John Day River - Day Use Permits
John Day Wild and Scenic River
The John Day River offers a range of recreational opportunities including boating, fishing, and camping.
Map of John Day River Segments and Segment Descriptions
An online permit is required year-round
for both day and overnight boating trips within the Wild and Scenic section of the John Day River (Service Creek to Tumwater Falls) and is only available here on Recreation.gov. One permit covers your entire group for the length of the trip and is based on your launch segment.
- Choose Low Season in the drop down menu regardless of river segment
- Choose Fall Low Season for Sep 1 - Nov 30 launches except for Segment 1A or 1B
- Segment 3A or 3B (May 1 - July 15): Entering the Wild and Scenic section from upstream of Service Creek, or launching at Service Creek,Twickenham, Priest Hole, or Lower Burnt Ranch. This permit does not allow parties to takeout downstream of Clarno.
- Segment 1A or 1B (May 1 -July 15): Launching at Cottonwood Bridge (Burres), Starvation Lane, Rock Creek, or McDonald's Ferry
- Fall High Season Segment 1A or 1B (Sep 1 - Nov 30): Launching at Cottonwood Bridge (Burres), Starvation Lane, Rock Creek, or McDonald's Ferry
*Trip leaders are required to register at the boat launch. Print the permit and leave the bottom registration section of the permit in the box at the launch kiosk, or hand it to agency personnel if present. Carry the rest of the permit on the river in an accessible location.
Whitewater boating skills are necessary to navigate all sections of the river. Water levels fluctuate greatly.
Generally, May through early July have the best flows for boating. See the minimum water level recommendations per craft , current water levels , along with short term and long term water level forecasts. Another resource for flow and descriptions is American Whitewater . As a free flowing river, flows can rise and fall quickly. Make sure to watch the forecast and tie up boats.
A permit system is in place to help protect the John Day River, which is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River and an Oregon State Scenic Waterway . By working together as a community and by practicing Leave No Trace techniques, we can help preserve this precious resource for tomorrow and for future generations.
For further information, please visit our John Day River website .
Notifications and Alerts
Permit & Season Information
This permit is for a one-day boating trip. For Overnight Permits click here.
Permits are unlimited except during High Season which is from:
- Service Creek to Tumwater Falls from May 1-July 15
- Cottonwood Bridge (Burres) to Tumwater Falls from September 1-November 30
Daily Rolling Release: High Season permits are first-come first-served and become available on Recreation.gov at 7am Pacific Time 4 months and 1 month in advance of a given launch date. See the High Season Release Schedule .
You cannot print your permit more than 14 days before your trip. Prior to printing your permit, you can cancel directly on Recreation.gov. Once printed, you must email or call the BLM to cancel. Cancelled permits return to the Recreation.gov availability calendar. See Fees/Cancellations.
Trip leaders or alternates must be present the entire trip. Add alternate trip leaders when first obtaining your permit, they cannot be added later. You can be a trip leader or alternate on 1 overnight permit at a time.
Need to Know
When reserving a permit on this river, I understand that:
- The permit is valid only for the entry date and entry segment for which it is issued;
- Once reserved, the entry date, entry segment, trip leader and alternates may not be changed;
- Permit fees are non-refundable;
- The maximum group size is 16 people and groups may not combine at any time if this number would be exceeded. In Segment 1A and 1B in the Fall (Sep 1-Nov 30), the group size is 4 people;
- I must print, sign, and carry my permit on the river, leaving the bottom boater registration portion of the permit in the box at the launch kiosk. Permits may be printed up to 14 days before the launch date on Recreation.gov;
- The Trip Leader or Alternate is required to be present on the entire trip;
- As Trip Leader, I am responsible for the actions of my group;
- As Trip Leader, I will be at least 13 years old before the launch date;
- I may hold a maximum of one overnight permit and three day-use permits at one time;
- My group must carry out our solid human waste in an approved portable toilet system ;
- No wood or charcoal fires are allowed from June 1-October 15, and when allowed, fires must be contained in a metal firepan and all ashes carried out;
- This reservation/application is for a private (non-commercial) trip unless I am authorized to be a commercial outfitter on this river.
Annual Fire Closure
- The John Day River is closed to all campfires, charcoal fires and propane campfire devices from June 1-October 15.
- 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 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 an elevated metal firepan with sides at least two inches high.
- Locate the firepan away from dry vegetation.
- 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 canyon.
Portable Toilet Requirement
- On overnight and day trips, all boating groups are required to carry and use a water-tight, reusable toilet system , large enough to service the entire party for the complete length of the trip.
- Dump stations are not available at takeouts. See the list of rv dump stations .
- 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 organics.
- Pick up and pack out all food scraps to help keep insects and critters to a minimum.
- Do not bury trash or toilet paper; animals may 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.
- At flows above 500 cfs, urinate in the river.
- At flows below 500 cfs, urinate at least 200 ft. away from camp.
- Ensure all boats are clean, drained and dry to avoid spreading aquatic invasive species .
- Clarno to Cottonwood is closed to motorized boats year-round. From Cottonwood Bridge downstream, the river is closed to motorized boats from May 1 - September 30. Between Service Creek and Clarno, the river is restricted to electric motors only from May 1 - September 30.
- 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.
- See Motorized Boating for further information.
A $6.00 non-refundable reservation fee is required for each permit issued. Only one permit is needed per boating group. Each member of a group must remain with the trip leader while on the river.
A non-refundable recreation fee is due when a reservation is made for trips entering the Wild and Scenic section during the High Season (between Service Creek and Tumwater Falls from May 1- July 15, and between Cottonwood Canyon and Tumwater Falls from Sep 1- Nov 30).
The recreation fee is $20 per overnight trip per group, or $10 per one-day trip per group. All recreation fees are used directly on the river to help keep launch sites and river campsites clean.
- A permit authorizes the trip leader to enter a specific river segment on a specific date. Once reserved, the entry date, segment, trip leader and alternates may not be changed.
- Before you print your permit or at the launch point, you may change your:
- group size
- number of boats
- launch point if within segment 3B
- take-out point & date
- The trip leader is required to tear off the bottom of the printed permit and deposit it in the box at the launch kiosk. Mark allowed changes.
- Failure to cancel your permit or to register your party at the launch kiosk will trigger a “No Show” status.
- See no show policies.
- If you cannot make a trip, you must cancel your permit on Recreation.gov. Cancel ASAP to allow other boaters to use your space. Follow instructions under your existing reservations.
- If the permit is already printed, you must email or call the BLM (blm_John_day_river@blm.gov, 541-416-6700) to cancel.
3050 NE 3rd Street Prineville OR 97754
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: (541) 416-6700