The Lower Juanita exposes the ever present beauty of red rock country. This section provides extensive hiking, forgotten dreams of mining, and the death of a free flowing river. There are a lot of exciting adventures within the 56 miles floating into Lake Fowell, I mean Lake Powell. The creator does an amazing job of maintaining incredible views, offering a lost wilderness, and giving us reason to explore the depth of Ed’s country.
Into Gypsum! Quickly the river puts you into Gypsum Rapid, rather moderate read-and-run on the left, and then under the bridge. If you like, exist right, passing under the bridge, and you have a bed to sleep in, a shower to enjoy, or a milkshake to indulge at the motel and restaurant on the edge of Utah proper. As you make the left turn after the bridge, you leave civilization and enter the canyon at a visitor. I once saw a wild pack of donkeys, or were they midget ponies? Just past mile 31, river right gives you an access to Mendenhall’s Cabin on a narrow isthmus of land between the river you came from and the river you are going to. Entering into Goosenecks, boaters get to enjoy the meander of seven miles of river in one air mile. As you exit the Goosenecks at mile 44.5, the Honaker Trail gives another chance for river rats to get out and take a hike up the walls of the canyon, and experience the views of Cedar Mesa and sunsets. Be careful, you may experience civilized folks.
Glen Canyon? Yes… there are still pieces of the canyon available for our generations. As with the Lower San Juan, meander is the trip, and relaxation is the mood. Ross Rapid presents itself before mile 53, caution of the exit, left or right, pending on the flow levels. Personally, I prefer a nice take-out on river right at Ross Rapid camp, climb up on to the edges and find the homage paid to Kenny Ross, one of the many legends haunting the San Juan’s canyons.
Deep Canyons! Welcome to the part of the trip when you realize where all those canyons on the mesas drain. Johns Canyon, Slickhorn Canyon, and Grand Gulch all provide a variety of hikes for boat people to spend a couple hours, or a day, to explore and lead to spectacular places! In one of these canyons I had a chance to strip down and swim in a pool of beautiful crisp waters. Another canyon offers long distant hikes into Puebloan ruins. Most importantly, before mile 64 is Government Rapid. Along with the occasional fly over of a random military jet, Government Rapid at low water can provide some boaters an experience to remember, like having to leave your dory because it is wedged in between a pair of rocks. Government: start right, cross to the left in the middle, and back to the right on the finish. Many maps will identify Slickhorn Rapid as a class II, but I haven’t seen it since it was a ripple in 2001. At the turn of Slickhorn, you can now enjoy the accident called Lake Fowell.
Into the lake! If I may… The only gems in this 16 mile stretch of sand obstacles are the awesomely smooth sandstone walls and Oljeto Wash camp. Oljeto, from my understanding, means moon light in the water. If you get the chance, explore the canyon at night, explore it deep, and explore it with respect. Oljeto holds a special power that pulls the richest of emotions out of an individual. This canyon is another great bocce course, if you like that sort of thing. At mile 81, you may find yourself exhausted of trying to find the channel, it’s okay, you made it this far, you are at the home stretch. For me, if you have not grown a hatred for the lake, then I’m not sure you are paying any attention. Keep in mind, you just passed over many lost rapids, buried campsites, and layers upon layers of sediment that has been piling up in a short 50 some years. Just like the take-out at Mexican Hat, Clay Hills is a long, slow stretch of water with the additional weaving of sand dunes within the river. Take-out on the right. Go no further, or you may drop over some water falls at Piute Farms.