San Juan River Family Rafting Trip

This is an Advertorial

Flowing out from its source, the San Juan Mountains, the San Juan River provides you with 3 or 4 unforgettable days and nights. This popular recreational destination is well-known for its amazing views and its incredible limestone swimming pools.


This short family whitewater river rafting trip includes a diversity of animal and plant life, along with unique geological features. With stunning panoramic vistas and Native American artifacts, the San Juan River has everything that a great white water rafting trip should have. The San Juan River holds a few surprises for its visitors in the form of a rare phenomenon known as “Sand Waves.” These can appear out of nowhere and form 8 foot tall waves. Expect an exhilarating and fun ride!



Sample Itinerary

The first time I went down the San Juan was with a group of boatmen.  It was hard to read the map because the scenery was so amazing . . . the water was moving so fast. It made us dizzy because our heads were busy snapping from one side of the river to the other to see the next scenic attraction.

Dee Holladay, Holiday River’s 1975 Reconnaissance Trip

The San Juan River ranks as one of the fastest moving rivers in the United States, dropping an average of eight feet per mile.  It provides us with some exhilarating white water rapids. Its sandstone and limestone walls frame the narrow canyon as the river snakes through the countless goosenecks for which it is famous.  Today, the river borders Navajo land, although it was once the home of an ancient pueblo civilization.  Dozens of ruins and petroglyphs line the canyon walls.

The San Juan River consists of numerous exciting small rapids and is well known for its sand waves which appear to rise out of the water from nowhere due to shifting sand on the bottom of this fast moving river.  These make for a particularly thrilling ride, especially when you’re in an inflatable kayak.

Commercial white water river running originated in 1938 when Norman Nevills began operating rafting trips from Mexican Hat through the Grand Canyon.



One of the awesome advantages of a white water river rafting trip is the flexibility of our daily itinerary.  It can vary widely from one trip to the next based on group desires, Mother Nature, and courtesy for other groups on the river.  The typical itinerary below illustrates a June four-day rafting trip on the San Juan River.   The three and four day itineraries vary based on the seasonal water flows in May and June.  For specifics on your rafting trip’s date and itinerary, please speak to your Holiday River reservationist.


Day 1: 

Group meets in Blanding, Utah where we take a 30-minute scenic ride to the put-in point – Sand Island.  We will float down the San Juan River till around lunchtime. We enjoy the beauty of River House Ruin, one of the best preserved ancient pueblo dwellings in the Southwest.  That night, we will camp near Comb Ridge, the 600-foot edge to the enormous Monument Up warp. The scenery here is exquisite!


Day 2:

This morning we will pass through the village of Mexican Hat before traversing the famed Goosenecks of the San Juan River.  We may take an optional hike to the 1894 prospector cabin of Walter Mendenhall.  Enjoy frequent sightings of Great Blue Heron that seem to lead the way into the labyrinth.  Tonight we camp in the heart of the San Juan Goosenecks.


Day 3:

Those who are willing can hike the Honaker Trail, all that remains of the “1892 gold rush”.  This entails a colossal 1200-foot vertical hike. Those who make it to the top are rewarded with an unforgettable view of Monument Valley.  This is a good day to stop at one of the pristine beaches and explore 300 million year old fossils, remnants from another era.  Government Rapid and a “siesta” at Slickhorn Gulch highlights this day.  Slickhorn Gulch is one of the premier side canyons along the Colorado System with fern grottos and limestone swimming pools.


Day 4:

Fast moving white water drops you into Lake Powell after passing through Grand Gulch Primitive Area. We continue across the lake to the take out point at Clay Hills Crossing.  Our group will transfer to vans for a two-hour scenic ride back to Blanding, Utah.



Trip Details

 Meet for your WhiteWater Rafting Trip

We meet for your whitewater river rafting trip in Blanding, Utah.  If you are driving, your car can be left at the Comfort Inn in Blanding.  Departure time is 7:00 a.m. (Mountain Time), and so it is important that you attend our pre-trip orientation the night before your trip.


When you arrive in Blanding

The day before your river rafting tour, there will be a pre-trip orientation meeting at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time).  We will meet you in the lobby or just outside the Comfort Inn’s front office.  Your trip leader and other members of the crew will give you a short orientation on all aspects of river travel.  At this time we will issue your waterproof bags and answer any questions you may have.


Beginning of the River Rafting Trip

On the morning of your rafting trip, plan to arrive promptly at 7:00 a.m. (Mountain Time) at the Comfort Inn.  We will then take a 30-minute van ride to Sand Island (4–Day trips in June or 3-Day trips in May) or a one–hour van ride to Mexican Hat (3–Day trips in June or 4-Day trips in May), where we will transfer to the boats and begin the river rafting tour.


After the White Water Rafting Trip

All river trips except 3-Day trips in May will disembark at Clay Hills Crossing where you will travel by van back to Blanding, Utah.  Our 3-Day May rafting trips will disembark at Mexican Hat where you travel by van to Blanding, Utah.  Our expected time of arrival back at the Comfort Inn is 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.


