Colorado River through Grand Canyon

The NPS has opened the 2016 Grand Canyon Permit Lottery - the lottery will be open until noon (MST) February 24, 2015.
Apply here:

Colorado River, Cataract Canyon Utah
Colorado River - Grand Canyon Arizona
Colorado River - Westwater Canyon Utah
Dolores River Colorado and Utah
Green & Yampa Rivers - Canyon of Lodore Colorado
Green River - Desolation Canyon Utah
Rio Chama New Mexico
Rio Grande - Lower Taos Box Canyon New Mexico
Rio Grande - Big Bend Canyons Texas
Rogue River Oregon
Salmon River - Lower Arizona
Salt River - Upper Idaho
San Juan Utah
Selway, Snake, Middle Fork & Main Salmon Rivers Idaho
Smith River Montana
Tuolumne River California

Colorado River - Cataract Canyon

Canyonlands National Park
Cataract Canyon Permits 
2282 South Resource Blvd.
Moab, UT 84532-8000
(435) 259-4351 Phone
(435) 259-4351 Fax
Email for questions:
Permit: required, applications accepted starting January 1
Fee: $30


Cataract Canyon contains 20 miles of class III-IV whitewater sandwiched between days of leisurely floating through deep canyons above, and Lake Powell below.  It is runnable at a gigantic range of water levels, and at very high water levels the difficulty and danger increase dramatically. The trip is 70 miles from Potash on the Colorado, (or a similar distance from Mineral Bottom on the Green) to Hite Marina on Lake Powell. This trip can be combined with other stretches on the Green or Colorado to make runs longer than Grand Canyon.


Colorado River - Grand Canyon

Mailing Address for US Postal Service:
River Permits Office
Grand Canyon National Park
Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Mailing Address for Other Carriers:
River Permits Office
Ranger Ops., #1 Center Road
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Fee: $25 to play the lottery, and more if a launch is awarded
Online Registration: No Charge
Permit: Required year round
Lottery: Once a year in February for the following season, and repeating into the summer until all launches are awarded

Phone (928) 638-7843
Fax (928) 638-7844
Automated (800) 959-9164 Grand Canyon River Trip Information Center

For the on-line lottery registration and application:
Registration and Lottery

And here are the regs for noncommercial trips:
GCNPark Regs for Noncommercial River Trips

For regular emails about the flows in the Colorado and more, send an email to:

"Grand" is no overstatement. The Colorado River carves a vertical mile into a tilted plateau in Northern Arizona, creating a river corridor through otherwise impassable terrain. The rapid names Lava and Crystal are known far and wide, and secret side canyons hold magic for those who seek.

Getting a Noncommercial River Permit to float through Grand Canyon is worth jumping through a zillion hoops. The launch point is Lee's Ferry, and 226 miles of river delivers you to Diamond Creek, where there is a road out of the canyon before the river dies in Lake Mead. This distance is covered in 10-25 days, depending on flows, time of year, and motors. The maximum number of days permitted in the summer is 16, and the maximum number of people (including boatmen) on a private trip is 16.

The Colorado River Management Plan was revised and has been in effect since autumn 2007. The Waiting List system was eliminated and launches are now allocated using a weighted online lottery. Trip length maximums have changed. Please read your park rules carefully, as we are all learning them again!

If you play the lottery, you must be prepared to GO on the trip, because the park will charge a chunk of the fees to your credit card as soon as you are awarded a launch date. The main online lottery is in February, and several lotteries will be offered each year. Permits are awarded shortly after each lottery closes. There used to be about 1,100 new applicants each year for the Waiting List, and the number of people playing the lottery has already been several times greater.


