Lower San Juan River Trip: 5 Days

Location Utah Adventure Level Easier Minimum age 6 River Rating Class II (with one Class III) From $1399
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

Explore the convoluted and towering Goosenecks of the Lower San Juan, hike into hidden canyons, camp on secluded beaches, and enjoy some of the best stargazing in the country on this spring float trip.

A rafting journey down the Class II San Juan River in Utah takes you to a place of surreal beauty and vibrancy, hundreds of millions of years in the making. A calm, congenial river, the San Juan offers a relaxing rafting trip through a red rock labyrinth livened up by paddling fun, easy rapids. This is a chance to explore one of the most complex canyons in the Colorado Plateau as you zigzag over seven miles through the impressive Goosenecks of the Lower San Juan, where dramatic walls tower up to 1,000 feet in places. The stunning sights don’t end there. As you head downstream you’re treated to glimpses of other rocky wonders like Cedar Mesa, Cowboy Hat, and Eagle Rock, Native American ruins hidden atop cliffs, bighorn sheep grazing along the shore, and brilliant star-filled desert skies. And just when you think the San Juan River can’t get any better, a stop to explore Slickhorn Gulch provides a refreshing dip in natural plunge pools and other hidden surprises nestled in this beautiful side canyon. Join us for five days of outdoor adventure in southeastern Utah.

Trip Highlights
  • Easy floating & gentle rapids perfect for inflatable kayaking
  • 1200-foot canyon walls & fascinating geology
  • Raft the meandering river through Goosenecks State Park
  • Take a refreshing dip in slickrock pools
  • Camp on pristine, secluded beaches

What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Lower San Juan River trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip

We’ll meet this evening at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat, Utah, for a pre-trip meeting. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and guides, and ask any last-minute questions.

Day 1

We begin our day with a very short drive to our put-in at Mexican Hat, where your boats and your OARS crew await. After a thorough safety talk, our journey begins. We peacefully float for a few hours, getting to know our fellow travelers and soaking in the majesty of our surroundings.

The first day generally sets the pace for our river trip. Typically, we spend a few hours on the water in the morning, sometimes stopping for a great hike, a visit to a historic prospectors cabin, or a refreshing swim.

At lunchtime, we pull over to a sandy beach and enjoy a delicious picnic. After feasting and relaxing on the beach (or perhaps swimming, a game of Frisbee, or a nature walk), we get back in our boats and watch the desert panoramas slowly develop and change as we peacefully float down the river.

Mid- to late afternoon, we stop and make camp; you grab your bags and set up your tent while the guides take care of the kitchen and “living room”— camp chairs and the site for tonight’s campfire (if permitted). This is the perfect time for you to lounge on the beach with that book you’ve wanted to finish. Read, nap, or just sit back and laugh with friends and family as we prepare dinner. Before long you’ll be savoring pleasing hors d’oeuvres and the beverage of your choice—delicious as these refreshments are, they always taste better after a day on the river!   After a satisfying feast, the evening is yours to spend however you wish. Maybe music, stories, or jokes will bring us together tonight; maybe the popping of the fire, the whisper of the river, and the clarity of the big, star-filled sky will encourage silent reflection on the amazing wilderness that is, for now, our home.

Days 2 – 4

Your day begins as the morning light turns the cliff walls the colors of sunrise. Fresh coffee and tea are waiting for you when you get up; grab a cup, sit back, and take in the glory of the awakening river. Soon breakfast is served—omelets made to order, blueberry pancakes, sizzling bacon, fresh fruit, toast, and juice are among the treats you indulge in each morning. Once you’ve eaten your fill, you pack up your things as the guides break down camp, and then our new day’s adventure begins.

As the San Juan carries us further into this majestic geological corridor, we begin to see evidence of the earth’s activity—slow and steady, or sudden and violent—over the course of its 300-plus-million-year existence. After winding our way through the fascinating Goosenecks, we’re treated to glimpses of rocky wonders like Cedar Mesa, Cowboy Hat, and Eagle Rock. Beneath this stretch of river lie extensive oil fields, and at lower water levels, we may be able to see the very oil seeps where the Ancestral Puebloans may have gathered this precious resource for fuel and medicine. All along, we keep watch for bighorn sheep near the water.

Our trip is certainly not devoid of whitewater, and this stretch of river delivers excitement with rapids such as Ross and Government.

A favorite activity on the San Juan is a visit to Slickhorn Gulch for a much-needed swim in its natural plunge pools. This beautiful canyon holds many hidden surprises, including fossils, maidenhair ferns, and waterfalls.

Day 5

Our trip draws to a close as we reach the Clay Hills boat ramp. Feeling as if we’ve temporarily left our modern age for the past four days, and having grown so close to our guides and fellow travelers, the shuttle ride back to Mexican Hat and “civilization” is bittersweet. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that although we’ve left the river, the river will never leave us.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

San Juan Inn, Hwy 163 and the San Juan River, Mexican Hat, UT 84531

Meeting time

7 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

Approximately 4:00-5:30 PM

Dates & Prices

Save $100 on 2024 departures when you’re one of the first to book by March 31 and request “Premier Pricing” over the phone.

2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
May 7$1,499$1,399
Book Now

Deposit

$400

Additional Costs

• $20 per person BLM Special Area Fee
• Sleep Kit $40 | Tent included

Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

Premier Pricing

Save up to 10% (or more) on most domestic trips when you’re one of the first 4 people to book by March 31st!

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled professional guide service
  • All meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on the last day
  • Expedition equipment, including highest quality rafts, 2-person shared tent, personal flotation device (PFD), helmet, waterproof bags, camp chair, as well as eating utensils and plates
  • Transfers from San Juan Inn to the river and back
  • Wetsuit–weather dependent (does not include wetsuit booties, or footwear of any kind). For clients with a high interest in using the inflatable kayaks, we will bring a limited supply of wetsuits. If you have your own, please feel free to bring it with you.

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Transportation to and from Mexican Hat, Utah
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
  • Sleeping bag & a deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad (available for rent)
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Gratuities

The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. 

Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: Oar raft, inflatable kayak, SUP

During the high-water season use of inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddleboards will be at the guides’ discretion.

After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire-line of crew and guests to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. 

While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.

As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.

In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast.

After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up. Once the guides have all of the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.

More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.

Average Air & Water Temperatures

Air (Day) °FAir (Night) °FWater °F
May814655

Water Levels & Temperature

The flow of the San Juan River varies according to snowmelt and reservoir releases from the Navajo Dam. Because the whitewater is generally moderate, higher or lower flows do not considerably change the experience. Peak flows usually occur between mid-May and mid-June, but can vary widely from early May and into July. Water temperatures are coldest during the high water period and rain gear and warm synthetic clothing will be required.

Whitewater

Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.

  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. If you are reserving within 60 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reservations and Deposits

A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking with final payment due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency. Your payment is fully refundable for 48 hours, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to departure.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below.

We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation Fee
180 or more days before your trip$50/person
179 – 90 days before your trip$100/person
89 – 60 days before your trip$200/person, balance available as a limited-time trip credit valid through the end of the following season
59 days or less before your tripFull Fare

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.

If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.

Transfers

If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.

O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Inc. operates on the San Juan River as a permitted outfitter of the Bureau of Land Management

Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement

We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the San Juan River between Mexican Hat and Clay Hills Crossing, we acknowledge the territories of the Southern Paiute, Ute, Pueblo, Hopi, and the Navajo Nation.

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