10 Tips for River Permits

It’s permit season! With snow 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 time around the ol’ lottery block. Check out our ten things you should know about getting a western river permit!

Grand Canyon. Photo by Maine Mountain Media.

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 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.

Gates of Lodore.

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. Apply! 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.

5. Be Ready to Wait, and Wait, and Wait. Remember that every dog gets his day. Stay positive.

6. 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.

Main Salmon. Photo by Jack Brown.

7. Host a Virtual Permit Party. Just make sure your Zoom link works and your fridge is stocked with beer.

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.

Hell's Canyon. Photo by Jeremy Horton.

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.

Middle Fork Salmon. Photo by Sallie Holmes.

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