Published on mars 27th, 2024 | by Kayak Session https://www.kayaksession.com/img-current-issue/upload-your-video.png

Chaos on Soča River – Paddling Permits on the Rise & Paddlers Count Drops

Until just a few years ago, the valley was predominantly frequented by kayakers and rafters, who were warmly welcomed. However, the surge in tourist numbers has led to overcrowded campsites and prompted local authorities to seek additional sources of revenue.

Nearly a decade ago, a river permit system was introduced, promising improved facilities such as toilets at put-ins and take-outs in exchange for fees. Initially accepted by the paddling community due to its reasonable rates (€3 for a day pass, €10 for a week pass, and €30 for a yearly pass), this system covered all paddling sections. However, its legality was never fully authorised by court decisions, relying instead on ambiguous interpretations of Slovenian laws by local municipalities.

The Upper Soča river, the part which is suitable for paddling and rafting flows through three communities, Bovec, Kobarid and Tolmin. Now the situation & legislation is Slovenia is such that country legislation gives local authorities the power to manage inner rivers, but with very loose rules. Same time all the rivers and river banks in Slovenia are declared as public good, so anyone shall be able to use for recreational purposes for free.

Despite appeals to the Slovenian Constitutional Court arguing that the new regulations discriminate against kayakers and rafters and violate Slovenian laws, the court declined to temporarily suspend the rules. As a result, fines of nearly €2000 have been imposed on kayakers, further escalating tensions.

In recent years, instead of collaborating, local municipalities have introduced their own permits and fees, exacerbating the financial burden on paddlers. The 2024 permit fees, particularly for the Kobarid section, have skyrocketed to €250 per season, prompting outrage among the local paddling community.

Local kayakers and some companies did prepare and file complain to Slovenian Constitutional court to cancel the Kobarid decree with a question to court to temporary stop execution of decree until they make final decision. Court refused to temporary stop execution of decree, but did not make any decision yet… This will most likely last couple of months.

Some in the local paddling community and international usual suspects are encouraging foreign paddlers to boycott the Soča for a year to demonstrate the economic significance of kayaking tourism to the valley. The German paddling community – a huge part of the paddlers visiting the valley – have been very quite so far this year with empty campings and parking lots at put-ins and take-outs.

The 2024 Soca Festival have been cancelled by its organisers, while local operators like Alpin Action, largely responsible for the promotion of the Soca valley as a prime paddling destination over the past 20 years are seeing their bookings and sales collapse. The situation is alarming. Will the Soca Valley remain that amazing paddling destination, a number one in many european paddlers mind? The ball is in the court of the local municipalities. In the meantime, the 2024 Easter week-end coming up will be without a doubt a good indication on paddler’s reaction and attendance for the 2024 Soca season.

A petition has been launched to protest the exorbitant permit prices, and paddlers have yet to return… Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/stop-soca-river-kayak-permit-crazy-new-prices

Before planning a trip to the Soča for a kayaking experience, prospective visitors should be aware of the significant costs involved and the ongoing challenges facing the paddling community.

SECTOR 1: Bovec SECTOR 2: Kobarid SECTOR 3: Tolmin
Daily kayak: 3 € * Single unnamed permit: 10 € * Single unnamed permit: 5 €
Weekly kayak: 16 € **Daily name permit: 10 € **Daily name permit: 5 €
Season kayak: 30 € Weekly name pass: 50 € Weekly name pass: 25 €
Season raft: 500 € Season name permit: 250 € Season name permit: 125 €
***Seasonal name pass at a subsidised price: 25 € ***Seasonal name pass at a subsidised price: 25 €
*a single unnamed permit is valid for a single entry and a single exit from the river under the conditions as stated in the permit
**daily named permit valid for unlimited use of the entry and exit points under the conditions as stated in the permit
***conditions for obtaining a season-name permit at a subsidised price are set out in the regulations

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