x

Permits to Float Rivers (US)

close
icon

Other

close
Logo

Permits to Float Rivers (US)

Several U.S. rivers require permits

For various activities such as boating, floating, or camping, permits are your golden ticket and requirements vary depending on the river, the section of the river, and the type of activities you plan.


SENDY has insights into 7 of the best: The Colorado, Middle Fork of the Salmon, Desolation & Gray Canyons (Green River), Tuolumne & Merced Rivers (Yosemite), the Smith, the Selway and the Rogue.


The Colorado River: Focus on the Grand Canyon Section

Have you dreamed of cruising through the Grand Canyon on the mighty Colorado? Well, the National Park Service (NPS) is the gatekeeper here, and snagging a permit is highly competitive. High demand, high stakes... but possible!


Location: it flows through several states, including Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico. It passes through iconic natural landmarks including the Grand Canyon and flows into the Gulf of California.

Classification: this massive river offers a variety of whitewater experiences ranging from Class I to Class V rapids, depending on the section being run. The Grand Canyon section, for example, features Class III to Class V.

Best Water Levels: the ideal water levels (measured in cubic feet per second, cfs) for running the Colorado River depend on the specific section being run and what you’re comfortable with. Higher water levels during the spring runoff season (March to June) make for more challenging whitewater conditions, while lower water levels during late summer and fall offer more manageable flows.

Most Famous Rapids: Lava Falls, Crystal, Hance and Hermit.

Permit Application: permits are required for multi-day trips on the Colorado River, particularly for the popular sections like the Grand Canyon. The application process varies depending on the section and managing agency. For the Grand Canyon, you apply for permits through the National Park Service's weighted lottery system.

National Park Service River Permits Office

Grand Canyon National Park

1824 S. Thompson St., Suite 201

Flagstaff, AZ 86001

+1 (928) 638-7843

Website: National Park Service - Grand Canyon River Permits

Lottery Opening: the lottery for Grand Canyon river permits typically opens annually in February. Check the National Park Service website for current dates and procedures.

Best Months to Run: this depends on personal preferences, water levels, and weather conditions. Generally, spring and fall offer milder temperatures and less crowded conditions, while summer provides warmer weather and higher water levels.

Best Time of The Year to Raft the Grand Canyon Whitewater Rafting

Temperatures vary throughout the year but the best time to go rafting is April and October. Clear skies and high temps make for a nice contrast to the 50-degree Colorado River. Milder weather is expected in April and September/October. The desert often experiences a dramatic monsoon in July and August.

Put-In and Take-Out Points: these vary depending on the section of the river being run. For the Grand Canyon, the most common put-in point is Lee's Ferry, and the take-out points will vary depending on the length of the trip.

Shuttle Companies: several companies offer services for river trips on the Colorado River, providing transportation for vehicles and gear between put-in and take-out points. Some popular shuttle companies include: River Runners Shuttle, Grand Canyon Shuttle Service, and Hatch River Expeditions.

Guide Companies: numerous guide companies offer trips and expeditions on the Colorado River. They provide experienced guides, equipment, and logistical support for rafting adventures. Check out: Grand Canyon Whitewater, Arizona Raft Adventures, and OARS.


Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers (Idaho): Focus on the Middle Fork

Idaho's got some serious river game. Permits are required for the Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hold the keys to these rapids, so if you're looking to float, get your permit dialed in.


Location: The Middle Fork of the Salmon River flows through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho, starting from its headwaters in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and eventually joining the Salmon River.

Classification: known for its challenging whitewater rapids, ranging from Class III to Class IV, with some sections approaching Class V during high water conditions.

Best Water Levels: the ideal water levels for running the Middle Fork typically range between 1,000 to 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), providing a balance of challenging rapids and navigable flows.

Most Famous Rapids: Velvet Falls, Pistol Creek, Dagger Falls and Power House.

Permit Application: permits are required for floating the Middle Fork. The permit system is managed by the Salmon-Challis National Forest in partnership with Recreation.gov. You can apply for permits through Recreation.gov during the annual permit lottery.