  • Register at Registration is free and collects trip leader information.
  • Once registered you can submit an online lottery application for $25. You can choose up to five dates from the online calendar. There is a new category of "small trip" permits allowing eight or fewer participants. All of the 48 "small" trips are during the summer motor season.
  • If you play the lottery more than once you get an additional chance in the lottery for each year that you play it, up to five. This is the "weighted" part.
  • If you win the lottery and are awarded one of the launch dates you requested, the park will immediately charge your credit card and you will be committed to that date. No refunds if you cancel.
  • Your launch fees and permit application paperwork are due 90 days prior to the launch date . It's better not to wait until the last minute to do this paperwork. It is a long application form.
  • When the park approves your final permit application they will send your permit. You MUST have your permit at the put-in, and on the river.
  • If you want to add more people after the 90 day mark, and before 30 days prior to your trip, it will cost $200 instead of $100 per person.
  • Exactly WHO you bring to the launch doesn't matter, as long as everybody has a photo ID at the put in, and the permitholder is present. You complete the final trip roster and boat list at Lee's Ferry.


!!Alert:  The Hualapai Tribal fees for use of the Diamond Creek access have been increasing by $5 per year.   In 2014 the fee is $64.20.  One fee must be paid for each person (including drivers and river runners) and another fee for each vehicle that travels the Diamond Creek Road.

Colorado River - Westwater Canyon

Westwater River Permits
Bureau of Land Management
Grand Resource Area
82 E. Dogwood #G
Moab, UT 84532-2968
(435)259-7012    8 am-12 noon
Flows: National Weather Service River Forecast Center (801) 539-1311

Westwater Canyon is 28 miles from the Westwater Ranger Station to Cisco. The top 2 miles, and bottom 7 miles, are flatwater, with the whitewater gradually escalating to a narrow intense gorge in the middle. At high flows the rapid known as Skull becomes difficult (class IV), and the current scarcely slows "between" rapids. The trip is commonly done as an overnighter by rafting groups, though kayakers can complete the entire run in a one day surf fest.

Lottery applications are only accepted during the month of January, though there are often adequate flows outside the permit season, when you can call in for a first-come, first served permit. The cost is $7 per person.


Dolores River

Information: (970) 565-7562
Information: (970) 385-1354
Flow Predictions: Dolores Water Conservancy District (970) 565-7562
Current flow: BOR (800) 276-4828
Or call BLM (970) 385-1354 or visit their web page for links to flows.

The spring snowmelt in this corner of the Rockies is typically early and short, and in some years sufficient flows for boating do not occur.  Releases from McPhee Reservoir at Cortez are controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation, and only occur when the reservoir is full and the inflow is substantial, most commonly in late April or early May, with the flow period ranging from 2 weeks to 2 months.  The Dolores Water Conservancy District may offer information on reservoir levels and predicted inflows.

The Dolores offers 174 runnable miles from Cahone to the confluence with the Colorado, and you can continue 32 miles on the Colorado to Moab.  The runs start at 6,400 feet in the remote Alpine terrain of the San Juan Mountains, and carve down into a red-rock desert plateau.  Trip lengths vary from overnight to two weeks, and there is highway access about every 50 miles.  The last 80 miles to the confluence with the Colorado is rarely run.

The river is mostly class II and III punctuated by one class IV named Snaggletooth.  The lower section has long stretches of placid water.  A few side hikes come highly recommended, including Coyote Wash, Beaver, Fisher, Maverick and Red Canyons.

In Colorado no permits are required, but groups must self-register at the launch point and obey the usual requirement intended to promote the Leave No Trace land ethic; limit group size, carry a fire pan, groover, etc.  In Utah permits are required, and can be obtained from the same BLM office that permits Westwater Canyon, at (435) 259-7012 from 8 am to noon.

Bradfield to Slickrock to Bedrock

Bureau of Land Management
Dolores Field Office
100 N. 6th Street
PO Box 210
Dolores, CO 81323
(970) 882-7296
(970) 882-6817 Rick Ryan is River Ranger for all sections in Colorado.

From Bradfield to Slickrock is a 47 mile pristine alpine float with nearly continuous class I & II fun (gradient 19ft/mi), and is usually done in a 2 or 3 day trip. It contains the notorious class IV rapid Snaggletooth at mile 27: scout and judge for yourself. The gradient is 19 feet per mile.

