The following information was recently released by the Prineville BLM district, the agency overseeing boating on the John Day River.
Beginning in 2020, permits to float the John Day Wild and Scenic River from May 1-July 15th will be available on Recreation.gov. The John Day is one of a list of rivers with a “limited entry” system, including the Rogue and Lower Deschutes rivers, which regulate the number of people allowed to launch each day.
There will be two releases of the limited entry permits on the Recreation.gov website. The first block of limited entry permits will be released on March 4, 2020 at 7am. The second block of permits will be released on May 1, 2020 at 7am. The cost of an overnight permit is $20 per group of up to 16 people (plus a $6 transaction fee). Day trips are $10 per group and also have the transaction fee. Permit fees are non-refundable.
A permit is not required at Cottonwood Canyon State Park to float the 1/4 mile between J.S. Burres and Lone Tree Campground.
For day trips taking place completely within the Priest Hole Recreation site (1 mile), a free, self-issue permit is available on site.
The following numbers of overnight permits are available for trips launching from:
- Muleshoe or Service Creek – 9 permits each day
- Clarno – 5 permits each day
- Thirtymile – 5 permits each day
- Twickenham, Priest Hole or Lower Burnt Ranch – 10 total permits each day
- J.S. Burress to Starvation Lane – 4 permits each day
- Starvation Lane to McDonald – 2 permits each day
Day use permits are also available and have their own limits.
Day limits include the following:
- J.S. Burress to McDonald 10permits/launches per day
Overnight Camping will be limited to one night in a designated camping area in each section. No multi-night camping will be permitted within the same river section.
The permit system, intended to reduce crowding in a canyon that has limited campsites, was approved through a public process in 2010. In 2013, the BLM learned that our computer program couldn’t handle the load of multiple boaters calling in at the same time to get a permit. Implementation of the limits was put on hold until an adequate system could be arranged.
Previously on peak weekends, some people floating the river were unable to find a campsite and ended up floating through the night. Recently, users have also called to report a sense of “crowding.” Limited entry will help protect the John Day River Wild & Scenic River values, support the primitive experience boaters are looking for, and maintain a sense of solitude for river users.
What can you do right now?
To get ready for the March 4th permit release, it’s a good idea to sign-in to your account on recreation.gov and change your password if needed, or create a recreation.gov account if you don’t already have one. This way you’ll save time the day online permits become available.
Note that no cost permits are still required for segments and dates that are not limited, and are available online at blm.gov along with more information about the John Day Wild and Scenic River.
To receive BLM email updates about the John Day River, you can create an account at blm.gov. For more information, please contact the Prineville BLM at (541) 416-6700.
UPDATE: Additional information regarding overnight and day trips from J.S. Burres to McDonald has been added.