Upper Canyon, Sand Island to Mexican Hat


8:00 am to 5:00 pm, 26 miles

Meeting Place

Wild Expeditions - Bluff, Utah


$199/adult and $139/15 & Under

Additional $10/person BLM Permit




This is hands down, the best one-day river trip available in the West. In the morning we make two stops to learn about the Butler Wash petroglyph panel and River House cliff dwelling. We'll enjoy a fresh gourmet lunch under the cottonwoods before entering a limestone chasm for the afternoon, where we'll see desert bighorn sheep and 300 million-year-old fossils. A full day and 26 miles in length, this is a great trip for those with limited time.





Our one-day adventure is great for archaeology or geology buffs, first-time boaters or travelers with limited time. We journey down a 26-mile section of the San Juan river in about 8 hours, making numerous stops to hike to nearby archaeological sites and fossil outcroppings as we travel through a dramatic variety of landscape and history. Most trips see native desert bighorn sheep feeding or bedding immediately adjacent to the river. Waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds abound.


We depart from Bluff at 8 a.m. via Wild Expeditions vans, to the Sand Island launch ramp 4 miles west of Bluff. At the river, after safely packing away your cameras and sunscreen in dry bags, and a brief orientation on river safety, we're off!


For the first few miles, the surrounding country is open. The river carries us past orange and black-streaked sandstone outcroppings. This was the home of the Anasazi, the ancient desert farming culture who lived in this area eight to twenty centuries ago. Evidence of their time here is all around us in the remains of their dwellings and the art they carved in the smooth sandstone walls rising around us.


The Butler Wash petroglyph panel is our first stop. Only a few feet from the river's edge, this broad panel is filled with mysterious images pecked by the early Anasazi (The Basketmakers), some 1500 years ago.


Journeying a little further down the river, we land again and make a quarter mile hike to "River House," a Pueblo III style cliff dwelling. This structure has a small round kiva and several adjoining rooms tucked into a rock alcove. It is estimated to be about 800 years old. After we finish exploring this site we continue down the river and find a shady spot to eat our lunch, under the canopy of a cottonwood.


When our journey continues, the rock formations begin to take prominence as the river enters the Monument Upwarp, a giant wrinkle in the skin of the earth. Then we pass through the Comb Ridge Monocline and the Lime Ridge Anticline. The river here narrows and cuts a deep canyon into 300 million-year-old Pennsylvanian limestone, and the current quickens as small rapids and riffles rock the boat. Near "8-Foot Rapid," the undulating pattern in the rock reveals the presence of "bioherms," porous mounds in an ancient shallow sea that acts as reservoir rock, "capturing" oil which is found in abundance in this area.


If we're lucky, we may get a glimpse of several Desert Bighorn Sheep as they graze above us on narrow rock shelves or a beaver napping under a ledge. Mid-afternoon, we stop to look for fossils in the limestone.


As we near the end of our trip the river leaves the canyon and we pass beneath the balanced slab of "Mexican Hat" rock. Our next landing ends our river trip where Wild Expeditions vans are waiting to transport us back to Bluff, offering further opportunities to view the dramatic red rock of the Valley of the Gods and a very different passage through Comb ridge than our river trip allowed. We arrive back in Bluff around 5 p.m. and our adventure has come to a finish.



During higher flows we will row the rafts, while at lower flows we will use small motors, enabling us to cover the same section of the river throughout the season.



-Moki Steps

-Ancient rock carvings & ruins

-4 foot, 8 foot and ledge rapids

-Crinoid Fossils

Meeting Place

Wild Expeditions

2625 South Highway 191

Bluff, Utah 84512


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