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Trip

Whitewater Packraft - San Juan River

Join us for a fun week of packrafting and exploring the red-rock canyon of Utah's San Juan River

  • Class II River, Class III River
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 83.4 mi

Put in is at the Sand Island Launch, 4 miles SW of Bluff, UT. We plan to camp at the Sand Island Campground the night before launch. Take out is at the Clay Hills boat ramp. More detail on our meeting place and time, and arrangements for the car shuttle, will be provided closer to the launch date.

Overview

In addition to the boating, there is much to explore outside of the boat in the scenic canyon and its side canyons: some of the greatest petroglyph panels in the Southwest; Puebloan cliff-dwelling ruins (notably the White House ruin); interesting geologic and geographic features (e.g., the Goosenecks of the San Juan, a perched meander, the Mule’s Ear Diatreme); extensive hiking opportunities in side canyons (such as Slickhorn Canyon and Grand Gulch) and on trails (such as the historic Honaker Trail to the canyon rim), and abundant habitat for bighorn sheep and other desert mammals and birds.

River Difficulty

The San Juan has several Class II rapids (Four Foot at mile 11.7, Eight-foot at mile 17.2, Ledge at mile 19.3, Gypsum Creek at mile 27.4, Ross at mile 52.7, and Slickhorn at mile 66.6), and one Class III rapid (Government at mile 63.7).

Expenses

Shared trip expenses include:

  • River permit fees: $6/group application fee and a $30/person fee.
  • If we run the car shuttle ourselves the day before launch, round-trip driving time between Bluff and Clay Hills is between 4 and 5 hr. Alternatively, shuttle services are available (currently about $240/vehicle from Sand Island to Clay Hills) if we choose to use one.
  • The night before our launch date we plan to camp at Sand Island Recreation Area. Campsites are first-come, first-served, hold 8 people and 2 vehicles, and are $15.
  • If we plan to hike in Navajo Nation Land (left bank of river from Mile 0 to Mile 72), permits are $15/day/person. Most hiking is on river right.

How to Join

Read through the river and trip description above. If the trip interests you and you feel the trip is within your ability, then read through the goals, expectations and style, below, for more on what the trip will be like. If you agree with those, first contact the trip leader to discuss before signing up.

Goals

  • Be welcoming to all members of the Mountaineers packraft community including those relatively new to packraft trips
  • Be safe: Make decisions with risk management in mind
  • Have fun and enjoy being on the trip regardless of conditions, which could be cold and snowy or warm and sunny
  • Enjoy one another’s company and create a positive culture of mutual supportiveness, respect, and kindness
  • Explore archaeological sites, side canyons, and other places of interest
  • Make it safely to our cars at the take-out
  • At trip end everyone feels their trip goals were met

Expectations

  • Actively contribute to achieving the group’s goals
  • Participate in group decisions and abide by decisions made by the group or the leader
  • Spend 7 days in your boat, covering about 5 - 20 miles/day
  • Be able to assess whether you can safely paddle versus portage a rapid
  • When river conditions are more difficult, maintain group awareness and positioning to help one another
  • Don’t take risks, on or off the river, that other group members don’t support

Style

  • Daily routine will be to get up about when the sun hits camp for warmth, have a relaxed breakfast, be on the water mid-morning, camp by 3pm-5pm, have time for relaxed evening
  • We'll spend a significant amount of time outside of our boats exploring side canyons, archaeological sites, and other features of interest
  • Decision-making will be collaborative and by consensus whenever possible
  • Planning some shared meals or meal items is encouraged but everyone is free to plan food as they wish
  • No fires
Route/Place
Roster
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

Minimum Equipment for each participant 

  • Packraft, with grab lines on bow and stern
  • Paddle, sized for a packraft
  • Life jacket, PFD Class III or better
  • Whitewater helmet
  • Drysuit or wetsuit
  • Closed-toe shoes, no sandals
  • Spare clothing
  • Boat repair kit
  • Waterproof Whistle
  • Minimum Equipment for the party

Minimum Equipment for the party 

  • Rescue rope and throw bag, one or more as needed for the trip 
  • Spare paddle, one or more
  • First Aid kit
Trip Reports