San Juan River History Trip with Andrew Gulliford

This year’s San Juan River naturalist trip features Dr. Andrew Gulliford, historian, author, and emphatic supporter of public lands. Spend five days floating and learning to see the landscape through the eyes of an expert historian. Discover the stories behind the scenery.

The San Juan holds a special place in our hearts; it is a refuge from an arid desert, a vibrant source of life amidst red-rock spires, rocky ridges, and buttes. Humans have made their home in this river corridor for thousands of years, and have left their mark in countless ways. From prospector’s long forgotten relics, to the rugged Honaker Trail, it’s clear that we are only the most recent in a long line of humans to be drawn to this place.

“Rivers are where all the history happened,” Dr. Gulliford says. “They’re where all the rock art exists, where humans have been for roughly 10,000–11,000 years”. Join us this summer on our San Juan River naturalist trip. Add your family’s history to this rich river corridor.

Check out more about Dr. Gulliford in his interview with Holiday!  Or, visit his website.

Want to know more about the San Juan itself? We’ve got an Insider’s Guide for that.

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Trip Overview

  • Type:


  • Location:

    Four Corners Region

  • Length:

    5 Days

  • Dates:

    June 10–14, 2021

  • Meet at:

    Arch Canyon Inn, Utah @ 8:00 pm (night before the trip)

  • Difficulty:


  • Min. Age:


  • Deposit:



  • Watch the river come alive with stories from its rich history
  • See the San Juan's famous Goosenecks—from the bottom!
  • Easy, fun whitewater
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

5 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,055
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,055
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,055
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,055
Book This Trip
Check Availability
  • June 10-14


The San Juan is a vibrant strip of green in an otherwise parched, red rock landscape. It slips through the dramatic rocky uplifts, mesas, and buttes of the Four Corners Region, flowing from east to west. The most common place to start a river trip is at Sand Island, near Bluff, Utah. Float past the town of Mexican Hat, Utah, and then into the lower gorge. Take out at Clay Hills, within view of Navajo Mountain.

Sample Itinerary

The night before your trip:

We’ll meet at the Arch Canyon Inn in Blanding, Utah, for a pre-trip meeting at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). Pick up your dry bags and meet your guides and fellow passengers. This meeting lets us take care of all the final details so that we can get on the river that much faster the next morning.

Day 1:

Meet back at the Super 8 the following morning, where we’ll hop into our vans and travel for 45 minutes to the Sand Island put-in. Spend the day encountering archaeological sites representing five distinct cultures of indigenous peoples. See pictographs, petroglyphs, and hand-hewn steps in the canyon walls. Investigate elegantly designed Ancestral Puebloan ruins before descending through Comb Ridge.

Day 2:

Pass through the settlement of Mexican Hat, then wave at visitors on the rim of the Goosenecks, hundreds of feet above. Climb up to Mendenhall’s cabin, home to an determined gold prospector in the late 1800s. Camp at the foot of the Honaker Trail, another relic from the gold rush in 1892; hike up before dinner for an unforgettable view of the river canyon and Monument Valley.

Day 3:

Small rapids and soaring walls are on tap this morning. Choose to float silently as a group, letting all of your senses come to life and open to the sensations of the canyon. Take a ride through Ross Rapid and roll into camp in time for lasagna dinner at our very own river-front restaurant.

Day 4:

The biggest rapid of the trip, Government Rapid, will splash off our morning. We’ll lunch at Slickhorn Gulch, one of the most celebrated side canyons along the lower San Juan. Be sure to scrub off in the river before hiking to the secluded, lush swimming hole—sunscreen and other oils disrupt the fragile ecosystem of the freshwater pool.

Day 5:

The canyon walls begin to descend around us until we are surrounded by smooth, golden Cedar Mesa sandstone. We may explore Oljeto Wash and play in the mud at its mouth before pushing on through the sandbars and riffles of the lower canyon. Our vans await at Clay Hills, our take-out, and we’ll wave farewell to the river as we climb out of the drainage and across the rugged topography of the Monument Upwarp, back to Blanding, Utah, between 4:00–5:00 p.m.

Please keep in mind that this is a sample itinerary. Your trip may include different hikes and attractions. This is meant to provide one possible example of how you may spend your time. Five days will give you plenty of opportunities to see any number of interesting things. We invite you to embrace the expeditionary nature of a river trip in the wilderness and arrive with an open mind and a willingness to go with the flow!

Every trip on the San Juan River will be a little bit different. Itineraries will vary based on group desires, seasonal water flows, weather, campsite availability, and the need to share the river with other groups. Remember, there’s a good reason why Holiday’s motto is “Go With the Flow”!


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