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THE NATION

New Plan Will Spread Out Rafting

March 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

PHOENIX — More people will be able to raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon each year, but they will be spread out over more of the year and will travel in smaller groups, under a management plan the National Park Service adopted Thursday.

More rafters will be shifted to fall, winter and spring, and the number of daily summertime launches of both motorized and nonmotorized commercial rafts will decrease.

The result is expected to be more tourists overall.

The new plan eliminates the existing waiting list for those who want to raft the river in noncommercial boats, replacing it with a lottery system.

The first drawing will be in August.

More than 7,000 trip leaders are on the waiting list, said Jeffrey Cross, project manager for the plan. The cancellation rate when names finally reached the top -- which could take more than a decade -- was 30% to 50%, he said.

In the next six weeks, the 600 people who have waited the longest will be assigned dates spread over the next five years. After that, another 600 applicants will get assigned dates based primarily on how long they have waited.

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