Contact Information:

Salmon-Challis National Forest Office:

+1 (208) 879-4100

Salmon-Challis National Forest, Supervisor's Office,

1206 S. Challis Street, Salmon, ID 83467.

Website: Recreation.gov - Middle Fork of the Salmon River Permit applications

Lottery Opening: the lottery typically opens annually in early January. However, specific dates may vary. Check the Recreation.gov website for the most up-to-date information.

Best Months to Run: The best months to run the Middle Fork of the Salmon River are usually from late spring to early summer, roughly from May to July. During this time, water levels are usually optimal for rafting, weather conditions are favorable, and the scenery is stunning with lush vegetation and abundant wildlife.

Put-In and Take-Out Points: the most common put-in point for Middle Fork trips is Boundary Creek, located near the town of Stanley, Idaho. The take-out point is typically at Cache Bar, where the Middle Fork joins the main Salmon River.

Shuttle Companies: several shuttle companies offer services for river trips providing transportation for vehicles and gear between put-in and take-out points. Some popular shuttle companies include Middle Fork Rapid Transit, Middle Fork Wilderness Outfitters, and Salmon River Shuttles.

Guide Companies: you’ll find numerous guide companies ready to provide experienced guides, equipment, and logistical support. These are a few: Middle Fork River Expeditions, Middle Fork Adventures, and Idaho River Journeys.



Desolation and Gray Canyons (Green River, Utah)

Green River, Utah – where desert canyons meet river rapids. Desolation and Gray Canyons are a floatin' paradise. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is in charge of permits here.


Location: desolation and Gray Canyons are in central Utah, located along the Green River. The canyons are part of the Desolation Canyon Wilderness Study Area and are known for their stunning red rock scenery and exciting whitewater.

Classification: the Green River, through these canyons, offers a mix of Class II to Class III rapids, making it suitable for intermediate paddlers with some whitewater experience.

Best Water Levels: the optimal water levels for running Desolation and Gray Canyons typically range between 2,000 to 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), providing a balance of navigable flows and exciting rapids. The river can be run at lower levels, but some rapids may become more technical.

Most Famous Rapids: Wire Fence, Three Fords, Steer Ridge and Coal Creek.

Permit Application: permits are required for floating Desolation and Gray Canyons, and they’re managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). You can apply for permits through the Recreation.gov website.

Contact Information:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) - Price Field Office:

+1 (435) 636-3600

125 South 600 West, Price, UT 84501

Lottery Opening: the lottery for permits typically opens annually in early January. Check the Recreation.gov website for the most up-to-date information.

Best Months to Run: the best months to run this river typically from May to September when water levels are generally optimal, weather conditions are favorable, and the river is accessible for multi-day trips.

Put-In and Take-Out Points: put-in point is usually Sand Wash, located near the town of Duchesne, Utah. The take-out point is typically Swasey’s Boat Ramp, near Green River, Utah.

Shuttle Companies: there are several shuttle companies providing transportation for vehicles & gear between put-in and take-out points. Two of them are: River Runners Transport and Redtail Aviation.

Guide Companies: guided trips are less common on Desolation and Gray Canyons compared to other rivers, but some outfitters offer guides and support services for those seeking a guided experience. Check: Holiday River Expeditions and OARS.



Tuolumne and Merced Rivers (Yosemite National Park)

These rivers flow through the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Yosemite National Park in California.


Location: both the Tuolumne and Merced Rivers originate in the high Sierra Nevada and flow through Yosemite National Park, eventually joining the San Joaquin River. 

Classification: the Tuolumne River offers a mix of Class III to Class V rapids, depending on the section, making it suitable for experienced paddlers. The Merced River varies in difficulty, with some sections offering Class II to Class IV rapids.

Best Water Levels: optimal water levels for running the Tuolumne and Merced Rivers vary depending on the section and time of year. Generally, spring and early summer runoff provide the best conditions, with higher water levels ensuring exciting rapids.

Most Famous Rapids:

Tuolumne: Clavey Falls, Ram's Head, Gray's Grindstone and Hell's Kitchen.

Merced: Ned's Gulch, Split Rock, Bush and Bundy, Nightmare Island.

