Upper Canyon, 27 miles from Bluff to Mexican Hat
Select Dates April-October. Book Now to see select dates. Additional dates available for groups - please give us a call.
6 years old (Call us if you have younger explorer)
Three days, two nights
$749 - Adults
$609 - 15/under
*Additional $10 BLM Permit and $12 Navajo Land Permit. Sleep Kits Available for $30/per person (+$15 for a private tent).
Escape for 3 days and enjoy the solitude of the San Juan. 3 days gives you time to disconnect with the stresses of the modern world and connect with those you love. You’ll enjoy delicious cowboy style cooking on the banks of the San Juan while you enjoy the sunset on the canyon walls and lay out under a million stars. We’ll get you to hidden ruins and ancient rock art panels only accessible from the river and our expert guides will teach you about the ancestral puebloan culture, stories and history of the San Juan.
- Inflatable Kayaks
- Small Dry Bag for personal items needed in the day
- Large Dry Bag for Sleeping bag and Clothing
- 2 Breakfasts – 3 Lunches – 2 Dinners
- Snacks available throughout the day
- Professional Certified Guides
- Transportation to and from the river
- Camping on the San Juan
- Night sky stargazing
- Ancient Cliff Dwellings and Rock art
- Wildlife – Birds and Bighorn Sheep
- Towering Canyon Walls
- 3 days of solitude. No phone service or email access
Easy to Moderate float. Class I and II Rapids (one Class III Rapid). Hikes up to 2 miles round trip – all hikes are optional.
- Compact sleeping bag, sleeping pad and a small lightweight tent. Sleep kits also available to rent for $30/person. (+$15 for a private tent).
- RAINGEAR. Hooded rain jacket and pants. (hopefully it stays in the bottom of your drybag, but sometimes it does rain in the desert)
- Warm pajamas.
- Gloves & knitted hat that covers your ears. (nights in the desert may get cold)
- Shorts and short sleeved shirt or t-shirt.
- River sandals or tennis shoes that can and will get wet!
- Lightweight hiking boots
- A filled personal water bottle or canteen for hiking and night use. A one liter bottle is suggested
- Any medication you must take regularly
- Sunscreen and bug repellent
- Towel, comb/brush, biodegradable soap, toothbrush, chapstick, sunscreen and/or sunblock
- Visor or wide brimmed hat or cap
- Sunglasses with tie on strap
- Headlamp with extra batteries
- One or two carabiners (great for clipping water bottle to your PFD or boat)
- Small daypack for hiking
- Small Binoculars
- Bandannas (keep cool by dipping them in the river)
- Garbage bag for dirty clothes
*All items must fit in your two dry bags. Large Dry Bag has a 16” Diameter and is 25” Tall. Small Dry Bag has a 6.5” diameter and 19” tall.
*Remember to tip your guides. 15% gratuity is custom.
Day Before Departure:
Come by our shop anytime the day before 7pm to get your dry bags so that you can take them to your hotel and pack them for the next morning. Our front desk will answer any last minute questions you have and make sure you have everything needed for your adventure.
Below is a sample itinerary. We run small group tours and every trip is a customized for the group. Your trip leader will create the itinerary to match the physical ability and interests of the group.
In the morning at 9 am the group departs in a Wild Expeditions van from Bluff to the Sand Island Launch ramp four miles west of town. The float begins as the river meanders past orange and black streaked sandstone outcroppings.
Soon the boats pull into shore and we take a short walk to a site once inhabited by ancient desert farmers, the Anasazi. Large oval steps are carved into the cliff wall and petroglyphs appear around every corner. Down river a short distance, lunch is served under the cottonwood trees at the famous Butler Wash petroglyph panel with plenty of time to examine this extensive group of mysterious images.
After more floating the group walks to River House, an 800-year-old cliff dwelling. You can spend time amid the round walls of a kiva where dried corn cobs remain with bits of pottery. This hike can be extended by exploring the nearby benchlands for more sites and another large kiva.
Camp is pitched in the late afternoon on a sandy beach amongst the cottonwoods and giant sagebrush. The guides prepare dinner, complete with appetizers and dessert. Sunset and campfire, then it’s off to sleep in a tent or out under the stars.
First light finds the guides in the kitchen making coffee and fixing breakfast. Gear is repacked, the boats are loaded, then the float continues.
The morning walk could include Chinle Wash, where painted rock art and cliff dwellings hide among the rock alcoves. Author Tony Hillerman calls Chinle Wash “Many Ruins Canyon” in the mystery novel Thief of Time.
For those more interested in geology, there is a vigorous climb up the Mule’s Ear Diatreme for a breathtaking view of the Monument Upwarp. Multicolored layers of rock have been tilted and then eroded by wind and water.
History buffs might prefer to look at the remnants of a trading post built in 1883, and then a hike up San Juan Hill. This steep route was chiseled along a diagonal opening in the cliff by the famous Mormon “Hole-In-The-Rock” expedition in 1880.
At Mile 9 the river enters the “anticline” and the canyon walls rise up dramatically. The river narrows and the pace quickens as small riffles and rapids rock the boats.
Camp is made deep within the canyon where the limestone walls are full of fossils and a lively current murmurs against the rocks.
There is time after breakfast for fossil hunting. An undulating pattern to the rocks reveals the presence of “bioherms.” Porous mounds in an ancient shallow sea, they act as a reservoir rock to capture oil.
The trip continues with more floating and fun rapids. Desert bighorn sheep may appear along this stretch. The rocks tilt and canyon walls diminish as Mexican Hat Rock comes into view, a large red slab balanced on a small pedestal. The vivid reds and grays of the anticline zig-zag across the eastern horizon, a Navajo blanket of stone.
The journey ends by 2 or 3 p.m. at the boat launch in the town of Mexican Hat, where our vans will transport you back to Bluff.