San Juan Full Canyon River Rafting
About This Trip
Pound for pound, the San Juan is one of the fastest moving rivers in the United States, dropping an average of eight feet per mile. Sandstone and limestone walls frame the narrow canyon as the river snakes through the countless goosenecks for which it is famous. The left bank of the river borders the present day Navajo Nation, while filled with sacred sites from the ancient pueblo civilizations of the past. Scores of ancestral sites and petroglyphs line the canyon walls. This river also boasts the birthplace of commercial river running in 1938 when Norman Nevils began operating trips from Mexican Hat through the Grand Canyon.
The San Juan, with a lot of small rapids, perfect for children, is especially known for sand waves which appear to rise from nowhere due to shifting sand on the bottom of this fast moving stream. These make for a particularly thrilling ride in an inflatable kayak.
-Dee Holladay, Holiday River’s 1975 Reconnaissance Trip
Day One: Begin your adventure in Blanding, Utah and spend a 45 minute breathtaking ride to Sand Island put-in. Spend the day encountering sign after sign of 5 distinct cultures of indigenous ancestor’s presence in the form of pictographs, petroglyphs and hand-carved steps in the canyon walls. Investigate elegantly designed Ancestral Puebloan ruins before descending through Comb Ridge.
Day Two: Pass through the settlement of Mexican Hat before traversing the famed Goosenecks of the San Juan. Take an optional hike to the 1894 prospector cabin of infamous gold prospector Walter Mendenhall. Rest easy this evening after hiking the Honaker Trail, a relic of the “1892 gold rush”. The reward for those who put forth this 1200-foot vertical effort is an unforgettable view of Monument Valley.
Day Three: This morning you will float through layered canyons, play in good clean mud and take in the depths of the serpentine canyon walls. Take a ride through Ross rapid and find camp in the paradox walls below.
Day Four: The morning will bring Government Rapid. The afternoon will give you a chance to meander up Slickhorn Gulch, one of the most celebrated side canyons along the Colorado river drainage. The trail will take you to a hidden grotto and swimming hole. We will make camp at one of the iconic side canyons nestled in this lower drainage.
Day Five: This final stretch could lead us to peer inside Oljeto Wash and its magical side canyon and continue across what remnants of “Lake” Powell to the take out at Clay Hills Crossing. You will transfer to a two-hour scenic van ride back to Blanding, Utah.
As mentioned earlier, this is a sample itinerary and should not be thought of as the trip you will experience. It is intended to give an idea of what the trip will be like. It could also be exactly what you do. Keep an open mind, be flexible, go with the flow, and enjoy!
When you arrive in Blanding the day before your trip, there will be a pre-trip orientation meeting at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). We will meet you in the parking lot just outside the Stone Lizard Lodging. Your trip leader and other members of the crew will give you a short orientation on all aspects of river travel. At this time we will issue your waterproof bags and answer any questions you may have.
Beginning of the trip: On the morning of your trip, plan to meet promptly at 7:00 a.m. (Mountain Time) at the Stone Lizard Lodging. We will then take a 30-minute van ride to Sand Island, where we will transfer to the boats and start the trip.
After the trip: We will disembark at Clay Hills Crossing where you will travel by van back to Blanding, Utah. Our expected time of arrival back at the Stone Lizard Lodging is 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Medical emergencies: Our guides are trained in first aid and carry first aid supplies only. REMEMBER to bring your own prescription medicines. ALERT our guides to any medical problem you might have such as diabetes or allergic reactions. Wilderness expeditions are a long way from hospitals, doctors, and pain-relieving medicines. Evacuations to modern medical care are uncertain, and protracted. In case of evacuation and/or medical treatment beyond first aid, expenses incurred are the responsibility of the participant.
Cancellation Policy: If cancellations are made prior to 90 days before the trip, monies will be refunded less a $50.00 service charge per person. If cancellations are made within 90 days and outside of 60 days of the trip date monies will be refunded less a $100.00 service charge per person. Cancellations made within 60 days of the trip date are non refundable. Prior to 60 days to the trip date we will transfer reservations to another trip in the same year with a $25.00 service charge per person. All policies will be enforced and we strongly recommend trip cancellation insurance. Cancellation of a trip is very unlikely, but we reserve the right to cancel any trip due to river or weather conditions or the lack of sufficient reservations. A full refund will be made if such is the case.
