Monticello Field Office

San Juan River

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I get a permit?
What if I need to cancel or change my launch?
Where do I launch and take-out?
How long does a trip take?
How do I find out the river flow?
How long are the shuttles and what shuttle services are available?
May I bring my pets?
Where are the Navajo Nation lands?
Where may I camp?
What should I bring?
How much water should I bring?
How do I get a river map/guide?
What commercial outfitters offer guided trips on the San Juan? 

How do I get a permit?

A permit is required to run the San Juan River year-round.  An application with detailed information on how to obtain a permit for the San Juan River is available here.

Permit applications for the following season are available on this webpage in early November.  You must have an application on file before acquiring a launch reservation.

Launch reservations for trips launching April through October are initially issued through a lottery, followed by call-in advance reservations for post-lottery open dates and cancellations.  Permits for trips launching November through March are issued on a first-come, first-served basis.  Full instructions are available at the application link above. 

In order to be eligible for the lottery, your permit application must be received PRIOR TO FEBRUARY 1stA lottery drawing is conducted the first week of February.  Be sure to fill out the application completely and legiblely, or it will not be processed.  A notification letter is only sent to those permit applicants who received a launch date.  If you do not hear from us by March 1st, you did not draw a launch.

To confirm and keep the launch date awarded to you, you must pay for the permit at least 30 days in advance of your launch.  If we do not receive payment 30 days in advance, your launch will be awarded to another group, and you will not be eligible for the lottery the following year.

 

If you do not draw a launch date in the lottery or you do not get your application in prior to February 1st, you can call the River Office at (435) 587-1544 for unfilled launch dates or cancellations beginnning March 1st.  You must have an application on file to reserve a launch date.  An application may be submitted at anytime during the year in order to be eligible to call in and reserve a cancellation or open date.  Calendars showing current launch availability are available here (Sand Island) and here (Mexican Hat).

 

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What if I need to cancel or change my launch?


If you receive a launch reservation which you will not be using, please notify our office as soon as possible so other boaters may make use of the river.  Changes to the permit must be made in advance through the river office.  Only trip leaders may request changes or add persons to the permit.  No more than two changes may be made. 
If you have already paid for your permit and cancel your reservation at least 30 days prior to the launch date, we will authorize a credit equal to the amount of the permit fee.  The credit may be applied towards payment of permit fees, if you are able to obtain a launch later the same season on the San Juan River.  You must ask for a credit at the time you cancel.

 

NO REFUNDS WILL BE ISSUED

 

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Where do I launch and take-out?


There are two major launch points for the San Juan River
Sand Island (3 miles west of the town of Bluff ) has a campground, boat launch ramp, and drinking water.  

 

Mexican Hat (27 river miles downstream) is the second launch point or a take-out if you launched from Sand Island.  The boat launch ramp is identified by a small sign on the east end of town.  We do not recommend camping or leaving your vehicles at the Mexican Hat launch ramp due to vandalism that has occurred in the past.

 

The last take-out for the river is at Clay Hills Crossing (84 river miles from Sand Island ).  There is an unpredictable waterfall (sometimes there, sometimes not) approximately three to four miles downstream from Clay Hills, so make sure you don't miss the take out.

 

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How long does the trip take?


The average trip length from Sand Island to Mexican Hat (27 miles) is 2 to 3 days, from Mexican Hat to Clay Hills (58 miles) is 4 to 5 days, and from Sand Island to Clay Hills (84 miles) is 6 to 7 days. At higher flow levels, trips can be shorter.

 

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How do I find out the river flow?


During the boating season, river flow information can be obtained by calling (801) 539-1311 for a daily recorded flow summary, or on the web at www.cbrfc.noaa.gov or http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ut/nwis/uv?site_no=09379500.

 

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How long are the shuttles and what shuttle services are available?


