Frequently Asked Questions
There are three ways to know a lottery has opened.
- Opt-in to receive email notifications. Edit your river user account and choose to receive email notifications about open lotteries. This is an opt-in system, you must choose to receive emails announcing lotteries.
- Subscribe to our RSS feed
- Visit this website, open lotteries are listed on the homepage.
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 river user account, which contains your contact information, river points (chances), river trip history, payment history, lottery applications you have submitted or are listed on, and any launch dates you have been awarded (and their associated river permits and trip participant lists).
- Create, submit, pay for, and monitor the status of your lottery application when a noncommercial river trip lottery is open.
- Create, submit, pay for, and monitor the status of your river permit application (and associated trip participant list) after you have been awarded a launch date.
Note: Anyone applying for a noncommercial Colorado River rafting trip (or listed as a Potential Alternate Trip Leader (PATL)) must have a river user account.
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, were confirmed as a co-applicant before the lottery drawing, and met all other NPS requirements.
- The trip leader 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. The launch year lottery application cost to apply in a weighted lottery is paid once per launch year. Successful trip leaders (those who win a launch date) must pay a trip deposit to keep the launch date. Final river permit costs are due 90 days before launch. IMPORTANT: 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 total points for a lottery application are calculated by adding the total standard points and total bonus points. The total standard points for a lottery application is the minimum (or lowest number) of all standard points held by the trip leader and any confirmed PATLs. The total bonus points for a lottery application is the sum of all bonus point held by the trip leader and any confirmed PATLs.
TOTAL APPLICATION POINTS = MINIMUM of all standard points + SUM of all bonus points
The next few paragraphs explain in more detail how points 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 (or won in a lottery, whichever is later), 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 confirmed 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 is awarded or goes on a recreational river trip (i.e., is a trip leader or confirmed PATL on a winning lottery application or a is passenger on a recreational river 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 submits a lottery application with John and Betty as confirmed 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 this 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.
What are Potential Alternate Trip Leaders (PATLs) and why should I list them on my lottery application?
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 confirmed on. The National Park Service strongly recommends that all lottery applications have at least one confirmed 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.
When you first log into your river user account after a lottery has opened, you will have two options available: "TRIP LEADER: CREATE NEW Lottery Application" and "PATL: JOIN AN EXISTING Lottery Application". Select "PATL: JOIN AN EXISTING Lottery Application" and you will be directed to a page with a PATL token. The token is unique to you, is for one specific lottery only, can only be used once, and is only good while the lottery is open. Give this token to the trip leader whose lottery application you want to join as a PATL. If the trip leader accepts you as a PATL, you will be automatically confirmed as a PATL on their lottery application.
IMPORTANT: If you provide a PATL token to a trip leader your are consenting to be listed (and your points used) on their lottery application. When a lottery application wins and a launch date is awarded, the trip leader and all confirmed PATLs have their points reset to one standard point --- whether or not they actually go on the river trip.
You can be listed on only ONE lottery application within a lottery. You can be either a trip leader or a PATL. Once you have been listed on one lottery application, you cannot be on any other application within that same lottery.
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 payments made 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 lottery 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 by the trip leader after submitting a lottery application. IMPORTANT: Lottery applications with unpaid LAUNCH YEAR lottery application costs are not included when a lottery is run.
For example, you decide to apply in a lottery with launch dates in 2024, you submit a lottery application and pay, you are now eligible to apply in all later lotteries with launch dates in 2024 for no additional charge. If you then decide to apply in a lottery with launch dates in 2025, you would submit a lottery application and pay, you are now eligible to apply in all later lotteries with launch dates in 2025 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 an Interagency Pass do not need to pay the park entrance fee. Each pass automatically covers four boaters (the pass owner and three additional adult participants (age 16 and over)). For a list of valid 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, 928-769-6043.
Costs are paid by the trip leader 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 928-638-7884 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
928-638-7884 or 800-959-9164 (Mon-Fri)
grca_riv(insert the at symbol here)nps(insert a dot here)gov
Noncommercial River Documents and Related Information
- River and Weighted Lottery Frequently Asked Questions (pdf file, 330kb)
- 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
- Colorado River Water Flow Information
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 user account, 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.
Go to the Grand Canyon Noncommercial River Permits homepage