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News brief with The Colorado Sun: Aspiring river rafters struggle to snag permits

Dozens of people in orange life vests lined up at a river bank while blue rafts are organized for rafters at a  Salmon River put-in in Idaho
Tracy Ross
The Colorado Sun
A common scene on any given day during river-rafting permit season at the Boundary Creek put-in for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. It's one of the wilderness rivers in the West offering a limited number of rafting permits by lottery.

Each week, we talk with our colleagues at The Colorado Sun about the stories they’re following.

This time, we're discussing the difficulty of getting a rafting permit on popular wilderness rivers in the West.

Writer and Editor Tracy Ross reports there is only a 2% chance of getting one of those permits.

"We got the figure by dividing the number of permit applications on the so-called 'Four Rivers' in Idaho—which are the main Salmon, the Middle Fork, the Selway and the Snake River through Hells Canyon—by the number of permits available," Ross told KUNC. "Basically, I think I discovered that I might have a greater chance of getting cancer than I do of getting on one of those rivers again."

Factors causing this issue include an increase in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and permit holders who cancel at the last minute.

"If people turn these permits back sort of at the last minute, others who watch that site like hawks trying to get a cancellation may not have enough time to get their group together," Ross said.

There are also concerns about the river permit lottery system. Ross said she wants to look more closely at the company that owns the software used for the lottery. There have also been rumors about hacking the system.

As a reporter and host for KUNC, I follow the local stories of the day while also guiding KUNC listeners through NPR's wider-scope coverage. It's an honor and a privilege to help our audience start their day informed and entertained.
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