Looking to catch the Wave? BLM to replace walk-ins with new geofence lottery

The Wave, located near the Utah-Arizona border, is one of the prized hikes for anyone lucky enough to get there.

The hike offers picturesque views of seemingly unreal sandstone rock formations weaved together through wind erosion in the Coyote Buttes North and Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Given its sensitivity and difficult-to-reach location, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management only allows a maximum of 64 people to hike it every day — all winners of a permit lottery.

Now the bureau is shaking up one of its lottery processes. It will begin using a mobile-based geofence system on March 15, which will replace the previous walk-in lottery at the Kanab, Utah, and Page, Arizona, field offices with an online version.

Anyone wishing to enter the lottery on March 15 and beyond, who normally would have walked into either the Kanab or Page field offices, will have to go through Recreation.gov using either a cellphone or other "location-enabled mobile devices" — not laptops or other computers. The website will also only work for people logging on within a set geographic boundary close to the field offices.

Those areas include Kanab, Big Water, East Zion, Glendale, Johnson Canyon, Mt. Carmel, Orderville and Paria in southern Utah, as well as Page, Fredonia, Greenhaven, Jacob Lake, Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation, Marble Canyon, Moccasin, Vermilion Cliffs and White Sage in northern Arizona.

The results of a daily lottery are announced at 7:15 p.m. on the day people access the website. Applicants don't have to remain in the area to receive notifications; however, all applicants who win are required to pick up their permits the next day, within an allotted time, at either the Kanab or Page field office. They will also receive a required safety briefing once the permit is picked up.

They are then given the full day to explore the Wave on the day of their permit.

"This is an exciting change for BLM managers in both Arizona and Utah," said Whit Bunting, the manager of the Kanab field office, in a statement Tuesday. "Over the last two years, BLM Utah and BLM Arizona have worked alongside city and county officials in both states to increase recreational opportunities and visitor access to the Wave. This geofence transition is another important customer service step in that direction."

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The change doesn't affect the other Wave lottery held on Recreation.gov. The advanced online lottery system, which requires people to enter the permit lottery four months in advance, will continue as normal. People can enter from anywhere, using any device.

Ultimately, 16 people and/or four groups are awarded permits through the daily geofence lottery, while 48 people and/or 12 groups are awarded permits through the advanced lottery. The maximum number of people granted permits for a day is still 64.

Harry Barber, the district manager for the bureau's Paria River District, said he views the new geofence system as beneficial for opening access to the lottery while still exploring other parts of southern Utah and northern Arizona.

"Additional gateway communities will benefit economically as the new system will expand the permit application area and will provide visitors with additional options to pick up permits and enjoy overnight stays for the next day's trip in several communities," he added, in a statement. "Likewise, the current advanced online lottery system will still be available for applicants who do not own a smartphone."

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