Permit Overview

November 17, 2020 Update: An online permit is required to boat between Service Creek and Tumwater Falls. Permits to launch from July 16 - December 31 are available on this website, except for trips on Segment 1A and 1B (Cottonwood to Tumwater Falls) in the Fall (September 1 – November 30), which are available at Recreation.gov. Thirtymile Boat Launch is not accessible by vehicle from Dec 1 - April 15 for the winter closure of Armstrong Canyon Rd.

Notice: Beginning in 2020, the BLM will return to limited permits to boat the Wild and Scenic section of the river (Service Creek to Tumwater Falls) from May 1-July 15.

Permits for limited segments and dates are available on the Recreation.gov website.
Permits for unlimited segments and dates are available HERE.

General Permit Information

  • An online permit is required year-round to boat the mainstem of the John Day River downstream of Spray.
  • Beginning in 2020, the BLM will return to limited permits to boat the Wild and Scenic section of the river (Service Creek to Tumwater Falls) from May 1 - July 15.
  • Limited entry permits will be available beginning March 4, 2020, at 7 AM on the Recreation.gov website. Half of the permits for each day of the limited season (May 1 – July 15) will be available for reservation on March 4 at 7 AM PT, with the remaining limited permits available on May 1 at 7 AM PT.
  • One permit is issued per group, with a maximum group size of 16 persons.
  • The recreation fee for a limited permit is $20 per group of up to 16 people, for an overnight trip (plus a $6 transaction fee per permit). Day trips are $10 per group and also require the $6 transaction fee. Permit fees are non-refundable. All fees collected are used directly on the river to help keep launch sites and river campsites clean.
  • Each permit authorizes the trip leader to enter a specific river segment on a specific date; once a permit is reserved, segments and dates may not be changed.
  • Alternate trip leaders must be listed at the time the permit is first reserved.
  • The trip leader or alternate trip leader is required to be present on the entire trip and may be requested to show the permit and photo ID during the trip.
  • Each person may be named as a trip leader or alternate trip leader on a maximum of one overnight and three day-use permits at a time. To be named as a trip leader or alternate on an additional permit, that person will need to either cancel one permit or complete one river trip.
  • The minimum age for a trip leader or alternate trip leader is 13 years.
  • All permits are issued on-line as they become available; there is no lottery or waiting list.  For assistance please click here to contact the Prineville BLM or call 541-416-6700.

Permit Exceptions:

  • A permit is not required at Cottonwood Canyon State Park to float 1/4 mile between J.S. Burres (Cottonwood Bridge) and Lone Tree Campground.
  • For day trips taking place completely within the Priest Hole Recreation site (a distance of 1 mile), a free, self-issue permit is available on site.

How to get a permit

See map

Limited Segments and Dates

To get a permit to boat between Service Creek and Tumwater Falls from May 1 – July 15, 2020:

  • Step 1 - Go to the Recreation.gov website at any time to Sign Up for a Customer Account.
  • Step 2 - Type John Day River Permit in the search bar and select either Overnight or Day Trip.
  • Step 3 - Follow the instructions to Check Availability and reserve a permit.
  • Step 4 - Print your permit and present it at the launch point with a photo ID.
  • Step 5 - At the launch point, tear off the Boater Registration Form at the bottom of your printed permit and deposit it in the boater registration box. Keep the main part of the permit with you on the trip.

See map

Unlimited Segments and Dates  

  • Outside of the limited segments and dates listed above, a no cost online permit is required to boat between Spray and Tumwater Falls, and is available HERE
  • To boat the mainstem upstream of Spray or the North Fork John Day year-round, a no cost permit is available HERE and at launch sites.

To get a permit to boat outside of the limited segments and dates:

  • Step 1 - Go to www.blm.gov/or/permit at any time to Create a Customer Account.
  • Step 2 - Follow the instructions to Apply for a Permit.
  • Step 3 - Confirm your permit online between 10 and 30 days before your trip (we will send you two reminder notices). If not confirmed 10 days prior to the entry date, the reservation will automatically cancel. If you reserve your permit 10 days or less before your trip, you may confirm and print your permit immediately. If not confirmed 1 day prior to the entry date, the reservation will automatically cancel, and you’ll need to get a new permit if you still plan to do the trip.
  • Step 4 - Print your permit and present it at the launch point with a photo ID.
  • Step 5 - At the launch point, tear off the Boater Registration Form at the bottom of your printed permit and deposit it in the boater registration box. Keep the main part of the permit with you on the trip.