Raft the Upper San Juan

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Added by Jenna Mulligan

Running from Bluff to Mexican Hat, the Upper San Juan is a gentle stretch of river winding through the landscape of monument valley.

The "Upper" San Juan is about 27 miles of river, and can be completed in a 2-4 day float. It is a permitted river, and trips launching between April 15 - July 15 obtain permits through a lottery draw negotiated on https://www.recreation.gov/. Applications for this lottery are accepted through the December and January preceding the trip.

The maximum number of people on one permit group is 25, and dogs are not permitted to join these river trips.

There is drinking water available at the boat launch at Sand Island river access, two miles south of Bluff. There are shuttle services available, or groups can run their own shuttle to Mexican Hat, a drive which takes about an hour round-trip. Parking at the Mexican Hat take-out costs $5 per day, and is purchased inside the small convenience store.

Once floating, boats will pass through an arid stretch of cottonwoods, swallow-inhabited rock walls, and sandy beaches. On river right, Moki Steps are visible, and several side-hikes lead to petroglyphs from the Ancestral Puebloans. Remember to be respectful of these areas and leave no trace!

Camping is only allowed on river right, and several sites are listed on maps as well as visible from the raft. All beaches and camping on the river left are off-limits unless the group has purchased a permit from the Navajo Nation.

 There are two rapids in this stretch, considered Class II and Class III, requiring intermediate boating skills to navigate. 

After about 12 miles, canyon walls ascend around the river. Typically, nights in the canyon are warmer and slightly more windy. For the second half of this segment of the river, you will likely see big horn sheep, many hawks, osprey, and herons, and occasionally -beavers!

You'll recognize that the trip is almost over when you can see the infamous rock formation that produced the name Mexican Hat. In the last several miles, the river is often very shallow.

 

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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