How to Do a Self-Guided Grand Canyon Rafting Adventure

Arizona National Parks
by Matador Creators Sep 5, 2017

SOME FAST facts about the Grand Canyon:

  • about 4.5 million annual visitors to the national park
  • around 40,000 visitors (less than 1%) will hike below the rim and camp
  • around 25,000 visitors will actually get onto the river

Most of the river experiences are through commercial operators that offer a number of different excursions. But it is possible to do a self-guided river tour at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with a Non-Commercial River Permit. River trips can also include other adventurous activities like hiking, canyoneering, and rock climbing.

Diamond Creek to Lake Mead section

For shorter trips — 2 to 5 days — you can apply for the Diamond Creek to Lake Mead permit. These are given on a first-come first-serve basis and must be applied for at least one year in advance. Groups are limited to a maximum of 16 people.

Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek section

The permits for this section of the Colorado River are for 12 to 25 days and are handed out via a weighted lottery system. This lottery system replaced a wait list in 2006 after wait times started to reach the 25 year timeframe. These private trips must be self-guided; hiring a professional guide is prohibited. At least one member of the group needs to meet specific requirements of the National Parks Service in regards to river rafting skills and experience. The main lottery is held once per year in February (for trip launch the following year) and there may be follow-up lotteries during the year to replace cancelled trips or left-over launch dates. It costs $25 to enter the lottery (follow-up lotteries are free after the initial application fee is paid). If you’re selected you will need to immediately pay a $400 non-refundable deposit, which is put toward the final permit costs ($100 per person).

For more detailed information visit this page.

What to consider

  • There is a lot of whitewater; expect to paddle through Class 3 rapids daily, and sometimes Class 4.
  • All participants should be somewhat experienced with river rafting. It’s not the right place for first-timers.
  • Your odds will improve if you apply for a permit in the shoulder seasons (spring or fall).
  • Be prepared for hot days and cold nights.
  • Be prepared for snakes and scorpions.

Best of luck!

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