From Slickrock to Bedrock is another lovely 50 miles floating through sculpted red sandstone. The rapids are fewer and easier (gradient 10ft/mi) than the section above.

Bedrock to Gateway

Uncompahgre Field Office
2505 South Townsend
Montrose, CO 81401
(970) 420-5300

Gateway to Dewey Bridge

Bureau of Land Management
Grand Resource Area
82 East Dogwood
Moab, Utah 84532
(435) 259-7012 8AM-12PM Mon-Fri.
From Gateway to Dewey Bridge, an overnight trip may be run. It requires a release from McPhee Reservoir at Cortez of 920 CFS or more, before the BLM will give you a permit.

Green & Yampa, Canyon of Lodore

River Office
Dinosaur National Monument
4545 Hwy. 40
Dinosaur, CO 81610
(970) 374-2468

Green/Lodore: From Lodore Ranger Station to Split Mountain Campground is a 70 mile run with whitewater in Lodore Canyon and funny water everywhere else. The Gates of Lodore is one of the most stunning canyon entrances anywhere; steep red rock dotted with almost-blue evergreens, soaring upward from a broad plain.

Yampa: From Deer Lodge Park to Split Mountain Campground is 70 miles of scenic river, joining with the Green downstream from Lodore in Echo Park.

It costs $15 to apply for a permits, and the odds of getting a peak season launch are about 5% (worse than the Selway!). A multi-day permit costs $125. If you apply for more than one river and one launch date, your lottery application will be destroyed. You application must arrive in their office by January 31st (and after December 1).


Green River - Desolation Canyon

Bureau of Land Management
Price Field Office
125 South 600 West
Price, UT 84501
(435) 636-3622 Calls accepted 8 A.M. until 12 noon Mountain Time, Mon-Fri.
Flows: Green at Green River

From Sand Wash to Green River State Park is 95 miles of intermediate whitewater through scenic canyons. Desolation Canyon is known for its turrets of red sandstone, where as Gray Canyon is the color its name indicates.  The whitewater is pleasant, with more than fifty named rapids that gradually increase in difficulty as you head downstream.  A recommended day hike is Rock Creek Ranch.

Lottery applications are available in December, and accepted in January by snail mail only.   The fee season is March 1 through October 31, and you may draw a launch in the lottery if you have your application in their office prior to February 1. The launches that are not allocated in the lottery will be listed on the web site, and if you have a permit application on file you may pick up a launch by telephone. For the non-fee season a permit is still required.

Launches that are not allocated in the lottery will be listed on the web site, and if you have a permit application on file you may pick up a launch by telephone.  Sixty percent of the launches awarded by the lottery are cancelled, and most cancellations occur 30 days prior to the launch date when the applicant fails to make payment.  For the non-fee season a permit is still required.  The cost during fee season is $18 per person, and you pay at the time that you get the launch date.


Rio Chama

River Permit Information
Bureau of Land Management
P.O. Box 1045
Taos, NM 87571
(505) 758-8851
Flows:  USGS at (505) 830-7988.

From El Vado Ranch to Adobe Ruins (the Big Eddy Takeout) there is 31 miles of 15 foot/mile whitewater in a Wild and Scenic setting. El Vado is privately owned and may charge an access fee. An alternative takeout at Chavez Canyon is 22.5 miles downstream from El Vado. The gradient is 15 feet per mile, and the whitewater is class II-III. Minimum water levels are 300 CFS for kayaks, and 500 CFS for small rafts.

For more information on the river get a Guide to the Wild & Scenic Rio Chama from the Public Land Interpretive Association at (505) 438-7542.

Lottery pplications are accepted between December 1 and January 31, for the permitted dates which include May 1 through June 8, and weekends from mid-July through the end of August. A charge of $5 per person is payable to the BLM.


