Grand Canyon Noncommercial River Permits - Frequently Asked Questions
There are three ways to know a lottery has opened.
- Opt-in to receive email notifications: Edit your profile and choose to recieve email notifications about open lotteries. This is an opt-in system, you must choose to recieve emails announcing lotteries.
- Subscribe to our RSS feed
- Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GCRiverPermits (opens in new window)
What can I do on this website?
Use this website to submit lottery applications and permit applications for noncommercial Colorado River rafting permits.
- Create and manage your user profile, which contains your contact information, points, river trip history, and all lottery applications you've submitted or are listed on.
- Create and submit a lottery application for a noncommercial (private) river trip when a lottery is open.
- Pay lottery application costs.
- Make changes to your pending lottery application at any time before the lottery closes.
- Monitor the status of your pending lottery application, i.e., make sure payments were successful, verify Potential Alternate Trip Leaders (PATLs) have confirmed their PATL status, and double-check your lottery application.
- Find out whether or not your application was successful in a lottery.
- Fill out and submit your noncommercial river permit application, complete a trip participant list, and pay permit costs (if you won a launch date in a lottery).
Note: Anyone applying for a noncommercial Colorado River rafting trip (or listed as a PATL on one) must have a profile in this system.
General requirements listed below, for more information see the Noncommercial River Trip Regulations (pdf file, 970kb).
- The Colorado River through Grand Canyon is a highly technical river, not something for the inexperienced to try. At least one member of each trip must have the experience and skills required by the National Park Service.
- Noncommercial trips must be self-guided and may not hire guides.
- All noncommercial trip expenses must be shared among all participants on a full cost sharing basis.
- Once awarded through the weighted lottery, noncommercial trip launch dates may not be changed, deferred, or traded.
- Trips may be passed to qualified Potential Alternate Trip Leaders (PATLs) who: were listed on the original lottery application, confirmed their co-applicant status online before the lottery drawing, and met all other NPS requirements.
- The main applicant must be at least 18 years old. PATLs must be at least 18 years old by the launch date.
- Applicable lottery and river permits costs must be paid. There is a launch year lottery application charge to apply in a weighted lottery, paid once per launch year. Successful applicants, those who win a launch date, then immediately pay a river trip deposit. This deposit is applied towards river permit costs. Final river permit costs are due 90 days before launch. Lottery and river permit payments are nonrefundable. (detailed cost information can be found elsewhere on this page at How much are permit costs?)
- All individuals are prohibited from participating on more than one (1) recreational river trip (commercial or non-commercial) per year through any part of the Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek section of the Colorado River.
What type of river experience is required?
There must be at least one qualified boat-operator present on the entire river trip. That person must have participated in a previous Grand Canyon river trip as a boat-operator in command of a boat or participated as a boat-operator in command of a boat on a river of similar difficulty to the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. Your boat-operator must be guided by a thorough understanding of the technical skill required to navigate the major rapids found in Grand Canyon National Park. The selection of boat-operators is the responsibility of the trip leader. Rivers of similar difficulty to the Colorado River through Grand Canyon (this list is not all-inclusive): Cataract Canyon, Utah; Lodore Canyon, Colorado; West Water Canyon, Utah; Middle Fork Salmon, Idaho; Rogue River, Oregon; Green River, Utah; Selway River, Idaho; Yampa River, Colorado; Tuolumne River, California; Main Salmon, Idaho.
It's called a weighted lottery because we adjust (weight) each individual's odds of winning, so that those who have been on a recreational trip on the Colorado River less recently (or never) have a greater chance of winning a launch date than those who have been on a river trip more recently. The lottery system centers around the concept of standard points and, for those persons transitioning from the waitlist only, bonus points. The following paragraphs explain how these two concepts work to influence a lottery application's chances of winning.
