November 2002. Westwater Canyon, a popular 1- to 2- day river trip, will be accessed through a new method of permit issuance this year. Chad Niehaus, Recreation Planner for Bureau of Land Management's Moab River Office explained: "We wanted to reduce cancellations and maximize the available use in Westwater Canyon while making the reservation system more user-friendly".
The website at www.blm.gov/utah/moab/ww-info.html features an online calendar of available launches, updated daily. Prospective permittees may call to reserve their date up to two months before their desired date-the call-in date is conveniently listed for each date. "We tried this on launch dates in the secondary season last year," Niehaus said, "and it worked well enough for us to apply it to the main season."
The previous annual lottery which was held early in the year was apparently not well suited to Westwater Canyon, which requires less planning lead time since it can be run as a day-trip and is a relatively short drive from several metropolitan areas. The cancellation rate was high and the River Office was increasingly forced to phone permittees to find out if permits would be used. Unused spaces were released as available permits, but often with little lead time.
The River Office is hoping to decrease administrative costs of river permitting. "There will still be "crunch" times when the phone lines will be jammed" acknowledged Niehaus, "but overall, this system should work much better for everyone." Westwater's method has not been used before, but if successful, other river permitting agencies may incorporate elements into their own permitting systems. There has been a lot of interest in the details by planners in other locations, according to Niehaus.