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Private River Trip Permit Lottery At Grand Canyon National Park Is Now Open

Boating down the Colorado River below Havasu Creek in Grand Canyon National Park. NPS photo by Mark Lellouch.

A Colorado River trip through Grand Canyon National Park can be one of America's premier outdoor experiences, and there are several ways to float the river. If you're interested in making a longer (12- to 25-day) non-commercial river trip in 2015, now's the time to submit your application for a permit through the annual lottery system. We'll cover shorter private trips and commercial guided trips on the Traveler tomorrow.

The park began accepting permit applications for 12- to 25-day non-commercial river trips with specific launch dates within calendar year 2015 on Saturday, February 1, 2014. That process will continue through noon Mountain Standard Time on February 25, 2014. 

The trips covered by these permits are self-guided, sometimes referred to as private river trips, and run from Lees Ferry (a short distance downstream from Glen Canyon Dam) to Diamond Creek, near the lower end of the Grand Canyon. If you're interested in other types of river trips at Grand Canyon, we'll cover those options in a companion story tomorrow.

Each year in February, a main lottery is held to assign launch dates for the longer, private river trips occurring the following year, to allow ample time for trip planning. A total of 461 permits will be available for those trips, and eligible individuals may apply online at the weighted lottery web site. To access that web site, click here.

In addition to the annual main lottery, followup lotteries are held as needed throughout the remainder of the year to reassign canceled and/or leftover river trip slots. Public notifications for these followup lotteries are made through email, an RSS feed, and Twitter (

The weighted lottery web site can be accessed year round to create or modify an account and to sign up to receive email notifications. Individuals who are interested in a future noncommercial river permit are strongly encouraged to create an account.

Lottery applications are accepted through the weighted lottery web site only when lotteries are open in February. Individuals must be 18 years or older to apply for a river trip permit. Noncommercial river trips must be self-guided, and technical whitewater experience is mandatory for at least one member of each group. As the park website emphasizes, "The Colorado River through Grand Canyon is a highly technical river, not something for the inexperienced to try." Individuals may participate on a maximum of one recreational river trip per year (commercial or noncommercial).

The following short video provides an overview of river trips through the Canyon, and illustrates the heavy river use that led to the permit process. It's "Part One" of a ten-part video series prepared by the park, and you can continue on through all ten if you like.

Before you decide to submit an application, read some important details at this link. There are also links to additional information on that webpage, including a detailed FAQ document and a series of river trip orientation videos, including the one shown above.

So, you're thinking about a private trip, but wonder why the system for those permits called a "weighted lottery." Does this system improve or hurt your chances of securing a permit?

The answer depends upon whether you've already made one of these trips, and if so, how long ago.

The weighted lottery process gives persons who have not recently been on the Colorado River in the park a better chance of success than those who have been on a trip more recently. You can view or download a copy of "River And Weighted Lottery Frequently Asked Questions" at this link; an explanation of the point system for the drawing is found on page nine.

Individuals who are interested in professionally-guided commercial river trips should not apply through the lottery, but instead request space on a commercial trip, as we'll explain tomorrow. You'll find more details about the 2015 weighted lottery at this link; if you still have questions after reading that information, you can phone the River Permits Office at 1-800-959-9164 or 928-638-7884, or e-mail the park.

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