Q: How can I be notified that a lottery has opened?

A: There are three ways to know a lottery has opened.

Q: What are the general requirements for a noncommercial permit?

A: General requirements listed below, for more information see the Noncommercial River Trip Regulations (pdf file, 970kb).

Q: What type of river experience is required?

A: 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.

Q: Why is it called a "weighted lottery"? How does it work?

A: 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.

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.

Q: What would cause me to lose my lottery chances (points)?

A: 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.

Q: What are Potential Alternate Trip Leaders (PATLs) and why should I list them on my lottery application?

A: 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. It is strongly recommended 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.

Q: Why must PATLs that I list on my lottery application log in and accept PATL status for my lottery application?

A: 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.

Q: Why do you need to know the date of my last recreational river trip down the Colorado?

A: 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.

Q: How often do I pay the lottery application fee?

A: The $25 lottery application fee is charged once for each launch year for which a trip leader applies. After you have paid an application fee for a launch year, you can apply in all later lotteries for that launch year for no additional fee. The application fee 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 calendar year 2017 launch dates, you submit a lottery application and pay $25, you are now eligible to apply in all later lotteries with 2017 launch dates for no additional charge. If you then decide to apply in a lottery with calendar year 2018 launch dates, you would submit a lottery application and pay $25, you are now eligible to apply in all later lotteries with 2018 launch dates for no additional charge.

Q: How do I pay?

A: The lottery application fee, trip deposit, and permit fee are paid through the secure Pay.gov site. When a fee is unpaid, you will see a button that reads "Pay Now through Pay.gov". When you click on 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 application fee and river permit fees are nonrefundable. For more information regarding the Pay.gov service, visit the pay.gov FAQs.

If you have paid a fee through Pay.gov, but your payment history page does not list the fee as paid, contact us at 800-959-9164 or 928-638-7843 (8am-noon MST, 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.

Q: Please explain "Credit available"?

A: 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 fee charges.

Additional FAQs may be found in the River and Weighted Lottery Frequently Asked Questions pdf file (200kb).

The river orientation video, lottery statistics, and additional river trip support documents are available at http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/noncommercial-riv-docs.htm.