San Juan - 02. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing


San Juan, Utah, US

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02. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing (Lower San Juan)

Usual Difficulty I-II(III) (for normal flows)
Length 56 Miles
Max Gradient 11 fpm

Government Rapid


Government Rapid
Photo of Dirk and Stefi do a ducky by Barry Grimes taken 07/15/01 @ 1100cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
SAN JUAN RIVER NEAR BLUFF, UT
usgs-09379500 500 - 8000 cfs I-II(III) 00h17m 683 cfs (running)


River Description

The Lower San Juan River down to Clay Hills Crossing and the slackwater of Powell Reservoir is a classic western float trip and a great run for families. The river is characterized by some truly impressive canyon scenery, plenty of great camping, and some cool side hikes. Many groups take rafts, but this is also a popular canoe trip. Permits for river runners are distributed annually by the Bureau of Land Management through a lottery system. While most camps are on river right, some camps are on river left and since these lands south of the river are part of the Navajo Reservation, a permit from the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department is required for overnight use (put in your permit request well in advance of your trip). Flows are often best in the spring which typically corresponds to comfortable hiking weather, but many groups come to enjoy the river during the early summer. The usual rules for desert river trips apply and you can expect to have your gear inspected at the put-in. This means you will need to bring a toilet, fire pan, and ample drinking water (the sediment laden river water would not be easy to filter and tributaries are typically dry creek beds).

The BLM launch site in Mexican Hat has ample space for camping and staging your trip. The site does not have water however so fill your water containers before you arrive or make arrangements with a local business. Boaters are advised to park cars at the private parking lot up the hill in town as there have been problems with break-ins. If you hire a local shuttle driver, he should be able to help with arrangements.
 
A short distance downstream of the launch, you will arrive at Gypsum Creek Rapid, a straightforward class II. Soon after running this rapid, you pass under the Highway Bridge at Mexican Hat and begin your journey through the impressive canyons of the Lower San Juan. It's a mellow float for the 10 miles down to the Goosenecks, known as one of the world's best examples of entrenched meanders where the river has cut an impressive canyon over 1000' deep through the red rock. Many groups head to the overlook at Gooseneck State Park before they launch to view the impressive geologic scene from above.
 
A couple miles downstream of the Goosenecks, you will reach the Honaker Trail on river right. There are a few campsite options here and it's a worthwhile hike with some great views as you climb over 1000' to the canyon rim. The trail was originally constructed by prospectors more than a century ago and follows a series of switchbacks along the terraced canyon walls.
 
A little less than 10 miles downstream of Honaker Trail, you will reach Ross Rapid which is another relatively straightforward class II. You will pass more great river camps including Johns Canyon which has some fun opportunities for exploration. It's another 10 miles down to the most challenging whitewater on the run at Government Rapids, a fun class III rapid. It's an easy scout or portage from river left and the preferred line depends on level. At flows below 500 cfs you will see some significant pin hazards. At flows above 1000 cfs most of the rocks are well covered and a few minor holes begin to appear.
 
Below Government Rapid, camps must be reserved in advance and to have maximum choice you should do this as soon as you receive your permit. Slickhorn is one of the most popular camps on the river and there are five sites here. Slickhorn sites C and D are generally the preferred larger camps just downstream of the mouth of Slickhorn Canyon. Slickhorn Rapid, at one time a class II, is pretty much gone with sediment deposition resulting from the backwater effect of Powell Reservoir.
 
Slickhorn Canyon offers some of the best opportunities for hiking and exploration on the entire river so plan for a full day to enjoy it. There are several pools that offer great swimming along with some historical artifacts associated with early attempts to drill for oil in this canyon.
 
Downstream of Slickhorn there are three more options for camping that must be reserved before your trip: Grand Gulch, Oljeto Wash, and Steer Gulch. Of these camps, Oljeto Wash is on river left and therefore requires a permit from the tribe. It does however offer a nice sandbar camp and interesting hiking opportunities up the side canyon.
 
