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Old 04-24-2010   #1
DeeGardiner's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 83
San Juan shuttle 2010

After reading several threads about shuttle providers that have discontinued service, I have a few questions regarding shuttle for the San Juan river from Sand Island to Clay Hills:

1) Has anyone actually hired and used a shuttle service in 2010? If so, who? What were the terms? What were the results? Would you recommend them?

2) Can a low profile car (such as a Toyota Camry) make it on the dirt road to Clay Hills? Or would we need a high clearance vehicle?

3) We launch on May 10. Currently we only need one vehicle (Suburban), so I was wondering if anyone would like to team up for shuttle on that day.

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Old 04-24-2010   #2
BackCountry's Avatar
Gunnison, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 86
I don't know about shuttle services but it is only a 3 hr round trip shuttle the way we drive the back roads. Not bad for a week on the river. The road to Clay Hills was in good shape 3 weeks ago. A city pod (Camry or Subaru) could do it - bring a good spare tire and drive that 16 miles slow. I had all 4 tires off the ground in my F250 Powerstroke but we were racing it Dakar style - took about 15 minutes on the dirt section!

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Old 04-24-2010   #3
RFV, Colorado
Paddling Since: 94
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 234
Clay Hills

First off, keep your wheels on the ground. Second it's 11 miles.
Now for some honest advice. When it is not raining, the (road)/ is in good shape. they grade it when they can. Who are they? they are the one you give your money to for the permit.
That said, If it has been raining for the last two days of your trip. You might expect some wash out spots.
I have used Recapture from Bluff, As well as the campground/lodge people at Mexican Hat. My vehicle was always waiting for me, with an old Navajo man sitting in the Tammies. He'll wait for you to de-rig/ Load up. Then you give him a ride back.
From what I have heard this year. They are not taking shuttle re3servations. Although they never have takin' reservations. They are always there, When you get there find them.

Of course I could be wrong, It's happend in the past
Big Dave
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Old 04-24-2010   #4
BackCountry's Avatar
Gunnison, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 86
You are right, it may only be 11-12 miles of dirt road. It had been recently graded when I was there at the beginning of the month. This made sections of it very fast. The road looks like it may get a little greasy when wet and there are several drainages that the road crosses that may be iffy in a heavy rain storm. When dry it is passable with any type of vehicle.

If you take the shuttle a little more conservatively than we did, you should plan on it taking around 4 hrs round trip. Pretty drive. The climb up the sand stone cliffs on SH 261 is impressive. You definitely do not want to pull a trailer on this rout. Watch out for deer and range cattle along the road once you get up on top.
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Old 04-25-2010   #5
DeeGardiner's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 83
Originally Posted by BackCountry View Post
You definitely do not want to pull a trailer on this rout.
Are you saying that I shouldn't even pull a utility trailer that carries my river gear? Or are you suggesting not to pull a large RV type trailer. I have a 15' long by 7' wide utility trailer being pulled by a Suburban. Will that be okay? And is it the climb up SH261 that is the problem? Or the dirt road? Sounds like the dirt road should be fine though.
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Old 04-25-2010   #6
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,407
San Juan Shuttle

A surburban pulling any size utility trailer should have zero problems running the San Juan shuttle roads from Bluff to Clay Hills. Neither should any other vehicle equipped to tow a utility trailer.

The Same Vehicle pulling a big time RV trailer should do ok on the paved sections but would most likely bottom out on many of the "dips" on the Clay Hills dirt road section.

We have done this shuttle many times in all sorts of vehicles not pulling utility trailers and all sorts of vehicles pulling utility trailers. You will see all sorts of vehicles parked at Clay Hills take out. Your biggest danger is missing the take out and going all the way to the lake or running the big drop. Take that back, the biggest danger is heat exhaustion taking care of all the gear up the hill from the muddy take out ramp!

The big issue for any long low to the ground vehicle or trailer is bottoming out on the tight turns and many deep dry creek "dip" type crossings.

Take it slow on the dirt road, observe the speed limits on the paved sections of the road and enjoy the scenery. You should have zero problems running your shuttle. Just be sure to fill your gas tank.
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Old 04-25-2010   #7
BackCountry's Avatar
Gunnison, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 86
SH 261 should be avoided with a trailer. The road turns to dirt at the cliff face for the climb up with extremely tight switch backs. The signs on the road say no trailers or vehicles over 10,000 lbs. My full size pickup was about as long as I would want to pull around those turns. If you take them real wide - the road is about a lane and a half with pull outs to pass on - you could probably get a short trailer around the corners. I don't think I would want to try myself and I frequently haul trailers on some nasty logging roads.

There are other routs. Go back to HWY 95 in Blanding and avoid SH 261. This is a little longer but all paved good road. The dirt road to Clay Hills will not be a problem with a trailer. You will have to go slow over some of the rollers so that you don't bottom anything out.
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Old 04-25-2010   #8
Beardance42's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 238
Hi Dee - you'll be launching a day after us.

The Clay Hills road is okay for a street-clearance vehicle, if you take it easy. AND...if it's dry. We got into a situation last year after severe downpours washed the road out in places - there was a 50cfs river running through one of the washes, and several spots were pure quicksand. We and another group spent hours shoring up the road in two or three places. Before you go down there, check around with the sheriff and locals about the condition of the road - if any doubt, don't take a car down there. It'd be a long wait for help if you get stuck, and expensive (although our cell phones did get a little spotty service on the CH road.)

I wouldn't do the Dugway (SH 261) with a long trailer. No way.

We're trying to figure a way to do shuttle ourselves, but we only have two vehicles and two rafts, and I'm a little concerned we may not be able to get both rigs back in my Ram.

Are you launching from SI on the 10th, or from MH? We may be able to help each other out. Drop me a note.

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Old 04-25-2010   #9
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 38

Don't mind Bear, he can be a problem child at times. LOL Just kiddin' Bear.

The road to Clay Hills take-out is fine when it is not wet regardless of the vehicle. Bear and I did it in a horrendous rain storm and flash; and a couple of the vehicles that ended up in our caravan did have trailers. One was a long, low rider but made it just fine through the wash outs and mud pits. When the road is dry, a typical street vehicle can make it quite easily. Just go slow and you won't have any problems.

Since Bear and I have a May 9th put-in at SI (a day earlier than you), perhaps there is a possibility we can plan something. We have two vehicles so far and we don't know of anyone putting that same day.

Bear and I are combining our permits. I have the one day SI to MH permit; Bear has the MH to Clay permit.

Send me a message if you are interested in hooking up to do a shuttle. Hope to hear from ya'.

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Old 04-26-2010   #10
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 44
I am going to put in from SI on May 10th too! Wish we had a plan, but still have not figured out who all is driving. We had a VW Jetta puncture the oil pan on that stretch a few years back so keep your speed down if you are bringing a car. And they don't work on them fancy foreign cars in Blanding...Will probably see you all on the river.

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