Rio Grande Taos Box

River Permit Information
Bureau of Land Management
P.O. Box 1045
Taos, NM 87511
(505) 758-8851

From Dunn's Bridge to Taos Junction the Rio Grande offers 17 miles of pool-drop thrills in the class III-IV range. The last two miles above Taos Junction becomes highly continuous class IV at higher flows, and is rated class V by some commercial rafting companies. At lower flows some rapids become rather technical. This is generally a day trip and there is camping at Taos Junction. Permits are issued at Dunn's Bridge. Adequate flows for rafting (1,500 CFS or so) don't usually occur until May, and may end in June, but kayakable flows range far lower. In recent years cars at either access point are not safe from break-ins; bring a shuttle bunny, or hire a shuttle, to keep from leaving your car unattended by the river.

Rio Grande - Big Bend Canyons

Big Bend National Park, TX 79850
(915) 477-2251

Here you will find a wealth of beautiful desert canyons, and the permits are still free! Get your permit from any ranger or at the park visitor center. Regs are available on the web site. You can also obtain your permit for the Lower Canyons (which are outside the park boundaries) from Big Bend National Park personnel.

As a result of 9-11 all informal border crossings are closed and patrolled, and even river runners are not permitted to visit towns on the Mexican side, on penalty of fines up to $5,000 or worse. River trips are permitted to cross the international border, which is the center of the river. River runners must complete a US Customs declaration form upon completing the trip.

  • Colorado Canyon - Rancherias Canyon to Lajitas is 19 miles of class II-III whitewater. Colorado Canyon is upstream from the National Park, and located in Big Bend Ranch State Park. (Permits are obtainable for $10 at Warnock Cenger in Lajita, TX)
  • Santa Elena Canyon - Lajitas to Cottonwood is 18 miles of class I-II water except for the class III Rockslide Rapid.
  • Mariscal Canyon - Talley to Solis is 10 miles of exquisite canyon, class I-II.
  • San Vicente Canyon - A minor canyon.
  • Hot Springs Canyon - Another minor canyon, except that there are springs on both the US and Mexican sides, just above the Mexican town of Boquillas.
  • Boquillas Canyon - Rio Grande Village to LaLinda is 23 miles of easy, class I-II water in a beautiful canyon. An excellent intro to Big Bend river running.
  • Lower Canyons - Designated Wild and Scenic, this section begins at LaLinda and travels 84 miles through rugged Chihuahuan Desert terrain to Ten-Eyck Crossing. The whitewater is mostly mild but sometimes class III, and many people make this trip in canoes. This canyon is downstream from the National Park, but still permitted by the park.

Rogue River

Tioga Resources Inc.
PO Box 5149
Roseburg, OR 97470
(541) 672-4168

The Wild & Scenic Rogue isn't as difficult as it once was, because many rapids including Blossom Bar have been dynamited. Lottery applications are accepted from December 1 and January 31.

Lower Salmon

Bureau of Land Management
Upper Columbia - Salmon Clearwater District
Cottonwood Field Office
Route 3, Box 181
Cottonwood, ID 83522 - 9498
(208) 962-3245

The river trip is 74 miles total from Hammer Creek to Heller Bar, including 4 canyons on the lower Salmon and a 21 mile flatwater section of the Snake River. From Hammer Creek to the Snake confluence there is 53 miles of pool/drop whitewater with a gradient 12 feet per mile, including four distinct canyons known as Green, Cougar, Snowhole, and Blue Canyons.

Permits are required for all overnight boating trips, year round, and all day trips from July 1 through Labor Day. Self-issue permits are available at major launch sites of Hammer Creek Recreatin Site and Graves Creek at Pine Bar, as well at the BLM office in Cottonwood.

Salt River - Upper

River Permits and Info
Tonto National Forest
2324 E. McDowell Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 225-5200
(928) 402-6200 to pick up cancellations, if you don't get a permit by lottery

Tonto National Forest for information and permits:

From the Salt River Canyon Bridge on Highway 60 to Lake Roosevelt there is 60 miles of bouncing whitewater in a spectacular Sonoran Desert canyon. Kayakers will rejoice at the marathon surfing that begins when the river passes Cibecue Creek on the right, and continues until the river carves into a new rock layer in a few miles. For gear-hauling rafts, a minimum flow is 1,200. The infamous rapid Quartzite is a solid class IV at most levels, but without the class V consequences that existed at high flows before it was illegally blasted.