Shuttles from Sand Island to Mexican Hat take one hour, while shuttles from Sand Island to Clay Hills take 4-5 hours.  Commercial outfitters provide the shuttles for a fee.   Shuttle Service Providers:  Valle's Trading Post (435) 683-2226 (trips taking-out at Mexican Hat only); Blackhawk Transportation (435) 678-3224 (trips taking-out at Clay Hills; Jim Hardin (435) 672-2455 (trips taking out at Clay Hills). 
The BLM does not endorse or recommend any specific shuttle service nor guarantee their services.

 

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May I bring my pets?


NO! Pets are prohibited on river trips between Sand Island and Clay Hills.

 

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Where are the Navajo Nation lands?

 

The left bank of the river from Montezuma Creek to Trimble Camp and the Montezuma Creek launch point are on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Remember that you are a guest and that alcoholic beverages are prohibited. PERMITS FOR HIKING OR CAMPING ON THE NAVAJO RESERVATION ARE REQUIRED.

Permits for hiking to archaeological sites (e.g., Chinle Wash) are “Class A Site Visitation Permits” and are issued by the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department, P.O. Box 4950, Window Rock, AZ 86515 (928) 871-7147.  There is no charge for this permit.   
Click here for a Class A Site Visitation Permit application.


Camping permits and other hiking (backcountry) permits are issued by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department, P.O. Box 2520, Window Rock, AZ 86515 (928) 871-6647, navajonationparks.org/permits.htm.  Please apply for a permit 4-6 weeks in advance of your launch date.  Navajo camping and backcountry permits can also be obtained through Monument Valley Park (435) 727-5870/5879; Four Corners Monument; and the Navajo Parks and Recreation Office in Cameron, AZ (928) 679-2303.  Click here for a permit application.
 

Be aware that it may take at four to six weeks to get a camping permit.  Personal checks and credit cards are not accepted.

 

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Where may I camp?


You must have a permit to camp on the south side (left bank) of the river, please see "Where are the Navajo Nation lands?" above.  

 

Camping on the north side (right bank) of the river is allowed, except at the Butler Wash Petroglyph Panel which is closed to camping, and on areas of private land between Butler Wash and Comb Wash and upriver from Mexican Hat. 

 

From March 1st - October 31st, the BLM has a mandatory assigned campsite system on the section of the San Juan River below Government Rapid camp (~ river mile 64) to Clay Hills.  You may reserve a maximum of two nights in this section of the river.  You may not camp at the same campsite for more than one night and no more than one night may be spent at the Slickhorn area.  If you are spending two nights in the reserved section, your first night must be at one of the Slickhorn sites, and your second night must be in one of the sites downstream from Slickhorn.  None of these camps may be shared by more than one party.  You must have at least one reserved camp to be issued a river permit.  


You may reserve up to two of the following nine campsites at the time of permit payment:  Slickhorn A - E, Grand Gulch, Trimble, Oljeto Wash, and Steer Gulch.  Campsites at Grand Gulch, Trimble, Oljeto Wash, and Steer Gulch are located at the mouths of drainages and can experience flash floods during rainy weather; exercise caution.  Make sure your campsite has safe areas of higher ground and is out of the path of flash floods.  Click here for more information on the reserved camping area and to view the reserved campsite map.

 

Your safety is your responsibility. Travel on the San Juan River has inherent risks and you assume responsibility for your own safety.

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What should I bring?


There are some things that you are required to have for the trip.  Click here for current stipulations and required equipment. 
Make sure all members of your trip know the regulations and equipment requirements.

 

In addition, here are a few things that are not required but strongly suggested:

  • sunscreen
  • hat
  • rain gear
  • insect repellent

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How much water should I bring?


You should bring all of your drinking water.  There are no reliable, potable sources of drinking water on the San Juan River.  Filtering the water is difficult because the San Juan is extremely silty.  A minimum of one gallon per person/per day is suggested.

 

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How do I get a river map/guide book?


Guide books and maps can be purchased at local businesses and visitor centers in southeastern Utah or online from the Canyonlands Natural History Association bookstore:  www.cnha.org

 

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What commercial outfitters offer guided trips on the San Juan?

 

The San Juan River currently has a number of commercial companies permitted to offer trips.  A complete list of permitted outfitters is available here.  

 

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