The final 5 miles of river down to Clay Hill Crossing are characterized by numerous sandbars that can make progress slow especially if you encounter strong afternoon winds. It can make for a long day in the hot sun especially as flows drop by early summer. For these reasons, most groups try to get an early start. At flows above 1000 cfs it's not too bad and you will likely be able to find a channel that winds back and forth through the sediment deposited in the backwaters of the reservoir. As flows drop below 500 cfs it will take longer and you will likely need to get out in a few places to pull the boats over sand bars.
 
The take-out at Clay Hills Crossing should be fairly obvious on river right with plenty of space for derigging. There are no facilities to empty your toilet but if you are headed north there is an RV dump station at Hite Marina on Powell Reservoir.
 
Downstream of Clay Hills Crossing the river flows through lonely country down to the reservoir, an area that is rarely explored since there is no vehicle access and it is a very long flatwater paddle out to the nearest marina. In recent years as the reservoir level has dropped, the river has established a new channel forming a significant waterfall where it cascades over a bedrock ledge. 

Permit Information

http://www.recreation.gov/permits/San_Juan_River_Permit_Lottery_And_Reservations/r/wildernessAreaDetails.do?page=detail&contractCode=NRSO&parkId=75510

A permit is required year-round to float any section of the San Juan River between Montezuma Creek and Clay Hills. Permits are issued only through a pre-season lottery (for high use season of April 15 - Jul 15) and advance telephone reservations (for low and moderate use season to individuals 18 and older.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-07-09 21:59:15

flash flooding on the San Juan

Detail Trip Report  flash flooding on the San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(2.16MB .jpeg)

John's Canyon Rapid

Detail Trip Report  John's Canyon Rapid  San Juan, UT(25.58KB .jpeg)

San Juan Putin

Detail Trip Report  San Juan Putin  San Juan, UT(25.07KB .jpeg)

Government Rapid

Detail Trip Report  Government Rapid  San Juan, UT(24.92KB .jpeg)

View from Goosenecks State Park

Detail Trip Report  View from Goosenecks State Park  San Juan, UT(45.08KB .jpeg)

Family Raft on San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Family Raft on San Juan  San Juan, UT(28.82KB .jpeg)

clay hills falls

Detail Trip Report  clay hills falls  San Juan, UT(185.92KB .jpeg)

Grand Gulch flood

Detail Trip Report  Grand Gulch flood  San Juan, UT(1.80MB .jpeg)

Adam Goshorn runs Goverment Rapid on the San Juan, UT

Detail Trip Report  Adam Goshorn runs Goverment Rapid on the San Juan, UT  San Juan, UT(279.57KB .jpeg)

Boating on the San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Boating on the San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(2.74MB .jpeg)

Gypsum Creek Rapid

Detail Trip Report  Gypsum Creek Rapid  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.18MB .jpeg)

Highway Bridge at Mexican Hat

Detail Trip Report  Highway Bridge at Mexican Hat  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.38MB .jpeg)

Mexican Hat

Detail Trip Report  Mexican Hat  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.37MB .jpeg)

Mexican Hat Access

Detail Trip Report  Mexican Hat Access  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.40MB .jpeg)

Mexican Hat Access

Detail Trip Report  Mexican Hat Access  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.84MB .jpeg)

Rafting on the San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Rafting on the San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.33MB .jpeg)

Boating on the San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Boating on the San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.37MB .jpeg)

Boating on the San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Boating on the San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(3.83MB .jpeg)

Boating on the San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Boating on the San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.49MB .jpeg)

Boating on the San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Boating on the San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.60MB .jpeg)

Government Rapid

Detail Trip Report  Government Rapid  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(5.39MB .jpeg)

Government Rapid

Detail Trip Report  Government Rapid  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.36MB .jpeg)

Scouting Government Rapid

Detail Trip Report  Scouting Government Rapid  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.68MB .jpeg)