Standard points are the basis for the system and are used to weight the lottery to give persons who have not been on the Colorado River recently a better chance of success than those who have been more recently. Calculating your standard points is easy: it's simply the number of years since you've been on a recreational river trip on the Colorado River between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek, up to a maximum of five points. So if it's been five or more years since you've been on a trip, or you've never been, then you have five standard points, which means, essentially that you have five chances of winning (think of it as "five lottery tickets for your permit in the pot that we draw from"). On the other hand, if you were just down the river last year, you have one point. If it has been three years since you last went on a recreational river trip (noncommercial or commercial) through the canyon, you have three points. Keep in mind that this formula applies for both noncommercial (private) and commercial trips. So if you took a commercial trip last year, you'll have one standard point when you apply for a noncommercial trip this year.
Of course, there may be multiple persons listed on a lottery application, for example the trip leader and any confirmed Potential Alternate Trip Leaders (PATLs). So how do we calculate the total points for a lottery application as a whole? Simple: if no person listed on the lottery application has "bonus points" (see below), then the total points for a lottery application is the minimum of all standard points held by the trip leader and all confirmed PATLs. If the trip leader has five standard points, and there are two PATLs with three and four standard points respectively, the trip application will enter the lottery with three standard points, i.e., with three "tickets in the pot".
Bonus points (or extra chances) for persons transitioning from the old waitlist system. (Note: the following applies only to persons who were on the waitlist in 2006 and elected to transition to the lottery system with bonus points, everyone else has zero bonus points.) Persons transitioning from the old waitlist system were given one bonus point for every year they had been on the waitlist. These extra points remain viable indefinitely, and can be used year after year to boost the odds of success in the lottery. Once the holder of bonus points goes on a recreational river trip (i.e., is a trip leader or PATL on a winning lottery application or a is passenger on someone's trip), their bonus points disappear and subsequent participation in lotteries is based on standard points only.
The total points for a lottery application with multiple applicants (i.e. trip leader and one or more confirmed PATLs) are calculated by combining the standard points and bonus points of all listed applicants. Bonus points are particularly powerful because they are cumulative across all applicants on a permit and act in addition to standard points. To illustrate this, consider the following scenario: Mike is submitting a lottery application and plans to list John and Betty as PATLs.
- Mike was on a commercial trip down the Colorado River three years ago, so he has three standard points.
- John has never been down the Colorado, so he has five standard points.
- Betty has never been down the river either, and she transitioned from the waitlist with ten bonus points, so she has five standard points and ten bonus points.
The number of points for a lottery application is calculated as follows: First, take the minimum of all applicants' standard points, then add to that number any bonus points the applicants have due to being on the waitlist. So, in the above case, take the minimum of standard points of all applicants: minimum(3,5,5)=3. Then add all the bonus points held by all applicants: 10 (from Betty). The total points for this application as a whole would be 13, i.e, this application will essentially have 13 "tickets in the pot" for the lottery.
What would cause me to lose my lottery chances (points)?
There are two ways for you to lose your lottery chances (points). First, your points will be reset to one if you are listed on a lottery application that wins (i.e. if you are on an application as either the trip leader or a confirmed PATL), even if your trip is later cancelled. Second, your points will be reset to one if you participate on a noncommercial trip or are a recreational passenger on a commercial river trip through any portion of the Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek section of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park.
A PATL is a person who would be capable and willing to take over river trip responsibilities if the trip leader is unable to go. PATLs commit their points (standard and bonus) to the lottery application they are listed on. The National Park Service strongly recommends that all lottery applications list at least one PATL. If the original trip leader becomes unable to go on the river trip, and there are no confirmed PATLs, the trip will be cancelled. PATLs can be added to a river trip by the trip leader only when submitting a lottery application; see Noncommercial River Trip Regulations for clarification.
