Since so many of our summer plans revolve around obtaining a sometimes elusive spot on a trip down one of Idaho’s four permitted rivers, I thought it would be worth revisiting the subject to discuss what the odds are of winning a permit. Your odds: not good.
The Selway and the Middle Fork give you odds of 29:1 for getting your first choice launch date. For you accountant types, that is a 3.4% chance. Slim. According to the Free Press, the New York Jets have better odds of winning the 2010 Super Bowl(sans Favre?) So what are your options for obtaining a permit? There are a several schools of thought on how to approach this. Below I have outlined a few common mind-sets that you may encounter while navigating the 4 Rivers Lottery:
- The Realist: “I have put in every year for 13 years and I have never won a permit. But I know some guys in Kansas that draw every year. I hope they invite me.” This is a direct quote from our office. The realist is usually a local long time boater who thinks there is a conspiracy against Idaho boaters. The realist can usually be found driving to the Bruneau or Jarbidge for early season boating.
- The Strategist: “See? If you look at this chart, you can see most people put in for the same dates. All you have to do is…” Another quote from the AIRE staff. The Strategist always has a plan to beat the system and in this case the 1st choice demand graph becomes a proverbial map to river permit treasure. While I appreciate the optimism, you have to keep in mind that everyone has access to this same information. It is like a hot stock tip posted on the Google Finance main page. To date, we have no record of a Strategist having any better results winning a permit.
- The Socialite: “I don’t even put in any more. I usually know someone who has an extra spot on a permit, so I just go with them.” The Socialite has a huge social circle and gets more invites than vacation time. Tips to help become a Socialite: own a very specific/expensive piece of group gear in hopes of making you more of an asset to the trip. Or you can develop highly specific skills so you are helpful when unusual stuff happens. Or, own a raft company (View this photo).
There are several other schools of thought on how to get on a trip. If you have any other examples of a permit paradigm, please share. Keep in mind you can always go outside of the permitting window and have a real rock dodging, snow laden, sub-zero river adventure. Also note that the odds of getting your 3rd or 4th choice date are much lower (in 2008, 17 3rd and 4th choice permits issued out of 15,221 applicants, .1%).
So pick your dates wisely and remember that the more rounds you buy at the bar in the winter, the more friends you have when the water rises. Enjoy your winter,