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Grand Canyon Private Permits

There are two ways to travel downstream of Lee’s Ferry by boat, either on a guided commercial trip, or on your own unguided private trip.  For those who have the experience and prefer to follow their own path, the choice is clear.  Running a self-guided private trip leaves all the responsibility in your hands but it also gives you and your group the freedom to make your own adventure.  Hike when you want to hike, eat when you want to eat, camp when and where you want to camp; the canyon is yours to explore however you choose!

by Charles Keller

It takes some paperwork to get here!

There is nothing out there quite like running your own Grand Canyon river trip, which is why there are many more people  wanting to run it every year than the Park Service will allow.  In order to get your chance to go downstream, you have to sign up for the weighted lottery with Grand Canyon National Park.  As difficult as the Park Services website may make this appear, it really is pretty straightforward.

The first step is to go to the weighted lottery webpage and create an account.  You will have to submit the normal online-account info (name, email, phone number, etc…) as well as a small amount of information regarding your history with the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.  In particular, the Park Service wants to know if you have ever boated downstream of Lee’s Ferry and if so, how long ago.  This is the weighted portion of the lottery, the longer it has been since you have been on the river, the more chances you receive in the drawing.  Your chances correspond to how many years it has been since your last trip, up to five, so the most chances you could have is five.

The next step is to talk to your crew and figure out the best dates for everybody to launch.  This can be the hardest part; how could 16 people with jobs and responsibilities just take off two weeks at the same time?  Simple; it’s the Grand Canyon, people will find a way!  Once you settle on dates (the Park Service allows you to choose up to five) it is time to wait.  Permit applications are only accepted for a limited period prior to the main lottery being held, which happens in February.  Once you create an account at the weighted lottery page, your email address will be put onto the Park Service’s river lottery notification list and you will be notified by email when the park begins to accept applications.

A Happy Ranger Processing Some Paperwork

 It all sounds simple, but there are a few requirements and quirks.  Trip leaders must go all the way from Lee’s Ferry to the take-out, anyone else can hike in or out of the canyon mid-trip, but the TL must stay.  Also, in order to change the name of the TL once an application is submitted and the drawing has occurred, the alternate TL must have been included on the initial application and must have gone online prior to the drawing and confirmed that he or she is a potential alternate trip leader (PATL).

So what other rules and regulations does the Park Service expect one to abide by when planning and undergoing a run of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon?  Well, though experience in the Grand Canyon is not specifically required, at least one member of the group has to be a competent boatman and know what he or she is doing with two oars and 18’ of rubber.  Also important to remember, a private trip is nothing but that: private, no guides can be hired and all costs are supposed to be shared roughly equally amongst group members.

These two things can be made much easier with the help of Ceiba.  Ceiba Adventures sells a number of respected guidebooks to help find your way downstream, including “Grand Canyon River Hikes” by Tyler Williams and a large-scale topographical map book by Duwian Whitis and Tom Martin.  In addition to the books, Ceiba knows the Canyon as well as anybody; we can answer virtually any question you can hurdle at us about boating in the Grand Canyon.  As for splitting the costs, if you go with Ceiba we can ease that process ten-fold; everyone can just call into Ceiba on their own and pay their portion of the trip.  Ceiba has no problem splitting the check!

Like anything with the government, applying for and completing a Grand Canyon permit can seem more difficult than it has to be.  Ceiba Adventures knows the process well and can easily assist you.  If you are interested in applying for a private permit, have the necessary experience but lack the gear or the means to transport it all the way to the middle of the desert in Northern Arizona, call Ceiba; we will make it happen for you, from application to take-out!

Follow the NPS permit rules and you will find yourself surrounded by happy rangers!

Follow the NPS permit rules and you will find yourself surrounded by happy rangers!

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