Back From Utah and Our San Juan River Float

31 July 2008

We have just returned from camping in Utah and a wonderful five day family float on the San Juan River. I am now busy cleaning the San Juan from all of our gear, and repacking for my next trip to Utah in just over a week.  I will be riding the White Rim trail solo, then meeting Robert for a week of backpacking in the Escalante.

The weather on our San Juan trip was relatively cool, in the low 90’s, and there were afternoon and evening clouds and rain showers every day to cool things off even more. We had great flows on the river, reaching nearly 3000 CFS on one of the days. All in all it was a great trip.

After camping for a few days on the way to Bluff, we put in at Sand Island on 22 July. We floated two Aire Tomcat tandems, one for Mia and Nicolai, and one for myself and much of the gear. We took out at Mexican Hat on 26 July. Five days for that stretch of river is quite a lot of time, considering it is only about 28 miles. Most people do it in a few days. But as a family we took our time and floated along at a leisurely pace. We looked at a bunch of petroglyph panels, including Butler Wash panel, River House Ruin, and various other sites. We made it a point to start out late and finish up early which gave us plenty of time for sitting around at our campsites, eating good food, drinking tea, and writing in our trip journal. Mia is a book artist and creates a special book for each of our trips to fill with thoughts, sketches, watercolors, and photos. You can see some of her work at

We started out with the river flowing at about 1200 CFS. On our first night there was a tremendous storm- thunder, lightning and rain all around us. The river jumped up to nearly 3000 CFS the next day. The following day it dropped back some, but went up again once we passed Chinle Wash. There had been storms to the south the night before and Chinle Wash flowed red into the brown San Juan. It made for a fun ride later in the day when we floated through Eight Foot Rapid. If you are familiar with it, the rock at the top of the rapid was completely submerged. The rest of the float was calm, as the river dropped back to normal rather quickly. For more information on floating the San Juan River, visit the Desert Explorer website.

Another highlight of the trip for all of us, besides our Sunday breakfast at the Olde Bridge Grille at the San Juan Inn, was our stay on the drive home at the Movie Manor Motor Inn in the town of Monte Vista, Colorado. The place is truly amazing. The Star Drive In was opened in 1955 and is still in operation. The owner, Mr. Kelloff, still operates the ticket booth. All of the rooms at the hotel face the movie screens and there are speakers and volume controls in each room. You can lay in bed and watch the drive in movie. We chose to actually drive in, as there is a playground at the base of the original movie screen that Nicolai wanted to play at. The playground is vintage as well, from 1960. It has a real merry-go-round and a real teeth-busting teeter totter. If you are in the San Luis Valley between May and September and need a room and a movie, this is the place. They do not have a website, but you can call ahead for reservations or the movie schedule- 800-771-9468.

On the Way to Utah and the San Juan River

16 July 2008

It is mid-July and we are preparing for a family trip to Utah, including about five days on the San Juan River, with three or four days of camping on either side of the river trip. We leave Colorado on Friday with our put-in date being next Tuesday, 22 July. Although we are only floating from Sand Island (Bluff) to Mexican Hat, we plan to be on the river for five days total. The river distance is only about 30 miles, and many people do it in two days, but we plan to take our time and have fun, see all the sites along the way. There are unlimited diversions to keep us busy- lots of birds, petroglyph panels, ruins- both historic and prehistoric, and interesting geology. For more information on the float, see the Desert Explorer San Juan River Page.

The flow on the San Juan is dropping daily. Today the river is flowing at about 1350 CFS, up about 100 CFS from yesterday, but down from about 2000 CFS a few weeks back. The flow on the San Juan can fluctuate daily by a hundred CFS or more as water is released upstream. You can see the river flows at the USGS website. The weather proves to be hot with the temperature predicted to be about 95 degrees every day for our trip. There is a 30 percent chance of rain nearly every day during our trip. The afternoon showers may help cool us off. If you are heading to southeast Utah be sure to take sunblock.

Fire restrictions have just be enacted throughout Utah. No fires are allowed on the San Juan River corridor as of 08 July. These restrictions also apply to parts of the Green River and Colorado River in southeast Utah. For more information on current fire restrictions, visit the state of Utah Fire Info website.

Check back for updates on the trip at the end of July. We will try to post an update from the field- probably from Comb Ridge Coffee in Bluff after we takeout.