Raft Run Through Government Rapid

Detail Trip Report  Raft Run Through Government Rapid  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.74MB .jpeg)

IK Run Through Government Rapid

Detail Trip Report  IK Run Through Government Rapid  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.78MB .jpeg)

Slickhorn

Detail Trip Report  Slickhorn  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.70MB .jpeg)

Lower San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Lower San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.52MB .jpeg)

Olejto Camp

Detail Trip Report  Olejto Camp  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.30MB .jpeg)

Lower San Juan

Detail Trip Report  Lower San Juan  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.33MB .jpeg)

Clay Hills Crossing

Detail Trip Report  Clay Hills Crossing  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.47MB .jpeg)

Ross Rapid

Detail Trip Report  Ross Rapid  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(3.67MB .jpeg)

Slickhorn

Detail Trip Report  Slickhorn  @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(4.66MB .jpeg)

muddy waters of Government

Detail Trip Report  muddy waters of Government   @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, UT(292.31KB .jpeg)


Gauge Information

Gauge Description:

The USGS Gauge for the San Juan Near Bluff reflects the releases from the dam on the Navajo Reservoir, located in northwestern New Mexico near the Colorado border and the natural flow of the Animas River out of Colorado. For up to date levels and info on releases from the Navaho Reservoir contact Pat Page of the US BLM:
Phone # (970) 385 6560
email: ppage@uc.usbr.gov.

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
SAN JUAN RIVER NEAR BLUFF, UT
usgs-09379500 500 - 8000 cfs I-II(III) 00h17m 683 cfs (running)

RangeWater LevelDifficultyComment
500 -8000 cfs barely runnable-high runnable I-II(III)

Report - Reports of San Juan 02. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing and related gauges

Reports give the public a chance to report on river conditions throughout the country as well as log the history of a river.

Reports

When River/Gauge Subject Level Reporter
San Juan [UT] clay hills falls n/a curtis verploegh
155d17h24m /San Juan-2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing [UT] flash flooding on the San Juan 0 cfs david steinberg
2y136d00h04m @San Juan 2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing [UT] muddy waters of Government 875 cfs Mark Miller
5y191d02h46m /San Juan-2. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing [UT] San Juan River Trip 1100 cfs Thomas O'Keefe
> 10 years San Juan [UT] Grand Gulch flood n/a curtis verploegh
> 10 years San Juan [UT] Adam Goshorn runs Goverment Rapid on the San Juan, UT unknown Adam Goshorn
> 10 years San Juan [UT] Family Raft on San Juan 1100cfs Barry Grimes

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Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
27.4Gypsum Creek RapidIIPhoto
52.7Ross RapidIIPhoto
63.7Government RapidIIIPhoto
66.6Slickhorn RapidIIPhoto
86.0Paiute Farms WaterfallN/AHazard Waterfall Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Gypsum Creek Rapid (Class II, Mile 27.4)

Gypsum Creek Rapid

Gypsum Creek Rapid
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 04/14/12 @ 1100 cfs

A class II rapid immediately below the put-in.



Ross Rapid (Class II, Mile 52.7)

Ross Rapid

Ross Rapid
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 04/14/12 @ 1100 cfs


Government Rapid (Class III, Mile 63.7)

IK Run Through Government Rapid

IK Run Through Government Rapid
Photo of Cyn Taylor and James Girton by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 04/14/12 @ 1100 cfs

Formed by a debris fan originating from the canyon on river left. Scout from river left.



Slickhorn Rapid (Class II, Mile 66.6)

Slickhorn

Slickhorn
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 04/14/12 @ 1100 cfs

Largely gone due to backwater effect of Powell Reservoir.



Paiute Farms Waterfall (Class N/A, Mile 86.0)

clay hills falls

clay hills falls
Photo by curtis verploegh taken 4 miles below takeout at Clay Hills

Waterfall downstream of Clay Hills Crossing where the river has cut a new course through the silt of Powell Reservoir.




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 02. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, San Juan Utah, US (mobile)