Medical Emergencies

Our river guides are trained in first aid and carry first aid supplies only.  REMEMBER to bring your own prescription medicines.  ALERT our guides to any medical problem you might have such as diabetes or allergic reactions.  Once on the river, our location is remote and a long way from any hospitals, doctors, or pain-relieving medicines.  Evacuations to modern medical facilities can be long and expensive. In case of evacuation and/or medical treatment beyond first aid, expenses incurred are the responsibility of the participant.


Cancellation Policy

If cancellations are made prior to 90 days before the river rafting vacation, monies will be refunded less a $50.00 service charge per person.  If cancellations are made within 90 days and outside of 45 days of the rafting trip date monies will be refunded less a $100.00 service charge per person.  Cancellations made within 45 days of the river rafting trip date are non refundable.  Prior to 45 days to the rafting tour date we will transfer reservations to another trip in the same year with a $25.00 service charge per person.  All policies will be enforced and we strongly recommend trip cancellation insurance.  Cancellation of a white water river rafting trip is very unlikely, but we reserve the right to cancel any trip due to river or weather conditions or the lack of sufficient reservations.  A full refund will be made if such is the case.



Medical and cancellation insurance on a vacation plan can be obtained from numerous insurance companies.  We offer plans underwritten by TRAVEL GUARD that cover accident, baggage and cancellation claims.  An application should be enclosed with this information package.  We encourage all to take advantage of this coverage.  This is available to American and Canadian citizens as well as citizens of another country as long as you have a U.S. address.  If you have questions give us a call.  Also, if you are bringing expensive cameras, binoculars, or other items we suggest you have insurance coverage for them (commonly available through Homeowners Policies).  In the event of a loss, our insurance will not cover those items.


Tipping the Guides

Guests often want to know if tipping is appropriate after the rafting trip.  If you feel the river guides have enhanced the enjoyment of your river rafting vacation, you may choose to direct a gratuity to the rafting trip leader in the form of cash or check.  He/She will then distribute it evenly to the other crewmembers.  The average contribution amount ranges between $15.00 and $25.00 per guest per day. The decision to tip is left completely to your discretion.



We provide ice water, lemonade, two sodas per day per person and ample cooler space.  If you choose to bring any specialty sodas and/or alcoholic beverages, we have no problem taking whatever you want to bring – within reason.  Don’t bring beer, wine coolers or sodas in glass containers.  Wine packaged in a box is ideal.  Mark beverages that you bring so they are packed on your boat.  Alcoholic beverages will need to be purchased prior to your arrival in Blanding. Please Note:  There is no liquor, wine, beer, or wine coolers sold or served in Blanding, Utah


If you have any questions prior to leaving for your white water river rafting vacation, we ask that you call our Salt Lake City office, Monday through Friday at 800-624-6323 (outside Utah) or 801-266-2087 (inside Utah).   We’re happy to take the time to answer any questions.  You may also contact us by email at




About the Area

Weather on the San Juan River


In May, June and July the daytime temperatures are 80 to 100 degrees, with nighttime temperatures around 50 to 75 degrees.  During this season, guests will enjoy swimming in the San Juan River.  Though this may seem very warm, the humidity is low in this region and the temps will drop at night to become somewhat chilly.  We will get plenty of direct sunlight during the day, so bring a hat and a good sunscreen.


Bugs, snakes, and other pests are generally no problem.  In fact, the lack of pesky insects is one of the reasons wilderness camping on the beautiful Colorado and San Juan Rivers is so pleasant. Any river rafting trip, however, is subject to an occasional localized insect hatch.  During these hatches (most common in June to mid-July) mosquitos can be bothersome.  Be sure to bring long sleeve clothing and a generous supply of repellent. Insect repellents that contain Adeet@ are by far the most effective during heavy hatches, but are also suspected of causing various health problems.  Citronella-based products (skin-so-soft) work only in light hatches.  We rarely see any snakes, but if the thought of them bothers you, try sleeping on the beaches or in a tent instead of rocky or bushy areas.


Hiking is a highlight of the river rafting trip, however, it is strictly an optional activity.  Please be aware that some of the hikes on this rafting trip can be more strenuous due to heat and our elevation.  There are many interesting short hikes available.  Hiking can be done in durable sneakers or lightweight hiking boots.  Remember that our ability to go hiking, swimming, and exploring will vary widely depending upon our time, and what other plans are ahead for our day on the river.


Things to See in the Area

The Edge of the Cedars Anasazi Museum & State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, La Sal and Henry Mountains, Newspaper Rock, Hovenweep National Monument, Monument Valley, Navajo National Monument, San Juan Goosenecks State Park, Comb Ridge/Abajo Mountains (Blue Mountain), Grand Gulch Wilderness Area, and Mesa Verde National Park.


