Government Rapid
Government Rapid

The Upper Juan provides cultural footprints of Ancestral Pueblos and three significant rapids as the river rolls into and out of the canyon.  There are great sandy camps before the canyon at mile 10, while camps within the canyon are few and rocky.  Camps from mile 20 to the takeout are small and are few.  
Sand Island to Mexican Hat


As you leave the boatramp go left to avoid the gravel bar. Immediately you recognize the steady embrace of the Juanita as she carries you off through time. As you pass under the bridge, you start your separation from the world you left in the parking lot. Within your first two miles, you recognize why you chose the San Juan as you gravitate toward the high wall of sandstone and desert varnish. At a slow meander, thewalls uncover traces of the past with toeholds and petroglyphs. If you decide to stop at the Butler Wash panel just after mile 4, please remember that thousands of people visit, and your impact is substantial. Butler Wash gives you an amazing glimpse into hundreds of years of Puebloan communications.  Directly south is Desecration panel on the opposing rock wall (river left). Continue for a couple miles and enjoy a hike to River House Ruin to stretch your legs! Once you arrive at River House… STAY OFF THE WALLS! Be kind to the architecture, it’s not a playground. The trip continues through red rocks, native and invasive plants, and gorgeous views of the river. The fall is a great time, the cottonwoods illuminate the banks.



**Tip:  The Swinging Steak is quite the experience, be sure to double check your final bill.

At mile 10, the canyon immediately rises like the Phoenix in the burning desert.  This new environment gives you just what you came for… another place to drink a beer.  About a half mile into the canyon, beware of “San Juan Falls”, a minimal ripple-ledge that perks your excitement of what comes ahead.  As you approach mile 12 you face the ever present Four-Foot Rapid, stay in the middle, it’s a slight pull to the right at the end to avoid bigger rocks on the left.  Enjoy the canyon; maybe see a bighorn sheep.  Midway camp is a good camp for bigger sized groups, and bocce ball.  After an enjoying ride through the canyon, mile 17 gives you the opportunity to relish in Eight-Foot Rapid.  Scout on the left, or… hug the wall on the right side and then dart down river of the big rock and stay more to the left.  There are certainly rocks to watch out for at you ride the exit into The Narrows.  Not far after you have conquered Eight-Foot, Ledge Rapid awaits for you to bravely trim the right side into a sweet little hole.  Don’t get caught looking at the bighorns on river left.
Around mile 20, you get the option of fossils, while mile 21 allows you to drop off some hikers (river left) to travel over to the other side and meet up around mile 24.  Personally, my favorite moment on this section is between mile 22 and 23. As if Juanita knows the proper speed to unveil Mexican Hat Rock.  You may have that sunken feeling of ‘this is the end’, but the equal feeling of ‘that just happened’.  You can look for a cabin on the left around mile 24.5, just before you round the bend and enter what the local boaters call Satan’s Mullet!  Believe me, the name is much more fierce than the actual ripple itself.  Add low water and drunken apathy, and the Mullet may grab your boat and give you grief.  The two mile long stretch to end your trip can be taken as a quick row filled exit, a lackadaisical hands-free float, or a wind resistant power stroke that lasts forever.  At mile 27, exit right.  A broad take-out allows for another gear and people scat-show that requires awareness to prevent any mishaps!


                  **Tip:  Campsites are few in the canyon: Settle in if you have the inkling.  

**Tips:  Big Stick camp is huge!  Chinle Creek has special gifts for those willing to go for it