Insurance: Medical Evacuation and cancellation insurance on a vacation plan can be obtained from numerous insurance companies. You should be aware that medical evacuations in the backcountry can easily cost $10,000 and up. You are responsible for these potential expenses and we strongly encourage all guests to have this coverage. We offer plans by TRAVEL GUARD that cover evacuation, baggage and cancellation claims. It is available to American and Canadian citizens, as well as citizens of another country as long as you have a U.S. address. For a quote or questions give us a call or include Your Names, Birth Dates in an Email and we will send a quote. Also, if you are bringing expensive cameras, binoculars, or other items we suggest you have insurance coverage for them (commonly available through Homeowners Policies). In the event of a loss, our insurance will not cover those items.
Tipping the guides: If you feel the guides have been instrumental in your enjoyment of the trip, you may choose to direct a gratuity to the trip leader in the form of cash or check. They will then distribute it evenly to the other crewmembers. The average contribution amount ranges between $20.00 and $30.00 per guest, per day. Cash is the preferred method of tipping.
Beverages: We provide ice water, lemonade, one soda per day per person and ample cooler space. If you choose to bring any specialty sodas and/or alcoholic beverages, we have no problem taking whatever you want to bring – within reason. Don’t bring beer, wine coolers or sodas in glass containers. Wine packaged in a box is ideal. Mark beverages that you bring so they are packed on your boat. Alcoholic beverages will need to be purchased prior to your arrival in Blanding. Please Note: There is no liquor, wine, beer, or wine coolers sold or served in Blanding, Utah.
If you have any questions prior to leaving for your trip, we welcome you to call our Salt Lake City office, Monday through Friday at 800-624-6323 (outside Utah) or 801-266-2087 (inside Utah). We’re happy to take the time to answer your questions. You may also contact us by email at [email protected]
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS THE NIGHT BEFORE THE TRIP, OUR GREEN RIVER HEADQUARTERS NUMBER IS 435-564-3273
Bugs, snakes, etc. are generally no problem. In fact, the lack of pesky insects is one of the reasons wilderness camping on the river is so pleasant. Any river trip, however, is subject to an occasional localized insect hatch. During these hatches (most common in June) mosquitoes can be bothersome. Be sure to bring long sleeve clothing and repellent. Insect repellents that contain “deet” are by far the most effective during heavy hatches. Citronella-based products work only in light hatches. We rarely see any snakes, but if the thought of them bothers you, try sleeping on the beaches or in a tent instead of rocky or bushy areas.
Hiking is a highlight of the trip, however, it is strictly an optional activity. There are many interesting short hikes available. Hiking can be done in durable sneakers or lightweight hiking boots. Remember that hiking and other activities vary widely pending time, and what other plans are ahead for the day on the river.
Things to see in the area: The Edge of the Cedars Anasazi Museum & State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Bears Ears National Monument including Dark Canyon Wilderness area, Comb Ridge and Grand Gulch Wilderness area; La Sal and Henry Mountains, Newspaper Rock, Hovenweep National Monument, Monument Valley, Navajo National Monument, San Juan Goosenecks State Park, Mesa Verde National Park.
Reading material, you may enjoy:
San Juan River Guide – Lisa Kearsley………………………………………………… $17.95
Life in Stone – Christa Sadler……………………………………………………………. $11.95
The Educated Outlaw – Harvey Lay Murdock (Grandson)…………………….. $10.95
These books can be ordered online at www.bikeraft.com, or by sending the appropriate amount listed above plus $5.60 priority shipping to Holiday River Expeditions, 544 East 3900 South, SLC UT 84107. This is available within the U.S. only. If outside the U.S. additional shipping and handling charges will be added. You can call 801-266-2087 for rates.
