Back From Utah and Our San Juan River Float

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.


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