There are two reasons that this is necessary. First, individuals are only allowed to be listed on a single lottery application for any lottery. When you list someone as a PATL on your lottery application, it will prevent him or her from being listed as a trip leader or PATL on any other application within that same lottery. Making PATLs log on and explicitly confirm their participation is our way of making sure that PATLs are okay with this, and are prepared to commit to your trip. Second, if the application wins and a launch date is awarded, the trip leader and all PATLs will have their points reset to one standard point --- whether or not they actually go on the trip. By requiring PATLs to log in and confirm their PATL status, we ensure they have explicitly consented to be listed (and have their points used) for the lottery application.
In order to give everyone a fair chance to experience a raft trip down the Colorado River, individuals are limited to one recreational river trip (commercial or noncommercial) on the Colorado River between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek per year. Moreover, we weight the odds of winning the lottery, giving more chances to those who have not been down the river recently. Note that we do check the accuracy of last river trip date for all applicants listed on a river permit application before issuing the permit; false statements of last river trip date will result in cancellation of the permit and fees paid to the National Park Service for that launch date will be forfeited.
The lottery application cost is charged once for each LAUNCH year for which a trip leader applies. After you have paid the application cost for a launch year, you can apply in all later lotteries for that launch year for no additional charge. The application cost is paid after a lottery application is submitted and can only be paid when a lottery is open.
For example, you decide to apply in a lottery with launch dates in 2022, you submit a lottery application and pay, you are now eligible to apply in all later lotteries with launch dates in 2022 for no additional charge. If you then decide to apply in a lottery with launch dates in 2023, you would submit a lottery application and pay, you are now eligible to apply in all later lotteries with launch dates in 2023 for no additional charge.
IMPORTANT: Lottery and river permit payments are nonrefundable.
Noncommercial river permit costs are:
- $25 to submit a lottery application during an open lottery (paid once per launch year)
- $200 small trip deposit or $400 standard trip deposit (applied towards final costs)
- $20 entrance fee per participant (16 years and older)
- $90 river permit cost per participant
- for participants added after a river permit has been issued, an additional $100 late charge per participant
River trip participants with a National Park Service annual pass do not need to pay the park entrance fee. The annual pass covers the pass owner and and up to three eligible accompanying adults (age 16 and over). For a list of valid annual passes, visit https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/fees.htm (opens in new window).
Note: River trips taking out at Diamond Creek are responsible for additional fees. The Hualapai Tribe charges a fee to traverse the Diamond Creek Road. Permits are required in advance. For further information, contact Hualapai Game and Fish, PO Box 249, 863 Hwy 66, Peach Springs, AZ 86434, 928-769-2227.
Costs are paid through the secure Pay.gov site. When a cost is unpaid, you will see a button that reads "Pay Now through Pay.gov". When you select this button, you will be taken to the Pay.gov collections site. Fill in your payment details and follow the on-screen instructions. When your payment has been received you will be returned to the noncommercial river permits website. You will also be notified via email by Pay.gov (if you provided your email address to them), and the trip details page will indicate that payment has been received. This normally happens instantaneously. IMPORTANT: Lottery and river permit payments are nonrefundable. For more information regarding the Pay.gov service, visit the pay.gov FAQs (opens in new window).
If you have paid through Pay.gov, but your payment history page does not show a cost as paid, contact us at 928-638-7843 or 800-959-9164 (Mon-Fri) or grca_riv(insert the at symbol here)nps(insert a dot here)gov with legal name, user name, and Pay.gov tracking ID or the payment date and name of the account holder.
The credit field was created to give folks who overpaid in the past a chance to apply any overpayment towards future lottery and/or permit charges.
Grand Canyon National Park, River Permits Office
1824 South Thompson St, Suite 201
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
928-638-7843 or 800-959-9164 (Mon-Fri)
grca_riv(insert the at symbol here)nps(insert a dot here)gov
Noncommercial River Documents
- COVID-19 River Update (pdf file, 27kb)
- Public Health Recommended Minimum Standards for River Trips (pdf file, 147kb)
- River and Weighted Lottery Frequently Asked Questions (pdf file, 200kb)
- Noncommercial River Trip Regulations (pdf file, 1mb)
- The Action Guide to Preservation, Colorado River (pdf file, 1.8mb)
- Grand Canyon River Courtesy Brochure (pdf file, 290kb)
- River Trip Orientation Video (opens in new window)
- River Trip Calendars
River campsite list, and lottery statistics are available at https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/noncommercial-riv-docs.htm (opens in new window).
