The BLM is seeking to improve the lottery system they use to distribute the 20 daily passes to “The Wave” rock formation near Kanab that is so popular with photographers. The system definitely needs to be improved but if they stick to only 20 entrants a day there isn’t much they can do. It’s a simple matter of too much demand for so little product.
The current system divides 20 daily permits in half; 10 available in an online lottery up to 4 months prior, and 10 for a “walk-in” lottery. But since about 150 people show up every morning for those permits means that if you plan on walking in and getting a permit you have a snowball’s chance in hell.
You show up at the Kanab BLM office prior to 9 in the morning the day BEFORE you want to hike to enter your name in the lottery. At 9 you go into a small room with the other 150 tourists and listen as they read off 10 numbers to see if yours is called. If you aren’t present and don’t respond when they call your number they will wait a bit and call a new number instead so you must be there waiting every morning you want a chance. If you’re lucky enough to win you get a permit to enter the area the day after (not the day you win the lottery). The permits are per person, not per group or per vehicle. As an example who difficult that can be, when I was there a husband/wife photographer duo were trying to get in. He got a permit and she didn’t. She hugged and kissed him and said “Have fun, take some great pictures for us.”
Ouch, that’s not the makings of a happy vacation.
My advice to somebody who wants to see The Wave: apply online 4 months ahead until you get a slot. Then plan your vacation around it. Spending every morning of your vacation in a room waiting for eventual disappointment is horrible when you should be out enjoying and photographing a beautiful desert sunrise.
Lastly. After being to the wave I have to say it was over-hyped.
It is beautiful, but no more so than 1000 other places in southern Utah. It’s also a not as big of formation as I thought, the reason you see 100 pictures of the same wave is because that’s all there is. It’s a formation in an area of 50ft by 50ft so there aren’t a lot of different angles to shoot it. It looks like some weird painted landscape but it’s really just a weird painted slot, similar to many others in the area.
And that seems to be the BLM’s solution to the problem. Since it doesn’t look like there will be a large increase in permits given they are going to promote other nearby trails with gorgeous scenery. This is a great idea if you ask me; Grand Staircase-Escalante is a vast park covering some stunning locations that are relatively un-visited and un-photographed. It’s the perfect place to explore and find something almost nobody has seen and be the first to take an amazing photograph of it.