San Juan River


Recreation Opportunities

Spectacular scenery, superb rock-art viewing, river floating, camping, wildlife viewing. A BLM permit is required to float any section of the San Juan River west of Montezuma Creek.

Recreation Sites

There are plenty of campsites on the upper portion of the river (Sand Island to Mexican Hat). Campsites on the lower 58 miles of the river are limited, and it is necessary to register for nine of the most frequently-used sites from Slickhorn Gulch downstream. Since the San Juan River is enjoyed each year by 10,000 people, please check with the BLM Office (435) 587-1544 for river information. The center of the river marks the northern boundary of the Navajo Nation. Everything south of that, from Montezuma Creek to Clay Hills Crossing, is Navajo land. A permit is needed for camping and hiking on this land. For permit information, call (520) 871-6647 (allow at least 30 days for a permit to be issued).


Songbirds and waterfowl are best viewed during the spring and fall migrations; peregrine falcon and other raptors may be observed in spring and summer. Desert bighorn sheep can generally be viewed along the river's south side.


Many of the rocks you will see along your journey on the San Juan are 300 million years old. As the river flows into the canyon keep a lookout for ancient seashells preserved in the 300 million year old limestone, sediments from a long-departed sea. At mile 9.1 you will see the Mule Ear Diatreme. It is the remains of an ancient volcano, called a "maar." At the Goosenecks of the San Juan River, the river makes three tight loops in one and one-half miles. These are classic examples of entrenched meanders. The meanders were established by the river when it flowed on a flat plain and when the Colorado Plateau slowly uplifted, the river became entrenched in hard rocks, cutting downward as it followed its original meander pattern. There are many archeological sites along the river. Please do not disturb these sites by collecting, touching, sitting on, or removing any artifacts. These sites are protected by law. PLEASE ENSURE THAT UTAH'S PAST HAS A FUTURE BY LEAVING WHAT YOU FIND.


The BLM, Monticello Juan Field Office, PO Box 7, Monticello, UT 84535, (435) 587-1544, manages the river from Sand Island to Clay Hills Crossing. Permits are required. The center of the river marks the northern boundary of the Navajo Nation. Everything south of that, from Montezuma Creek to Clay Hills Crossing is Navajo land. For permit information, call or write the Navajo Parks and Recreation Dept., P.O. Box 9000, Window Rock, AZ 86515, (520) 871-6647.

WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT SO....please bring a stove to cook on, any campfire must be in a firepan. Pack out all your trash. All boaters must use a washable, reusable toilet system that allows for sanitary transfer of waste to a sewage treatment facility. PLEASE DON'T CRUSH THE CRYPTO! THE BLACK CRUSTY SOIL, KNOWN AS CRYPTOBIOTIC SOIL IS A 'LIVING' SOIL WHICH REDUCES EROSION AND ALLOWS PLANTS TO GROW. REMEMBER, THE DESERT AND RIVER CANYON MAY LOOK TOUGH, BUT THEY ARE ACTUALLY A VERY FRAGILE ENVIRONMENT.



For more information visit the Utah Bureau of Land Management website