River Runners Challenge Lottery Fees

Six organizations recently sent a joint letter to National Park Service Regional Director Michael Snyder expressing their concern over a new $25 lottery application fee. The new fee is part of the first ever online Grand Canyon Colorado River lottery, awarding non-commercial river permits to conduct a float trip through the park.

In a letter dated August 12, 2006, the groups, River Runners for Wilderness, High Country River Rafters, North West Rafters Association, Wild Wilderness, Private Boaters Coalition and Pikes Peak River Runners expressed their concern over the amount of the fee, noting that application fees charged for other river lotteries range from $15 to nothing.

In a reply to the groups sent September 19, 2006, Regional Director Snyder asserted that the $25 fee is needed to fund the River Permits Office. Snyder went on to say that the old waiting list had roughly 1,100 new additions a year, netting the park "approximately $110,000 in funding for the River Permits Office. Park managers have predicted there will be 4,000 to 5,000 applications submitted in this October's first Weighted Lottery. If this procedure is correct, total costs recovered will be very close to what is needed to operate the office."

But Jo Johnson, Co-Director of River Runners for Wilderness, says Snyder has neglected to mention the $357,100 the park also generated in the past by charging $100 per person in trip fees in addition to the $100 fee to join the waiting list, which the Park previously collected.

"There's a lot of fuzzy math here" continues Johnson, who points out the new lottery includes a doubling of river launches. "The park will charge $100 per person and generate a whopping $705,100 on top of the anticipated $110,000 collected in the lottery."

Johnson also wonders what the park is doing with the $815,000. "A few patrol trips and operating an online lottery for 198 launches at that price sounds a little steep to me. The park continues to look at non-commercial river runners as a cash cow, something they have done since the implementation of the Fee Demonstration program in 1997."

The groups were also concerned that the lottery requires losers to pay year after year, subsidizing the park for a river trip they may never be lucky enough to win. In his reply, Snyder noted that the park may consider changing the fees in the future. According to Snyder, "We fully expect to re-evaluate both the $25 lottery fee and the $100 per person permit fee each year as actual numbers of applicants and permit participants become known."

The on-line lottery application, only open October 1 to October 21, can be found at