10 Tips for River Permits

It’s river permit season! With snow on the ground and in the forecast, we can’t help but think about the incredible spring runoff that’s to come, and all the possibilities for river-running adventures.

Whitewater is our bread and butter, and this isn’t our first lottery rodeo. Check out our ten tips for getting a western river permit.gates of lodore

1. Do your research

We are putting this nicely - know before you go and keep your goals realistic. Looking for a Fourth of July float on the Snake? Cross your fingers, ‘cause there are only three permit launches per day during the summer. Want some all-time class IV rapids? Apply for the Middle Fork of the Salmon, not Ruby Horsethief.

Where to start? American Whitewater has a list of permits on their website, along with other great info.

2. Create an account

Register with recreation.gov. Remember to check your inbox to confirm your email. Do this ahead of time and the process will be much faster.

If you want to register for the Grand Canyon, click here for the guided process.

3. Explore Permits

No need to reinvent the wheel - a comprehensive list of river permits exists here at this link.

This quick-glance (yet informative) list is curated and maintained by American Whitewater - a nonprofit organization with a mission to conserve and restore whitewater resources and enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely. Hit the “permit” link in the third column to be taken to the corresponding permit page.

4. Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

Do you have a core group of boaters in your life? If everyone applies to at least one permit, you can increase your chances of river running.

5. Host a Virtual Permit Party

Just make sure your Zoom link works and your fridge is stocked with beer.

6. Apply...accurately!

Not all applications are made equally. Fill out the application as accurately as possible and be prepared to pay the application fee - generally around $6 for each permit.

7. Be Ready to Wait, and Wait, and Wait

Remember that every dog gets his day. Stay positive. 

8. Be Aware of the Gear You Might Need

You’re gonna need a raft. And a groover. And a full kitchen set up. Actually, you might need alot of things. Check out more of what raft trips require here.

9. Know the Cancellation Policy

If you can’t make your permitted river trip, please inform the agency responsible for issuing your permit. You will not receive a refund, but you will at least open up a spot for someone who can go.

10. Understand the Safety Requirements

Safety first - always! River Rangers will check you out before launching, so make sure you have your PFDs, enough food, safety accessories, etc.

1 comment

John O'Bannon

John O'Bannon

I have been putting in for a Middle Fork of the Salmon permit for over 25 years with no luck, while I know of others that have drawn multiple permits in that time. It is a joke of a system.

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