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Great Northern Whitewater Resort/Glacier River School
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Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe
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site home  :: self guided home  :: U.S. river guide  :: Rivers in Utah  :: San Juan River Utah  :: Bluff to Mexican Hat Kayak & Canoe Touring

Bluff to Mexican Hat Kayak & Canoe Touring on the San Juan River

View larger map of Bluff to Mexican Hat & get directions
Click 'Earth' to fly through the canyon!
Bluff to Mexican Hat Info
Use this information at your own risk. See our legal notices.
Put In:  Sand Island
Take Out:  Mexican Hat
Difficulty:  Class I , Class II
Gradient:  5 ft/mi to 12 ft/mi
Run Length:  27 miles
Current Streamflow:  645 cfs @ 12/14/2016 11:30 AM - SAN JUAN RIVER NEAR BLUFF, UT, reading taken from USGS
Good Level:  500-8000 cfs
Season Comments:  January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
Primary Season: 

The San Juan usually peaks in June and in drought years may drop to below raftable levels by late summer. However, lighter and smaller craft like inflatable kayaks and canoes can usually get down this trip year round.

Permit:  Permit required. Details can be found on our permits page.
Character/Similar To:  Classic western desert river trip. Medium volume of water.
Water Craft:  kayak,wwcan,raft,canoe
Land Ownership:  BLM
Wilderness:  Yes
Camping on River:  Yes many established campsites.
Location:  In the Canyon Country (UT), of
Shuttle Logistics: 

Put-in: From SH 191 turn south onto Sand Island Road and proceed to the boat ramp.

Take-out: Return to SH 191 and turn left. At the intersection of SH 163 and 191 continue straight onto SH 163. Proceed to the town of Mexican Hat and turn left at the south side of Valle's Trailer Park. Continue to the BLM maintained boat ramp.

Bluff to Mexican Hat on the San Juan River

This section of river contains many archaelogical sites and a handful of class II rapids. It makes a nice 2 or 3 day trip or you can combine it with the other sections for a longer trip.

Mile 1-6: At Sand Island, the San Juan River is wide, braided and slow moving. The river runs through open country full of rock art, archaeological sites and other evidence of prehistoric inhabitants. You'll see beautiful Navajo sandstone cliffs stained with desert varnish.

Mile 7-8: The San Juan cuts through Comb Ridge and the Mule Ear Diatreme.

Mile 9-19: The San Juan River changes dramatically as it cuts into alternating red and gray rock layers. The river becomes narrower, swifter, and rockier as 800 foot high canyon walls close in. This is where you'll find the class II rapids.

Mile 20-27: The river emerges from the deep canyon and once again you are in open country. However, the surrounding terrain is now redrock and remains as you make your way towards Mexican Hat.

Detailed mile by mile descriptions of this section of river can be found in the two San Juan River guide books shown above.

Last Edited by josho on 6/1/2011

Towns near Bluff to Mexican Hat Kayaking

Durango Colorado
Farmington New Mexico
Moab Utah
Pagosa Springs Colorado

Other Resources

Canyon Country Kayak Clubs
  • U of Utah Outdoor Recreation Program
  • Utah Whitewater Club
  • Conservation Organizations
  • Glen Canyon Institute
  • Virgin River Runners' Coalition