Permit System Comes to Lower Gunnison’s Dominguez-Escalante Canyon

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Permit time: Dominguez-Escalante Canyon on Colorado's Lower Gunnison River.

Flatwater aficionados in Colorado might see another one of their favorite non-permitted multi-day floats fall victim to regulation again (like Ruby-Horsethief on the Colorado), but at least they have a chance to chime in, thanks to help from the Southern Rockies team of American Whitewater.

The  Lower Gunnison River flows through  Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area between the towns of Delta and Whitewater. The NCA was designated by Congress in 2009 and its Resource Management Plan – the blueprint for managing recreation and resource uses within the NCA – was finalized in 2017. In the past, camping has not been designated and there has been no permitting system for floating through Dominguez-Escalante canyon.

Now, in accordance with the Dominguez-Escalante NCA Management Plan, to provide the best camping and boating experience along the Gunnison River, BLM is planning to:

  1. Designate campsites for overnight use along the Gunnison River between Delta and the Whitewater Boat Ramp.
  2. Implement a permit system for all overnight boaters.

Starting in 2020, a free, self-issue permit is required for overnight use. This permit, in its current form, can and likely will change. For 2020, it is a helpful required tool to inform users of the river regulations and provide the BLM with important data regarding river recreation use patterns.

  1. Develop and implement a reservation system for designated campsites at the mouth of Big Dominguez from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Additional designated camps along the river could be added to the reservation system.

To provide the best camping and boating experience along the Gunnison River, the BLM would like paddlers’ help with managed camping. The BLM wants to know what paddlers like and what prefer, such as, how to reserve permits and camps, methods of payment (if necessary), and important regulations to implement. Examples of other rivers with similar permitting directives in our region include Ruby-Horsethief (Colorado River), Gunnison Gorge, Rio Chama, Desolation (Green River), and the San Juan River.

If you have comments, suggestions, or helpful resources please email them to Robin Lewis at  rlewis@blm.gov.  Your recommendations and considerations will be used to inform the BLM as they move towards the Environmental Assessment process, slated for the fall of 2020.