Normally a 4 day trip, the controlled wilderness section begins 20 miles downstream from the launch point. Apply for your wilderness permit accordingly one or two days later than you plan to launch. A Wilderness permit is required from March 1st to May 15th. Your application must arrive in the Tonto National Forest office between December 1st and January 15th. Group size is limited to 15.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe requires day permits for camping and river use from the bridge to the Wilderness section. Apache permits are available at the Salt River Canyon Store only during the day when the store is open, and cost $15/person/day.

In 2002 the largest fires in the history of Arizona burned much of the Salt headwaters in the White Mountains, filling the river with black charcoal and increasing sediment runoff.


San Juan

River Permits and Info
San Juan Field Office
PO Box 7
Monticello, UT 84535
(435) 587-1544
(435) 587-1504 Leave a message to receive a permit application.
(425) 587-1518 Fax
The BLM's San Juan Page

From Bluff to Clay Hills there is 84 miles of fast class I and II whitewater with nice side canyon hikes. At high flows shifting sand bars cause the infamous San Juan Sand Waves. The run can also be pleasant at low flows in the fall when the cottonwoods are yellow. An intermediate access point in Mexican Hat can shorten the trip, and both sections are popular.

Lottery applications are only accepted during the month of January.


Selway, Snake, Middle Fork & Main Salmon

These four runs share the same lottery system, and the application and statistics can be found at Also included is information on controlled dates, blackout dates (commercial launches), flows, fees and odds. Access roads for the Selway and Middle Fork are often blocked by snow early in the season, though there are alternative entrances (by creeks) for highly skilled small-boaters. Water levels on these runs are based on snowpack, and vary substantially from one year to the next.

Selway - The Selway at higher flows is one of the most difficult and remote extended whitewater raft trips in the United States. Launch at Paradise Guard Station and run to Selway Falls. The gradient averages 28 feet per mile. There are miles of Class III and IV rapids which at higher flows become continuous. At low flows the Selway is super-technical. Launches are regulated May 15 to July 31.

Snake-Hells Canyon - Hell's Canyon is North America's deepest river canyon, but that's not obvious from the bottom. The 67-1/2 miles of Wild & Scenic River corridor has several Class IV rapids with booming holes. Launches in the Wild River segment are regulated with reservations required from the Friday before Memorial Day through September 15. Self issue permits are required year long for all other boating.

Salmon, Main Fork - Punctuated occasionally by a major class III or IV rapid, the Main Salmon flows 100 miles through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Lottery applications accepted December 1st through January 31st.

Salmon, Middle Fork - This run is 100 miles from alpine firs to open forested hills, and is designated Wild & Scenic. There are hot springs to visit nearly every day, though you are only allowed to camp at one hot springs in your trip. Lottery applications are accepted December 1st through January 31st.


Smith River

Montana Dept of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
4600 Giant Springs Road
Box 6610
Great Falls, MT 59406
Phone (406) 454-5857
Fax (406) 761-8477
Ranger at Camp Baker (406) 547-3893



OR Call the USGS in Helena at (406) 457-5900

The river is 59 isolated miles through the Little Belt Mountains, from Camp Baker to Eden bridge, and most people take 4 days to raft or canoe it. The river is continuously swift (class I) with some class II at mile 49. Other hazards include float gates (contain livestock while allowing floaters to pass), strainers, and fencing.

Lottery applications must be received by February 15. Dates may be available, first come after the lottery, starting on Mary 20. The rules are posted at Camp Baker, and you can get a copy by calling (406) 454-5840.



U.S. Forest Service
Groveland Ranger District
24545 Highway 120
Groveland, CA 95321
Phone (209) 962-7825
Fax (209)962-7412


A sweet overnighter, the Tuolumne flows out of Yosemite National Park through a wonderland of granite. Beware at high flows-it becomes gnarly. Flows are dependent on snow melt and dam releases. Applications for permits are accepted, first come, first served, starting January 1. Off season and mid-week permits are easy to get.



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