Reading material you may enjoy:

San Juan River GuideLisa Kearsley $17.95

Life in StoneChrista Sadler $11.95
The Educated OutlawHarvey Lay Murdock (Grandson) $10.95


These books can be ordered online at our e-store, or by sending the appropriate amount listed above plus $4.95 shipping and handling for the first book, and an additional $2.00 for each book thereafter to Holiday River Expeditions, 544 East 3900 South, SLC UT 84107.  This is available within the U.S. only. If outside the U.S. additional shipping and handling charges will be added.  You can call 801-266-2087 for rates.


Getting Here

If You are Flying

You can fly to Salt Lake City located 310 miles northwest of Blanding, Utah. From there you can rent a car or take a shuttle with Moab Luxury Coach (call 435-940-4212 or to Blanding, Utah.  If you need assistance with your travel arrangements, please ask your Holiday River Expedition reservation agent.



Lodging before and after your river rafting trip can be booked at:

Comfort Inn 435-678-3271 (indoor pool, hot tub, complimentary continental breakfast) *15% off best available rate to HRE guests who stay there.

Gateway Inn Motel 435-678-2278 (locally owned, outdoor pool, continental breakfast)

Four Corners Inn 435-678-3257 (continental breakfast)

Super 8 435-678-3880 (indoor hot tub)

*When making advance reservations at the Comfort Inn, mention that you are on a Holiday River Expedition trip and you will be extended a discounted rate on your room (see above).



If You are Camping Out


There is one campground in Blanding:  the Kampark Campground (RV with full hookups & tent sites – 435-678-2770).  There are also four Forest Service campgrounds in the Abajo Mountains 15 to 30 miles north of Blanding.

Holiday River Expedition Travel Agent, Mary Griggs is happy to assist you with your travel plans. Mary has been planning travel for Holiday River guests for more than 18 years and has 24 years of experience in the travel industry! Contact Mary to take the work out of “Getting Here”.

Direct line – 801-466-1447
Toll Free – 800-264-0557 (You must ask for Mary Griggs)
Email Her:


Or, do it yourself, we can help…


Colorado and Utah Rivers
Gateway – Salt Lake City, Utah OR Denver, Colorado


Air Service to Salt Lake City (SLC) or Denver (DEN)



Rental Cars


Once in Salt Lake City most of our guests rent a car and drive to our meeting points.
All rental cars are located in both terminals of the Salt Lake City Airport.


Salt Lake City to Green River 180 miles
Salt Lake City to Blanding 300 miles
Salt Lake City to Vernal 180 miles


Shuttle Service to Green River or Blanding, Utah from Salt Lake City (Vernal is on a Charter basis only)



TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS FROM DENVER to Green River, Vernal or Blanding, Utah
Air Service to Vernal (VEL), Utah from Denver, Colorado



Air Service to Moab (CNY) (52 miles south of Green River), Utah from Denver, Colorado






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  • FULL COURSE MEALS lunch the first day through lunch the last day
  • DRINKS ice water, lemonade, juices, 2 pops/person/day-mix of reg. & diet
The day bag 8″ diameter x 20″ high is for items you will need access to during the day. For your sleeping gear and clothing, we will furnish you with one bag 16″ diameter x 2 feet high. When properly sealed, bags are usually waterproof. Once in a while, one could develop a problem; so if you have concerns, test your bags. Separate storage is provided for tents and beverages. Please remember to keep your gear light and compact . . . the less you bring, the happier you will be.





You can rent the items listed above in our sleeping rental kit. We offer two varieties, our basic sleeping kit which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground cloth, rain gear and cup for $40.00, or the same basic sleeping kit with a two-man tent for $65.00. Rentals must be reserved in advance.




DO NOT BRING glass-bottled beverages, radios, firearms, pets, and non-waterproof wristwatches. Please limit gear and clothing to no more than 15-20 lbs.
Warning: Expensive cameras, binoculars, or other items should not be brought on your trip. In the event of a loss our insurance will not cover these items.




(May and Sept. on all trips and in June on all Idaho, Yampa and Lodore trips.)



There is a greater chance of inclement weather on these trips which otherwise offer many advantages to the well-prepared river traveler. Polypropylene, fleece, pile, bunting, capeline, etc. are a few examples of trade names for a class of synthetic materials that retain their ability to insulate when wet (please note, cotton does not.) Your comfort on the trip starts with finding the right type of synthetic under and outer-wear and quality rain gear. We recommend for your additional river trip needs. offers a wide variety of gear to help you dress for success the for your river trip no matter what the weather decides to do. A prepared traveler is a happy traveler.


ITEMS YOU CAN BUY AT HOLIDAY’S ONLINE STORE: at our accessories stores in Green River and Vernal; the meeting points for our Cataract, Westwater, Ranch, Desolation, Labyrinth, Fisher Towers, Lodore and Yampa river rafting trips.




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