If you are flying, you can fly to Salt Lake City located 310 miles northwest of Blanding or 398 miles of Bluff, Utah. From there you can rent a car or take a shuttle with Moab Luxury Coach (call 435-940-4212 or www.moabluxurycoach.com) to Blanding, Utah. If you need assistance with your travel arrangements, please ask your Holiday River Expedition reservation agent.
Lodging before and after your trip can be booked at:
- Stone Lizard Lodging 435-678-3323 (locally owned, suites available)
- Gateway Inn Motel 435-678-2278 (locally owned, outdoor pool, continental breakfast)
- Four Corners Inn 435-678-3257 (continental breakfast)
- Super 8 435‑678‑3880 (indoor hot tub)
BE SURE TO MAKE ADVANCE RESERVATIONS!
If you are camping out, there is one campground in Blanding: the Kampark Campground (RV with full hookups & tent sites – 435-678-2770). There are also four Forest Service campgrounds in the Abajo Mountains 15 to 30 miles north of Blanding.
Air Service to Salt Lake City (SLC)
- Air Canada 888-247-2262
- Alaska Airlines 800-252-7522
- American Airlines 800-433-7300
- Delta Air Lines 800-221-1212
- Frontier Airlines 800-432-1359
- JetBlue Airways 800-538-2583
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 800-618-0104
- SkyWest Airlines 800-453-9417
- Southwest Airlines 800-435-9792
- United Airlines 800-241-6522
TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS FROM SALT LAKE CITY to Green River, Vernal or Blanding, Utah
Once in Salt Lake City most of our guests rent-a-car and drive to our meeting points.
All rental cars are located in both terminals of the Salt Lake City Airport.
- Alamo 801-575-2211
- Avis 801-575-2847
- Budget 801-575-2821
- Dollar 801-575-2580
- Enterprise 801-537-7433
- Firefly 801-531-3563
- Hertz 801-575-2683
- National 801-575-2277
- Payless 801-322-6330
- Thrifty 801-265-6677
- Salt Lake City to Green River 180 miles
- Salt Lake City to Blanding 300 miles
- Salt Lake City to Vernal 180 miles
To Green River Only (Bus has limited schedule and is not as convenient as rental cars)
Shuttle Service to Green River or Blanding, Utah from Salt Lake City or Moab (Vernal is on a Charter basis only)
|Location:||Four Corners Region|
|Dates:||May – June|
|Meet At:||Blanding, Utah 7:00 am|
Adult – $975
Youth – $875 (18 & Under)
Senior – $910 (65 & Older)
Group – $910 (10 or more)
Plus $42 Agency fees
5 Day Trip Dates
May 10, 17, 24, 31
June 7, 14
Large Waterproof Bag
Eating Utencils & Plates
Full Course Meals: Lunch the first day through
lunch the last day
Drinks: Ice Water, Lemonade, Juices, One pop/person/day-mix of regular & diet
The day bag 8″ diameter x 20″ high is for items you will need access to during the day. For your sleeping gear and clothing, we will furnish you with one bag 16″ diameter x 2 feet high. When properly sealed, bags are usually waterproof. Once in a while, one could develop a leak, so we always recommend packing important items in ziplock bags and leaving expensive electronics at home. Separate storage is provided for tents and beverages. Please remember to keep your gear light and compact. The less you bring, the happier you will be. Please limit gear to no more than 15-20 lbs.
What’s NOT Included
Plastic mugs work well
Not included in the rental kit
Compact and warm
high quality important for Dinosaur & Desolation trips.
Sleeping Pad/Air Mattress
Compact, must fit in the provided bag
Back packer style, not the bulky, heavy types
You can rent most of the items listed above in our sleeping rental kit. We offer two varieties, our basic sleeping kit which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain gear and cup for $40.00, or the same basic sleeping kit with a two-person tent for $65.00. Rentals must be reserved in advance, especially on the San Juan trips where we meet away from our headquarters. Rentals requested the morning of the trip are subject to availability. Cups and water bottles available for purchase at our stores in Green River and Vernal Headquarters, or online.