Private Grand permit system fails miserably

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Private Grand permit system fails miserably

Post by hikeaz »

April 21, 2018

Grand Canyon National Park is soliciting bids for up to sixteen river concession contracts to provide commercial river trips on the 277 mile long section of the Colorado River within the park. The river
concessions contracts will be valid through at least the end of 2028. Solicitations are due May 1, 2018.

The 218 page river concessions prospectus is in a pdf document here: ... s_2018.pdf

The sixteen existing river concessioners are all classified as"preferred offerors" for the new contracts. This allows the existing concessionaires the right to match the terms of non-concession applications. If the existing concessioner does that, they are guaranteed to obtain the new contract.

In 1971 Grand Canyon National Park changed twenty two special use permittees offering river trips into river concessionaires. Since then, some of the small concessionaires have sold out to larger ones.

The largest river concessionaire charged $36 per-person per-night in 1971. That price had risen to $450 per-night in 2006. That same concessionaire is charging $560 per-person per-night for the 2019 river season. In the next ten years, the per-night cost for a commercial trip is projected to increase to close to $800 per-person per-night.

Concessions passengers who can afford the steep price simply go to a website, chose a launch date certain, and either charter an entire trip or book however many seats they want.

Meanwhile, do-it-yourself river trip participants can (or MAY be able to if...see below ) spend $800 per person for an entire eighteen night river trip going all the way through
the Grand Canyon
. Unlike the concessions passengers, the do-it-yourself river runners must successfully navigate a very complex lottery and permitting process first introduced as part of the 2006 Colorado River Management Plan.
Embarrassed by the 30-year wait list for private permits, while the commercial trip availability was actually undersold - the NPS switched to a lottery system, so that each person who was unsuccessful would just 'go away' - with no embarrassing, visible wait-list disparity. Also - each permit request is $100 - with no refund if not granted. What a racket!

When introduced, Park Service planners(?) anticipated the success ratio in the lottery would be better than 3%. With 3% odds, the NPS noted the average lottery player would win a permit once every thirty years. The 2018 river lottery win chances have dropped to 2%. By 2028, it is anticipated that the do it yourself permit lottery win rate will have decreased to 1%.
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Re: Private Grand permit system fails miserably

Post by chumley »

Seems like supply and demand to me. There's way more demand than there is supply. I'd like to see the concessionaire bidding be easier for new companies to compete and hopefully keep prices low, but realistically, the reason new companies would bid to be a concessionaire for rafting is because of the extremely high demand and the ability to profit nicely from entering the market.

In the end, this is collectively OUR fault. WE being the people who want to go on these trips.

Like so many complex issues today, I'm not sure I like the current solution, but I'm also not sure I have a better one.
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Re: Private Grand permit system fails miserably

Post by azbackpackr »

There is at least one piece of total misinformation in here. It costs only $25 to play the lottery for an entire year, not $100. There is one main lottery run in February, and then a lot of supplemental lotteries (for which you do not have to pay any more. Your initial $25 is good for all the lotteries run that year.) The cost of a private permit ONCE YOU HAVE WON IT is $100 per person, so maybe that's where that misunderstanding occurred.

Cost of commercial trips: I just checked cost to go on an OARS trip--about $450 per day. Cost of one of the trips I looked at for AzRA was less than $300 a day. (I happen to work for AzRA, but I am primarily a private boater, and have won THREE private permits via that lottery in the last 5 years.) I get invitations every year to go on private trips with friends, and the only reason I do not go every year is because I don't always have the 24 days free. (The shorter 18-day trips are only in summer, and only to Diamond Creek. The Park allows more time in the shoulder seasons and in winter.)

Chumley may have a good point, regarding supply and demand. Others make very good points about the limited access for private boaters--I agree that perhaps there should be more launch dates for private parties, and fewer for commercial parties. But let's not muddy the waters with disinformation.

I also think the Park could help private boaters by allowing them to go on a second trip in winter. The winter permits often go unfilled, as doing a winter trip is a little more difficult. And there are no commercial trips in winter. In fact, very few after the middle of October and before the beginning of April. Many private boaters would love to have the option of one warm season and one cold season trip per year, but as it stands now, you can go down the "Grand" only once per year, unless you are an employee of a rafting company or governmental agency.

There is a river trip in Grand Canyon you can do all year, whenever you want, as many times as you want. It's called the "Diamond Down," the lower 55 miles of Grand Canyon between Diamond Creek and Pearce Ferry boat ramp. There is no lottery, the permit is free, and there are many fine rapids to run and side canyons to explore before you reach the still waters of Lake Mead. The catch is that you have to pay the Hualapais for the use of their road. ($65 per person plus $65 per vehicle, and you can't leave the vehicle there.) You can take as long as 5 days to complete it if you want to. It's very fun. ... ottery.htm
Last edited by azbackpackr on Apr 25 2018 11:33 am, edited 8 times in total.
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