Permit Regulations

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 Thirtymile Boat Launch is not accessible by vehicle from Dec 1 - April 15 for the winter closure of Armstrong Canyon Rd.

Required Permits

Each boating group is required to obtain an online launch permit to boat year-round on all river segments of the mainstem 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.  Please see the Permit Overview.

Daily launches are limited during the high use season to reduce crowding and ensure that overnight boating groups are able to find a suitable campsite on public land for each night of their trip and enjoy a quality recreation experience.

Terms and Conditions of Permit

The Trip Leader must keep the Permit with them at all times while on the John Day River. Photo ID is required for the Trip Leader or Alternate Trip Leader at the launch. This Permit is valid only for the launch segment and launch date for which it is issued.

The following rules and regulations must be met by all group members (this is only a partial summary of State and Federal regulations):

Maximum Group Size

  • Groups can have no more than 16 people, except no more than 4 people in Segment 1A and 1B (J.S. Burres/Cottonwood Bridge to Tumwater Falls) from September 1-November 30, regardless of the number of permits obtained by the group.

Annual Fire Closure

  • Due to high fire danger, the John Day River is closed to all campfires, charcoal fires and propane campfire devices from June 1-September 30 each year.
  • Propane and white gas cooking stoves and shielded lanterns are permitted.
  • Smoking is permitted only in a closed vehicle, while standing in the water, or while in a boat on the water.
  • Using or possessing fireworks is always prohibited.

Fires in Firepans Only

  • When fires are allowed, ground fires and rock fire rings are not permitted.
  • Fires and ash must be completely contained in a metal firepan with sides at least two inches high.
  • Locate the firepan away from dry vegetation and elevate the firepan on rocks to prevent scarring the ground.
  • Burn wood from home, charcoal, driftwood, or dead and down vegetation. Standing vegetation, either dead or alive, may not be cut or gathered.
  • All campfire residue must be carried out of the river canyon.

Portable Toilet Requirement

  • On overnight and day trips, all boating groups are required to carry and use a water-tight, reusable toilet system to remove solid human waste from the river canyon.
  • The toilet must be large enough to service the entire party for the complete length of the trip.
  • All buckets used to carry human waste are required to have a rubber gasket in the lid.
  • Plastic bags are not allowed, except human waste bags specifically designed for this purpose. 
  • Once used, human waste bags must be carried in a water-tight container.
  • Dispose of used human waste bags in a garbage dumpster; disposing of these bags in a vault toilet is strictly prohibited.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

  • Remove all garbage from the river canyon, including cigarette butts, toilet paper, and nut shells.
  • Food scraps should be picked up and packed out, to keep insects and mice to a minimum.
  • Do not bury trash; animals will dig it up.
  • Strain all dish/wastewater through a screen to remove food particles, and pack them out.
  • Scatter wastewater over a wide area, away from campsites, at least 200 ft. from the river.
  • Soap should be used sparingly, as even biodegradable varieties take a long time to break down.

Boat Safety

  • Boat Sober! Boating under the influence (BUI) laws apply to all watercraft.
  • Safe boaters wear life jackets. Oregon Marine Board regulations require a Type III or V PFD (life preserver) for all persons on a boat. An approved PFD must be worn by all persons in a boat in any section of waters rated Class III or higher, and children 12 and younger must wear a PFD at all times while riding in a boat.
  • Each boat is required to carry a whistle and emergency throw rope.
  • The BLM recommends that each group carry a first aid kit, repair kit, extra oars/paddles and a pump for inflatable craft.

Motorized Boating

  • The John Day River is closed to motorized watercraft year-round between Clarno and Cottonwood Bridge.
  • Between Cottonwood Bridge and Tumwater Falls, the river is closed to motorized watercraft from May 1-September 30.
  • Between Service Creek and Clarno, the river and is closed to motorized watercraft from May 1-September 30, except for the use of small electric motors, 40 lbs. thrust or less, which are allowed between Service Creek and Clarno.
  • There are no motorized boat restrictions upstream of Service Creek.
  • The river is closed to personal watercraft (jet skis) year-round upstream of Tumwater Falls.
Report violations of the above regulations to the Prineville District BLM Office (541-416-6700) or by email to