By creating a river profile, entering a noncommercial river lottery, or submitting a noncommercial river permit application, you are consenting to the use of your information as described in the Purpose and Uses section of the Privacy Act Statement, NPS Form 10-404, OMB Control No. 1024-0022, Backcountry/Wilderness Use Permit Application.
NPS Form 10-404, OMB Control No. 1024-0022, Backcountry/Wilderness Use Permit Application
NPS Form 10-404 (Rev. 04/2021)
OMB Control No. 1024-0022
National Park Service
Expiration Date 01/31/2024
BACKCOUNTRY/WILDERNESS USE PERMIT APPLICATION
Privacy Act Statement
General:This information is provided pursuant to Public Law 93-579 (Privacy Act of 1974), December 21, 1984, for individuals completing this form.
Authority: 54 U.S.C. §100101, NPS Organic Act; 16 U.S.C. 1131-1136, Wilderness Act; 43 U.S.C. §1701 et seq.,16 U.S.C. §6801-6814, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act; 36 CFR Part 71, Recreation Fees; 36 CFR 1.6, Permits; and 36 CFR 2.23 Recreation Fees.
Purpose and Uses: To establish and verify an applicant's eligibility for a permit to conduct certain activities within the National Park System and to process permits for individual members of the public and organizations interested in obtaining a permit authorizing an activity. Information collected will be used to provide the public and permittees with permit-related information, to monitor activities conducted under a permit, to analyze data and produce reports to monitor the use park resources, to assess the impact of permitted activities on the conservation and management of protected species and their habitats, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the permit programs. The DOI and NPS may use the information to meet reporting requirements, to generate budget estimates and track performance, and to assist park staff with visitor education, fee collection, resource management and protection, recreational use planning, law enforcement and public safety personnel for such purposes as emergency contact and search and rescue efforts; to provide permit holders and participants with information about parks and their partners; and to provide reports of activities conducted under an issued permit.
Based on the disclosures generally permitted under 5 U.S.C. 552a(b) of the Privacy Act, the National Park Service may share information with first responders and Federal, state, and local governments to provide information needed to locate an individual or render aid in an emergency; to recover debts owed to the United States; to respond to a violation or potential violation of the law; in response to a court order and/or discovery purposes related to litigation; or other authorized routine use when the disclosure is compatible with the purpose for which the records were compiled.
Effects of Nondisclosure: It is in your best interest to answer all of the questions. The U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18 U.S.C. 1001, provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony that may result in fines of up to $10,000 or 5 years in prison, or both. Deliberately and materially making false or fraudulent statements on this form will be grounds for not granting you a Backcountry/Wilderness Use Permit.
Paperwork Reduction Act Statement
We are collecting this information subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501) and 36 CFR 1-7, 12 and 13 which authorize the National Park Service to require applicants to fill out this form to monitor resources and to protect visitors. This information is being collected to allow the park management to make value judgements necessary to enhance the safety and enjoyment of both the visitors and wildlife. All applicable parts of the form must be completed in order for your request to be considered. You are not required to respond to this or any other Federal agency-sponsored information collection unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.
Estimated Burden Statement
Public Reporting burden for this form is estimated to average 8 minutes per response, including the time it takes for reviewing instructions, gathering and maintaining data, and completing and reviewing the form. Comments regarding this burden estimate or any aspect of this form should be sent to the Information Collection Clearance Officer, National Park Service, 1201 Oakridge Drive, Fort Collins, CO 80525. Do not send this application to this address but rather to the park address.
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