Permit Application: permits are required for rafting or kayaking, especially within Yosemite National Park. The process for obtaining permits may vary depending on the specific section you plan to run. Check with the National Park Service or local authorities for permit application procedures.

Contact Information:

Yosemite National Park Headquarters:

+1-209-372-0200

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Lottery Opening: the lottery for permits to run the Tuolumne and Merced Rivers within Yosemite National Park typically opens several months in advance, often in the winter or early spring. Specific dates and application procedures can be found on the National Park Service website (nps.gov OR recreation.gov)

Best Months to Run: the best months to run the Tuolumne and Merced Rivers are typically from May to July, coinciding with peak snowmelt runoff and providing optimal water levels for rafting and kayaking. The weather during this time is generally pleasant, with warm temperatures and minimal precipitation.

Put-In and Take-Out Points: these vary depending on the section you plan to run. Common put-in points include locations near Yosemite National Park, and take-out points may be downstream near designated access areas.

Shuttle Companies: Several shuttle companies operate in and around Yosemite National Park, providing transportation services for rafters and kayakers to access put-in and take-out points. Check out: All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting and ARTA River Trips.

Guide Companies: OARS, Sierra Mac River Trips, and Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions offer all inclusive guided rafting and kayaking trips, including logistical support for a safe and enjoyable experience in the stunning wilderness of Yosemite National Park.



The Smith River (California)

The Smith River is located in northern California and southern Oregon, flowing through the Smith River National Recreation Area.

Dreamin' of floating the Smith River? You’ll need a pass from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Location: The Smith River originates in the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California and flows westward into the Pacific Ocean in California, near the town of Crescent City.

Classification: The Smith River offers a variety of whitewater experiences, ranging from Class II to Class IV rapids, depending on the section. The difficulty can vary depending on water levels and specific sections of the river.

Best Water Levels: The best water levels for rafting on the Smith River typically range from 600 to 1,200 cubic feet per second (cfs), depending on personal preferences and the specific section of the river. Lower flows may provide a more technical experience, while higher flows offer more challenging rapids.

Most Famous Rapids: Blossom Bar, Upper and Lower Black Bar Falls, Lower Johnson Falls and Picket Fence.

Permit Application: Permits are required for rafting on the Smith River, and the process for obtaining permits may vary depending on the section you plan to run. It's essential to check with the managing agency, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), for permit application procedures and regulations.

Contact Information:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) - Smith River National Recreation Area:

+1 707-464-6101

10600 Highway 199, Gasquet, CA 95543

Lottery Opening: The lottery for permits to run the Smith River typically opens several months in advance, often in the winter or early spring. Specific dates and application procedures can be found on the BLM website or by contacting the Smith River National Recreation Area office.

Best Months to Run: The best months to run the Smith River are typically from April to June, coinciding with the peak of the spring snowmelt runoff. During this time, water levels are generally higher, providing optimal conditions for rafting and kayaking. Additionally, the weather is often mild, and the scenery is lush and green.

Put-In and Take-Out Points: Put-in and take-out points for rafting trips on the Smith River vary depending on the section you plan to run. Common put-in points include locations near Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, while take-out points may be downstream near designated access areas.

Shuttle Companies: Several shuttle companies operate in the region, providing transportation services for rafters and kayakers to access put-in and take-out points along the Smith River. Examples include North Coast Adventure Centers and Redwood Rides.

Guide Companies: Various guide companies offer guided rafting and kayaking trips on the Smith River, providing expert guidance, equipment, and logistical support for a safe and enjoyable experience. Examples include Redwoods & Rivers, Redwood Rides, and Northwest Rafting Company.



Selway River (Idaho)

Back to Idaho, where the Selway River flows wild and free. The Forest Service is the gatekeeper here, so if you want to ride this river, you'll need a permit from them.


Location: located in central Idaho, the Selway flows through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. It’s a tributary of the Clearwater River, joining it near the town of Lowell, Idaho.

Classification: known for its challenging whitewater rapids, it’s typically classified as a Class IV to Class IV+ river. It offers a thrilling and remote wilderness rafting experience.

Best Water Levels: the best water levels for running the Selway River range from 1,500 to 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), depending on your comfort and experience level. Lower flows may provide a more technical experience, while higher flows can increase the difficulty of the rapids.

