A float trip on the San Juan River in southeast Utah provides boaters with access to spectacular red rock canyons rich in scenery, archaeology, history, remarkable geographic features, and desert wildlife. The river features Class II to III rapids that require some technical boating skill.
The BLM manages the river from Montezuma Creek, UT to the boundary of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (about river mile 45.5), and by agreement with the National Park Service, issues permits for all river segments on the 102-mile section of river between Montezuma Creek and Clay Hills Crossing. The left bank of the river from Montezuma Creek to Trimble Camp is managed by the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation requires additional permits to camp, hike, or visit archaeological sites on river left. For more information on how to obtain a Navajo permit, call the Navajo Parks and Recreation Office at (928) 871-6647.
There are three major access points for the San Juan River. Most trips launch at either Sand Island or Mexican Hat and take out at Mexican Hat or Clay Hills. Sand Island to Mexican Hat is about 27 miles and most boaters take two to three days to float this segment. Mexican Hat to Clay Hills is approximately 57 miles and is typically a four to five day trip. Sand Island to Clay Hills is about 84 miles and is typically a six to seven day trip. Clay Hills is the only viable take-out below Mexican Hat. There is a dangerous waterfall downstream from Clay Hills. The seldom-floated Montezuma Creek to Sand Island segment is approximately 17 miles.
The Navajo Dam in New Mexico controls San Juan flows. There is usually adequate river flow for boating all year. However, larger and heavier boats may have trouble navigating through rapids below Mexican Hat and dispersed mud bars from Slickhorn Canyon to Clay Hills at lower water levels. The months of May and June are the most popular time to float the river due to higher river flows. Upstream flash floods can cause river levels to rise rapidly. Visit San Juan River water level site for real-time USGS river flow information.
No pets are allowed on the San Juan River between Sand Island and Clay Hills.
For more San Juan River trip planning information, maps and brochures, visit the BLM San Juan River Permits information page.
The BLM has implemented temporary changes to the San Juan River permit check-in process and social distancing guidelines to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The health and safety of our staff and visitors is our priority. These guidelines are consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommendations from state and local public health authorities. Please visit the following link for more information: https://recreation.gov/permits/250986/additional-information.
Rollover Permits from 2020: Reservation holders with existing 2020 rollover permits that need to modify their permit may do so by contacting the Recreation.gov Contact Center either by using the chat feature on the Recreation.gov website or by calling 877-444-6777 (Mon-Sun 10:00a.m. ET - 12:00a.m. ET) for further assistance. Modifications cannot be made online, but must be completed through the Contact Center.
The Cottonwood Wash Bridge on Highway 95, which provides access to Cedar Mesa, parts of Bears Ears National Monument, and the Clay Hills boat ramp, is closed for 60 days while emergency repairs are completed. Visitors to Cedar Mesa can use Hwy 261 and the Moki Dugway. San Juan River visitors can shuttle vehicles and access Clay Hills using Highway 261 and the Moki Dugway. These detours may add additional time to your trip. For BLM-land or permit related inquiries call: (435) 587-1500. Get updates on the road closure from the Utah Department of Transportation at: https://udottraffic.utah.gov/CLALertViewer.aspx?CLType=1 .
This permit allows boaters to float specific segments of a 102-mile section of the San Juan River between Montezuma Creek, UT and Clay Hills. A permit is required year-round. Permits are assigned using a pre-season lottery or must be reserved in advance by individuals 18 years of age or older. Permits for Sand Island to Mexican Hat, Mexican Hat to Clay Hills, and Sand Island to Clay Hills must be obtained in advance on this site (see Important Dates section below). To obtain a permit five days or less before the launch date, or to obtain a Montezuma Creek to Sand Island permit, you must call the BLM Monticello Field Office in advance to obtain a permit.
Pack-rafters using nontraditional launch or exit points are required to obtain a permit for the entire permitted river segment, even if they will only be floating a portion of that segment (e.g., a pack-rafting trip hiking in at Honaker and floating to Slickhorn Canyon would be required to obtain a Mexican Hat to Clay Hills permit).
Rules and Regulations:
Reserved Campsite Requirements:
Navajo Nation Permits and Camping Closures:
Enjoying the Ruins and Rock Art:
The San Juan River and the adjacent canyons were once home to a remarkable prehistoric people. The remnants of these past residents, including their dwellings, artifacts and rock art, are what make the San Juan River and Cedar Mesa area truly unique. Unintentional damage caused by visitors is slowly destroying these remnants. Please familiarize yourself with the ''Visit with Respect'' tips provided by Friends of Cedar Mesa, and enjoy these archaeological sites in a manner that will help preserve them for future generations of visitors.
There is a non-refundable $6.00 application/reservation fee for all reservations and/or lottery applications.
Permit fees are required for trips launching March 1 – October 31 on all river segments between Sand Island and Clay Hills. Permit fees apply to all ages. The following per person, per trip permit fee schedule is in effect for each river segment:
Sand Island to Mexican Hat - $10 per person
Mexican Hat to Clay Hills - $20 per person
Sand Island to Clay Hills - $30 per person
Montezuma Creek to Sand Island - no fee
Permit holders are responsible for payment of per person fees for their entire group. Full payment must be made at the time of reservation. Lottery winners must accept and pay for their permits in-full by March 15 at 11:59 p.m. MDT or their reservation will be cancelled and made available to other boaters.
P.O. Box 7 Monticello UT 84535
Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to noon