San Juan River
Rafting: San Juan River, Utah
Hundreds of millions of years in the making, the San Juan River in southeastern Utah is a place of surreal beauty and vibrancy, also perfect for swimming during the summer months! (courtesy, O.A.R.S.)
San Juan River at a Glance
Price: $$
River Rapid Class: II-III, V
Trip in Miles: 84 miles or less
Trip Duration: 1 to 5 days
Season: April-September
Raft Types: Paddle Raft, Oar Raft, Inflatable Kayak
River Sections: Bluff to Lake Powell
Nearby Towns: Bluff (UT), Mexican Hat (UT)
Gateway City: Bluff (UT)
Driving Times: Grand Junction (CO): 4 hours; Albuquerque (NM): 5 hours

"The San Juan is tame compared to its tributaries the Animas and Piedra. The river runs 51 miles from Sand Creek to the Navajo Reservoir in three good paddling sections. Only for a brief eight miles above Pagosa Springs is the San Juan as intimidating as its neighbors. Any paddler putting in at Sand Creek and taking out at Pagosa Springs better be an expert. East Fork Gorge is a challenging half-mile of Class V tumult.

Below Pagosa, the river is a great run for the developing enthusiast. The 16 miles down to Trujillo runs through Mesa Canyon, Class III whitewater great for the intermediate kayaker honing his skills. Rafts are perfect here for the less experienced.

Below the take-out/put-in at Trujillo Bridge, the San Juan is gentler. The 27 miles down to Navajo Reservoir drop only 540 feet. A couple of Class I and II rapids provide some breaks from what is mostly flatwater paddling. A road runs along the river for the better part of this section, with many opportunities for access.

Below the Navajo Reservoir, the river is powerful but gentle, with only an ocassional Class III rapids. It meanders through the corners of New Mexico and Utah for over 180 miles. This is a fabulous area to take up river-running. A multi-day trip (100 miles) from either Farmington, New Mexico, to Bluff, Utah, or from Bluff to Lake Powell yields a float through canyon country and plenty of opportunity for side trips to explore isolated Anasazi communities. Below Mexican Hat, the river winds through the Great Goosenecks. Here the river twists and turns in a thousand-foot chasm. Its convoluted route flows six miles to cover only a mile and a half point to point. Goosenecks State Park on the north rim offers a magnificent view of the Goosenecks' graceful curves."

Published: 31 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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