Lottery dreams live along the Rogue

GALICE — It's the dead of winter, but already the competition is heating up for who gets to spend the fourth week in July floating and bloating themselves on a rafting trip along the closest thing to pristine the Rogue River has to offer.

Launching at Grave Creek that last Thursday in July means four days of heaven — running the rapids of the Lower Rogue Canyon and dining to excess in sandbar camps with 10 of your closest friends like you do every summer.

But that coveted Thursday launch permit comes to just 3 percent of those who enter the Bureau of Land Management lottery for noncommercial permits.

Wait until Friday to go and you have a 7-percent chance to get that permit.

Juggle that vacation time and go that last Sunday in July? Now you have an 18-percent chance to land that permit.

You've got just one chip to bet — so do you feel lucky?

"That's one of the questions the crew answers all the time — what's the best time to go," says Chris Dent, who manages the Wild and Scenic Section. "Everybody wants to know what days they have the best chance.

"As you can see," Dent says, "it's all across the board."

Now any of the 16,000 people who float the Lower Rogue Canyon each summer can see which days statistically pose the best chance of success when they apply for a permit during the regulated season from May 15 through Oct. 15.

The BLM is minimizing the guesswork over when to apply for tough-to-get permits to float the Rogue from Grave Creek to Foster Bar by offering statistical breakdowns of last year's applications.

The spreadsheets break down the odds of earning a permit by month, day and date. The information could give rafters and driftboaters a better chance of success in next month's lottery drawing.

"It doesn't guarantee success, obviously," Dent says. "It provides some information on your chances."

That information has a one-week shelf life.

Noncommercial rafters and driftboaters have until Jan. 31 to apply for a permit through the lottery system, which the BLM uses to regulate crowds in the 34-mile Lower Rogue Canyon.

Only 120 people are allowed to launch daily during the regulated season, and half are private parties.

The lottery drawing will take place some time in February, with successful applicants to be notified in March. The last names of successful applicants will also be posted on the BLM's Web site at

Would-be boaters who do not get permits for a launch can buy canceled or unused permits beginning April 1 at the visitor center.

Applications cost $6 apiece, and applicants can be listed on just one application. That keeps people from shotgunning applications and cramping the system.

While the lottery process can help curb greed, it can't do anything for a few other of the deadly sins, especially sloth.

Last year, a record 6,800 applications came over the transom in Rand. More than 2,000 applications came during the final week and Dent's expecting the same — or worse — in the week ahead.

"Getting 3,000 applications in the last week is a nightmare for anyone," Dent says. "We literally burned out a fax machine two years ago."

If they're smart, these procrastinators will be burning up the Rogue River Float Permit Lottery Web site

The breakdown of success ratios contain a few no-brainers.

Other than Memorial Day weekend, the month of May offers close to a slam-dunk when it comes to getting a permit. Open days are even more likely in October. Early June also offers pretty good odds.

But things get hairy once school lets out. Competition for permits in the heat of summer is high enough that Dent's spreadsheets could mean the difference between you sleeping hot August nights away under the stars or next to an air conditioner.

The best chance for an August permit? That would be the last Saturday, when six of the 21 parties who asked for a permit that day last year got it.

The worst day to plan your trip? That would be the last Thursday in July, when only five out of 161 hopeful parties landed permits in the lottery last year. Going one day earlier would have provided better odds, because only 57 parties asked for a permit on the last Wednesday, and six of those parties landed a permit to be in the canyon that same weekend.

"If anything, this shows you the vacation times that people really want," Dent says.

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