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site home  :: self guided home  :: U.S. river guide  :: Rivers in Utah  :: San Juan River Utah  :: Lower San Juan Kayak & Canoe Touring

Lower San Juan Kayak & Canoe Touring on the San Juan River

View larger map of Lower San Juan & get directions
Click 'Earth' to fly through the canyon!
Lower San Juan Info
Use this information at your own risk. See our legal notices.
Put In:  Mexican Hat
Take Out:  Clay Hills Crossing
Difficulty:  Class I , Class II , Class III
Run Length:  56 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
Camping on River:  All camping beyond mile 65.8 now requires reservations and failure to reserve a campsite may result in up to a $500 fine!
Location:  In the Canyon Country (UT), 360 miles Southeast of Salt Lake City
Shuttle Logistics: 

Put-in: In the town of Mexican Hat, turn south off of SH 163 at the south side of Valle's Trailer Park. Continue to the BLM maintained boat ramp.

Take-out: Return to SH 163 and proceed north. Turn left on SH 261 and travel north to SH 95. Turn left on SH 95 and then left again on SH 276. At Clay Hills Crossing Road turn left. This is an unimproved road. Continue 11 miles to Clay Hills Crossing.

Lower San Juan on the San Juan River

Two miles downstream from Mexican Hat, the river cuts into the Cedar Mesa Anticline and remains in a narrow canyon until Clay Hills Crossing. The river meanders through a series of deep meanders including the 3 mile long gooseneck at the heart of Goosenecks State Park. Here the river canyon is very remote and 1200 feet deep.

Farther downstream several canyons join the San Juan creating rapids from years of flash flooding. Class III Government Rapid near mile 64, is the most difficult in this section. Just downstream, Slickhorn Canyon is well known for slickrock pools of water a short distance up from the river.

Near mile 70, Grand Gulch opens up on river right. Here the river widens and the current slows. Downstream the river becomes shallow and at low water can be difficult to navigate with rafts.

Clay Hills crossing is on river right at near mile 83. This is the take-out. It's not recommended to proceed below Clay Hills Crossing. Depending on the level of Lake Powell, river current may continue for a few more miles. However, the next access point is Bull Frog Marina on Lake Powell. 

Last Edited by josho on 6/1/2011

Towns near Lower San Juan 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