Regarding Grand Canyon National Park private river running permits, which are quite a bit different and harder to obtain than backpacking permits: I have an application in. The open lottery for 2015, with 503 permits offered, closed yesterday at noon. I expect I will learn today or tomorrow whether or not I have won. I have put in about 4 times, won once.
The good thing is that once you pay the $25 to be in the lottery there will be other chances. The Park regularly holds supplemental lotteries (for unused dates or permits that were returned to the Park) so you do have more chances.
There will be more than 503 private launch dates offered for 2015, from what I understand. I think those also will be offered in supplemental lotteries. Don't quote me on that, though, I may be mistaken.
And for those of you stuck in the past, this lottery system has been going on for the past 8 years. The old waiting list system, where people would have to wait 20 years, was revamped. Those people who were still on that waiting list now get much better odds in current lotteries. You are allowed to go down the river once a year, and I know many people who do. It's only limited by how much time and money you have to spend on it, and how well you can network with the boating community. But if you have a raft and can row it, you can pretty much figure you'll be able to get in on a trip every year. People will be more interested in you as a member of their group if you can row the whole river, your raft is at least 16 feet long and is self-bailing.
If you don't mind the cold and the dark, it's relatively easy to get a launch date in winter.
Information about the lottery can be found on the Park's website.
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