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Volunteering on the San Juan River

Volunteer positions available on the San Juan River are as River Ranger Assistants and are limited by budgetary and housing constraints.  Included is more detailed information about the position and volunteer program to aid in your application and consideration of the position.

San Juan RiverWho We Are: 

Located just outside the small town of Bluff, Utah, the Sand Island Recreation Area is a campground, picnic area, and the primary boat launch and check-in location for San Juan River float trips.  Sand Island Ranger Station is located at the Sand Island Recreation Area and is a federal field outpost and operational base for visitor contact and resource monitoring for the San Juan River.  The ranger station is in operation from March to November of each year.  There are four Bureau of Land Management (BLM) River Rangers stationed at Sand Island with one or two Volunteer River Ranger Assistants.


The 104 mile section of the San Juan River administered by the BLM in southeastern Utah is managed as a Special Recreation Management Area.  It is known for its scenic canyons, wilderness setting, archaeological and historical sites, and desert wildlife, including the desert bighorn sheep.  The primary uses along the river corridor are recreational floating (rafting, canoeing, kayaking), camping, and hiking.  The river has easy to moderate (Class I to III) whitewater rapids, as well as sections of flat water.  Though the BLM administers the entire 104 mile section of the river, the south bank is within the Navajo Nation and the lower portion of the river flows within the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.


Volunteer River Ranger Assistant Duties & Responsibilities:   

Volunteer River Ranger Assistants check permits and equipment of private and commercial boaters at launch areas along the San Juan River; provide interpretive and resource protection information to boaters; accompany river rangers on rafting patrols; assist with campsite inventory and monitoring; perform clean-up and light maintenance along the river and at launch areas; perform vehicle shuttles, and assist rangers in managing the campground at Sand Island.


Work Schedule:

Volunteers must make a minimum commitment of 4 weeks of service.  The work week is typically 40 hours, and a work day is typically 8 hours.  The hours are generally from 7:30 am – 4:30 pm.  The schedule is always subject to change and may be adjusted for special needs.


Necessary Skills & Requirements: 

  • Communication skills – Ability to understand visitor questions and concerns and give clear, concise answers and directions.  Must be able to conduct self in a polite, professional manner under stressful conditions, and be comfortable talking informally with large groups (up to 25 people).
  • Flexibility – With a small staff working in varied and remote locations throughout a large field area, duties and schedules can change by the day.
  • Ability to get along with co-workers and work with varied personalities.  Must be willing and able to discuss and resolve problems in a constructive manner as they arise.
  • Willingness to learn new working styles and techniques and to educate self on river rules, regulations, and etiquette, and local cultural and natural resources.
  • Self-sufficient – Must be able to live and work alone in a remote location.  Volunteers must provide a personal vehicle to transport themselves to town and other destinations while off duty.
  • Must be in good physical condition and be able to work outdoors in hot weather (90 to 100 degrees F).  Volunteers spend a lot of time on their feet checking permits and equipment.
  • Camping, hiking, and/or other outdoor experience (boating experience is desirable but not required).
  • Volunteers must have U.S. Citizenship, a valid driver’s license, and a good driving record.
  • Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age or be accompanied by a legal guardian. 

Helpful Additional Skills:

  • Whitewater boating skills
  • First Aid/CPR, Emergency First Response, Wilderness First Responder, or other advanced medical training
  • Mechanical or carpentry skills
  • Environmental education and interpretation skills

Living Conditions:

Volunteers are housed at Sand Island Ranger Station, situated 3 miles west of the small town of Bluff, UT (pop. 250).  Housing is shared with up to two other rangers in a three bedroom modular home with private bedrooms and a communal kitchen, living room, and bathroom.  Cell phone service is available in the immediate area.  The housing includes a TV, VCR/DVD player, library, and wireless internet service.  Laundry facilities are available in Bluff. 


Weather Conditions:

The climate of the area is typical of a high desert environment, with approximately 8 inches of average annual rainfall.  In April, the average high temperature is 70 degrees F, with the average low around 40 degrees.  Springtime is typically sunny and breezy.  By June, the average high temperature climbs above 90 degrees, with lows in the mid-50s. In July, the average high temperature is 97 degrees. Mid to late summer brings a pattern of afternoon thunderstorms, locally known as monsoons.  


What We Will Provide:

  • Housing:  A shared modular home with basic cooking and cleaning utensils. 
  • Uniform:  BLM volunteer uniforms and hats will be provided.  Uniforms will be worn while on duty and may not be worn while off duty.
  • Government Vehicle:  A government vehicle will be provided for work related duties.
  • Address:  The BLM has a mailbox in Bluff.  The box number will be provided before your arrival.
  • Gear:  Boating and camping equipment will be provided.

Volunteers must provide their own personal vehicle, food, and all other personal needs not listed above; proper clothing, linens, etc.  A full checklist of needs and additional information will be provided after your volunteer application has been accepted.


The Next Step:

Complete a volunteer application in as much detail as possible.  Please include specific dates for which you may be available to volunteer and any special needs you may have.  If additional space is needed, you may attach additional sheets to the form.  Mail or fax your application to:


Silas Sparks

Volunteer Coordinator

BLM - Monticello Field Office

P.O. Box 7

Monticello, UT 84535

Fax: (435) 587-1518


If you have any questions regarding your application, please contact Silas Sparks at (435) 587-1504 or by e-mail at ssparks@blm.gov.  


If your application has been accepted, you will receive a letter stating the dates for which you will be volunteering, along with a packet of detailed information with contact names and numbers.


Thank you for your interest in volunteering with the Bureau of Land Management.

Last updated: 12-10-2012