Most Famous Rapids: Ladle, Double Drop, Bernard Creek and Ladle Cascade.

Permit Application: permits are required, and are issued through a lottery system managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS). The permit application process typically opens in January, and the lottery drawing occurs in February. You can apply for a permit through the Recreation.gov website or by contacting the local ranger station.

Contact Information:

United States Forest Service (USFS)

Lochsa Ranger District:

+1 208-926-4274

12730 Highway 12, Lowell, ID 83539

Lottery Opening: typically opens in January, and the application deadline is usually in late January or early February. The lottery drawing occurs shortly after the application deadline.

Best Months to Run: typically from late May to early July, when water levels are usually at their peak due to snowmelt, providing optimal conditions for whitewater rafting. The weather is generally mild, and the scenery is stunning as the surrounding wilderness comes to life.

Put-In and Take-Out Points: typically at Paradise Campground, located near the confluence of Moose Creek and the Selway River. The take-out point is at the Selway Falls Campground, where the river joins the Clearwater River.

Shuttle Companies: provide transportation services for rafters to access put-in and take-out points along the Selway River. These include Three Rivers Shuttle and All Rivers Shuttle.

Guide Companies: numerous companies offer guided trips, providing expert guidance, equipment, and logistical support for a safe and memorable experience. ROW Adventures, O.A.R.S., and Middle Fork Rapid Transit are just three.



The Rogue River (Oregon)

You've heard of Wild and Scenic? The Rogue River is legendary.


Location: the Rogue River flows through the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southwestern Oregon. It starts in the Cascade Range and flows westward to the Pacific Ocean, passing through the Siskiyou Mountains and the Rogue River Valley.

Classification: it offers a variety of whitewater experiences, ranging from Class I to Class IV rapids, depending on the section. The most famous section for whitewater rafting is the Wild and Scenic portion, which includes Class III and IV rapids.

Best Water Levels: the best water levels for rafting the Rogue depend on your personal preferences and experience level. Generally, spring and early summer months, when snow melt increases water levels, offer the most thrilling rafting experiences. Optimal flows typically range from 1,500 to 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) for most sections.

Most Famous Rapids: Rainie Falls, Blossom Bar, Mule Creek Canyon and Grave Creek.

Permit Application: permits are required for overnight trips, particularly for the Wild and Scenic portion. The permits are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and are typically allocated through a lottery system. You can apply for a permit through the Recreation.gov website or by contacting the local BLM office.

Contact Information:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Medford District Office:

+1 541-618-2200

3040 Biddle Road, Medford, OR 97504

Lottery Opening: the lottery typically opens in late December or early January, with the application deadline usually in January or early February. The drawing occurs shortly after the application deadline.

Best Months to Run: the best months to run the Rogue River for rafting are typically from May to September. During this time, water levels are generally higher due to snowmelt, providing optimal conditions for whitewater. Additionally, the weather is typically warm and sunny, making for an enjoyable outdoor experience.

Put-In and Take-Out Points: the most common put-in point for Rogue River rafting trips is Grave Creek, located near the town of Galice, Oregon. The take-out point is typically Foster Bar, where the river meets the Pacific Ocean. However, there are multiple access points along the river for shorter day trips.

Shuttle Companies: several shuttle companies operate in the area, providing transportation services for rafters to access put-in and take-out points along the River. Try Rogue Wilderness Adventures or Galice Resort.

Guide Companies: numerous guide companies offer guided rafting trips on the Rogue River, including Noah's Rafting & Fishing Trips, Indigo Creek Outfitters, and OARS (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists).



These examples aren’t exhaustive, and permit requirements can change like the weather. So, before you venture out, hit up the managing agency for the specific river or section you plan to visit to obtain the most up-to-date information on permit requirements and application processes. Permits may also be required for fishing, camping, or other activities, so be sure to inquire about these based on your planned activities.

Let the river adventures begin!

Don't want to miss anything?

Get weekly updates on the newest gear stories, sports and tips right in your mailbox.

Email

Download the App
on iPhone and Android.

Make your orders and sales faster with our crossplatform application

App StoreGoogle Pay
App Design