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Share Your Opinions in AW's River Permit Survey

Posted: 12/11/2022
By: Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater is pleased to announce a survey that will gather paddlers' opinions on the permit systems that are used to manage use on multi-day river trips. We encourage all paddlers who have ever sought a permit on a multiday trip to take the survey. 


Every river has a capacity to sustainably support a specific number of paddlers and other visitors. Beyond that capacity something important starts to be diminished over time. That something - the limiting factor - might be something environmental like impacts of growing campsites on riparian vegetation, or something social like reduced quality of recreational experiences due to too many encounters or too much campsite competition. 


River managers can employ indirect limits to ease capacity issues like requiring groovers and educating on Leave No Trace practices, and when those are not enough they can employ direct limits including requiring limited permits. Most rivers are below their capacity without the need for limited permits, but managers do limit permits on a few Western multi-day rivers for a range of reasons. In recent years, those permits have gotten significantly harder to get on at least some rivers where statistics are reported (view Idaho statistics). 


How a permit system is designed and implemented is a judgment call and there are many options with direct effects on paddlers. The capacities, limiting factors, and triggers for change are often informed by visitor perceptions and use patterns that change over time. These facts have led American Whitewater to create a survey for the paddling community regarding their perceptions of permit systems on whitewater rivers nationwide. 


The survey should take you approximately 20 minutes to complete if you give it ample thought, and is best taken on a full size computer screen versus a mobile device. American Whitewater will analyze the results, share them, and use them to inform and support recommendations to the federal agencies that manage these treasured rivers. We hope a broad cross section of paddlers will take this survey. 



Contact if you expereince significant technical problems completing the survey. 

Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

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