Land Management planners have just abandoned their lottery system, in favor of a year round launch reservation system. The BLM made the transition after finding that the lottery was very costly and was responsible for a large amount of user dissatisfaction. Two years ago a calendar based reservation system was instituted at the BLM’s Westwater Canyon. The new system is simple and popular with noncommercial boaters, and officials have found it to be much easier to administrate than the lottery.