A DESERT MEANDER

 

THE SAN JUAN

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Government Rapid
Government Rapid

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By: Tyson Wood
Trickling out of the San Juan Mountains, our precious San Juan River makes its way into Pagosa Springs, Colorado all the way to Lake Powell on a 288 mile journey through reservoirs and cities of the Four Corners.  A desert float trip on the San Juan in Utah can start in three locations; Montezuma Creek (102 miles), Sand Island (83 miles), or Mexican Hat (56 miles) to the take out at Clay Hills.  Permits are required when launching from Sand Island and Mexican Hat.  Flows are mainly dictated by Navajo Reservoir, but sporadic rain bursts or snow melts can bump up the CFS for an out of season trip.  As the usual for rivers in the west, the high season for the Juanita (as I call her) is May and June, with great potential during the late summer monsoons.  Floating on this ancient waterway provides boaters a comfortable experience that affords its own challenges.  Overall, the San Juan is a pleasant trip through the rusty desert of southeastern Utah: Abbey country.

**Tip:  Camp and hike on the right… all the time.  Unless you get a permit from the Navajo Nation: available at the 4 Corners Monument and Monument Valley Tribal Park.

 Let’s take a trip down the Juanita out of Bluff, Utah.  Bluff, established by the Ancestral Pueblo, then occupied by Mormon settlers, is now the hub of cool treats, weak beer, the after float burger, art shows, and hot air balloon festivals.  Heading south, you will approach the Sand Island put-in, which provides plenty of camping, and a few displays of rock art (please respect it).  Launch during the high season presents a boat-fest for gear and people; be safe as you look to be checked in by the local ranger.