Raft the Lower San Juan River

Mexican Hat, Utah


Added by Jenna Mulligan

In this 56 miles of river, you'll pass through the famed Goosenecks State Park, enjoy geological and archaeological wonders in the canyon walls, and get splashed in a playful Class III rapid.

The put-in for the lower segment of the San Juan river is in the center of Mexican Hat. This is a permitted section of river run by a lottery, and you work to secure a permit through https://www.recreation.gov/permits/250986

Briefly after take off, the canyon walls begin to climb taller above the river, marking the entrance into Gooseneck State Park. Far from the rim, you're likely to see a number of big horned sheep as well as well-preserved rock art on the canyon walls from the Ancestral Puebloan civilization. Archaeologists love this section of the river!

The current is more swift in this section of the river in comparison with the Upper San Juan, but beaches and campsites are still plenty. Remember, the left side of the river is all Navajo land, and you'll need to secure a separate permit if you want to park or camp on this side. 

About 12 miles past the Mexican Hat, Honnaker Trail on river right offers a campsite and a long path toward the rim of the canyon, which was constructed by prospectors in the early 20th century.

Next, you'll run Government Rapid, the largest rapid in this section of river as a Class III. It is generally an intermediate level rapid which is worsened by possible pins at low water. Below Government rapid, you'll have to reserve campsites in advance.

One recommended spot to stop is Slickhorn Canyon on river right. It sits at the mouth of a side-canyon hike, where evidence of fossilized reef and lush desert pools make for a great zone to explore. 

This river is higher water in the spring, but the weather is still manageable into the mid-summer, though midday hikes are dissuaded unless you bring plenty of water.

The takeout at Clay Hills marks the end of the San Juan river as it enters into Lake Powell. This takeout is accessed via a long and bumpy dirt road, so be sure to secure your boats and gear tightly before hitting the road.

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