Upper San Juan River Rafting

About This Trip

A perfect starting place for any new river visitor; the upper San Juan wanders through astounding red rock landscapes and abruptly dives into the center of Comb Ridge the greater Monument Upwarp.  This trip takes you through exquisitely maintained ancestral puebloan sacred sites, where we can learn from ancestors embedded in stone.  Play in sand-waves and class I-II whitewater or get bogged down in the natural mud-baths; this river invites the child within!


  • Explore slickrock and prehistoric Indian ruins
  • Classic Southern Utah desert environment, warm water
  • Perfect rafting for children and inflatable kayaks
The first time I went down the San Juan was with a group of boatmen. It was hard to read the map because the scenery was so amazing . . . the water was moving so fast. It made us dizzy because our heads were busy snapping from one side of the river to the other to see the next scenic attraction.
 -Dee Holladay, Holiday River’s 1975 Reconnaissance Trip
One of the advantages of a river trip is the flexibility of the daily itinerary. It can vary widely from one trip to the next based on group desires, Mother Nature, and courtesy for other groups on the river. This typical itinerary illustrates a four-day trip on the San Juan River. The three and four day itineraries vary based on the seasonal water flows in May and June. For specifics on your trip’s date and itinerary please ask your reservationist.

Day One: Meet your group in Bluff, Utah where you will take a short ride to Sand Island put-in.  This upper stretch of the trip is simply covered with over 5 distinct indigenous cultures providing signs of their existence in pictographs, petroglyphs, & hand-carved steps along the canyon walls. Spend the night near “River House”, an incredible Ancestral Puebloan site showcasing the elegant design of their ancient civilizations.

Day Two: Depart this morning flanking Comb Ridge, one of the longest running uplifts in the region, and then follow the river as its cuts into the ridgelines heart.  Prince’s plume and tufted Yucca wave at you from talus slopes as you careen through winding canyons and sand-wave rapids before resting for the evening near Limestone draw.

Day Three: Break camp and float by the iconic “Mexican Hat” rock formation, a precarious Hoodoo with a likening to a sombrero.  Enjoy your last few hours with the wildlife before arriving at Mexican Hat take-out where we will meet our vans for a 45 minute drive back to Bluff, 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!

We meet for your trip in Bluff (3-day), Utah.  If you are driving, your car can be left at the Desert Rose Inn & Cabins in Bluff.  Departure time is 7:00 a.m. (Mountain Time), and so it is important that you attend our pre-trip orientation the night before your trip.

When you arrive in Bluff 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 Desert Rose Inn & Cabins. 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 Desert Rose Inn & Cabins.  We will then take a 5-minute van ride to Sand Island where we will transfer to the boats and start the trip.

After the trip: We will disembark at Mexican Hat where you will travel by van back to Bluff, Utah.  Our expected time of arrival back at the Desert Rose Inn & Cabins is 3:00 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. 

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]


San Juan Weather: In May, June and July the daytime temperatures are 80 to 100 degrees, with nighttime temperatures 50 to 75 degrees. This is the time of year that swimming in the river becomes a popular activity.  This seems hot, but remember the humidity is very low.  There will be an abundance of sun, so bring a hat and plenty of suntan lotion and/or sunscreens. *Please avoid spray on sun-screen for the health and safety of your guide and fellow-guests

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 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 Bluff, 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:

Desert Rose Inn & Cabins 435-672-2303 (locally owned) http://www.desertroseinn.com/
Recapture Lodge               435-672-2281 (locally owned, outdoor pool, breakfast) http://www.recapturelodge.com/


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)


Rental Cars

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.

  • Salt Lake City to Green River 180 miles
  • Salt Lake City to Blanding 398 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 Bluff, Utah from Salt Lake City or Moab (Vernal is on a Charter basis only)

Trip Overview

Location: Four Corners Region
Type: Rafting
Length: 3 Days
Dates: May – June
Meet At: Bluff, UT 8:00 AM
Rating: Beginner
Age Min: 5
Deposit: $300

Trip Prices

3-Day Adult – $800
Youth – $700 (18 & under)
Group – $750 (10 or more)
Senior – $750 (65 & older)

+ $22 Agency Fee

Departure Dates

3 Day Trip Dates

May 10, 17, 24,31
June 7, 14

Check Availability

What’s Included

Life Jacket
Large Waterproof Bag
Day Bag
Camp Chair
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
Water Bottle
Not included in the rental kit
Sleeping Bag
Compact and warm
Poncho/Rain Suit
high quality important for Dinosaur & Desolation trips.
Sleeping Pad/Air Mattress
Compact, must fit in the provided bag
Light Tent:
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.


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