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 four 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 recent 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.

Book This Trip

Trip Overview

  • Type:


  • Location:

    Four Corners Region

  • Length:

    4 Days

  • Dates:

    June 13–16th, 2020

  • Meet at:

    Super 8, Blanding, Utah @ 8:00 pm (night before the trip)

  • Difficulty:


  • Min. Age:


  • Deposit:



  • Six days for maximum exporation and relaxation
  • See the San Juan's famous Goosenecks—from the bottom!
  • Easy, fun whitewater
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

4 Day

  • Adult:
  • $940
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $840
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $880
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $880
Book This Trip
Check Availability
  • June 13-16


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:

Please plan to attend our pre-trip meeting at the Super 8 hotel in Blanding, Utah, at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time. This is when we’ll issue your dry bags for the trip, giving you plenty of time to pack in the comfort of your hotel. We’ll do some quick introductions and make sure that everything is ready to go for the following morning.

Day 1:

Your rafting adventure on the San Juan River truly begins the following morning. Meet us back at the Super 8 for the one-hour scenic ride to the put in near the small town of Mexican Hat, Utah. Our first stop on the river could be an optional hike to the cabin built in 1894 by prospector Walter Mendenhall, one of many whose dreams of riches were dashed by the San Juan. We’ll descend into the famed Goosenecks of the San Juan, watching for the great blue herons that seem to lead the way into the labyrinth.

Day 2:

Start the day with an invigorating hike up the Honaker Trail, a relic of the 1892 gold rush. The reward for those who put forth this 1,200-foot vertical effort is an unforgettable view of Monument Valley. We’ll push off into the swift current and meander along with the river through the layered canyon rocks, play in good, clean mud, and run through Ross Rapid.

Day 3:

Today we’ll watch out for the Government Bird Rock, perched on the canyon wall, our signal that Government Rapid is approaching. Later in the day we’ll wander up Slickhorn Gulch to a hidden grotto and swimming hole. Make certain to scrub off in the river before hiking to the pool—sunscreen and other chemicals on our skin disrupt the fragile ecosystem of the freshwater pool.We’ll make camp and enjoy one last river dinner at the mouth of one of the iconic side canyons along the lower river.

Day 4:

Golden morning light reflecting on sandstone walls will usher us downstream, past Oljeto Wash and into the sandbar-studded upper reaches of Lake Powell. We’ll dodge and weave our way to the take out at Clay Hills Crossing, soaking up the last precious moments of river time. We’ll load up the boats and gear and our vans will carry you the final two hours back to Blanding, Utah. Our expected time of arrival in Blanding is between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m..

One of the advantages of our San Juan River trip is the flexibility of the daily itinerary. It can vary widely from one trip to the next based on group desires, seasonal water flows, weather, campsite availability, and courtesy for other groups on the river. This sample itinerary illustrates a 4-day trip on the San Juan River.

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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