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Old 02-19-2011   #11
Santa Monica, California
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 1
Very difficult choice, if you can check out both as the scenery is amazing but if I had to pick only one I'd say San Juan!

Sea Eagle Boats
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Old 02-28-2011   #12
Unincorporated Douglas County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1896
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 94
People here are actually telling you something about the SJ you should note. When it rains it is a very narrow canyon and the side canyons flood. You have to be careful where you camp and make sure you secure boats from rising water and any land gear from sudden strong gusts of wind. We did a SJ canoe trip with our teenagers during an October break and it was fantastic. Government is a +II to -III and we ran our 16' royalex boats through it fully loaded and didn't pick up a drop of water, if anything it was sort of too short. It rained all of our five days, and we ended up paddling in wetsuits, which actually turned out to work just fine. Even with rain it was a nice trip, and as mentioned, the rain simply cascades down the cliffs in incredible waterfalls.

I've heard that the road in to Clay Hills has gotten pretty bad, but haven't seen it in several years. It is definitely not a road you would want to take a standard passenger car over.

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Old 03-14-2011   #13
Beardance42's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 238
My first wife and I did Deso 12 or 13 times, almost always around Labor Day, once in October. Fewer bugs in September, pretty much none by the end of Sept. In my experience, the winds are generally worse on Deso (although we got blasted one day last year on San Juan.) Deso is quite a bit more effort, with long stretches of slow water below 3000. Start your day early and get miles in before the winds come up, usually 11AM-1PM.

I went back to Deso with my current wife in 2008, and we hit the hardest wind day I've ever encountered in almost 20 years on the river. Utterly astonishing.

Hands down San Juan is easier on small children. But Deso has abundant charms. I haven't been back since Joe Hatch flashed.
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Old 03-14-2011   #14
Unincorporated Douglas County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1896
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 94
big proviso on the SJ, the canyon walls are steeper, and the flooding more violent and likely to occur on shorter notice. Campsite selection is pretty important in that narrow space. Pretty much all the side canyons can give you a lot of trouble very quickly.
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Old 03-15-2011   #15
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,407
Wind gusts on the SJ can be epic and often times just happen.

We were camping down below Mexican Hat on a trip and had the outfitter tarp up (double staked by the way) as it looked like it might rain. A hurricane speed wind gust came up river and ripped the outfitter tarp out of the ground and the plywood outfitter type table with stove etc on top was blown over. We were cooking pork chops in hot grease and the cook happened to have the fry pan handle in his hand and was able to do a balancing act while being blown backwards and avoided what could have been a epic grease fire. Wind gust was over in seconds. Rained big time later that night some where else in the drainage and we woke up to a different river CFS wise.

bottom line is the SJ is a mellow run but can create big time problems with wind or flash floods.
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Old 03-15-2011   #16
Unincorporated Douglas County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1896
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 94
On our last trip we were camped at Oljeto on the high bench on the downstream side. We had explored the wash back about 1/4-1/2 mile during the day, and other than some pools, it was dry. It had drizzled the days before, and I thought there might be some water in the creek that night so I ran an extra line to the boats and parked them downstream of the creek. That night it opened up and what had been a dry wash had boulders flowing in the morning. The good news is we were safe and dry, and had no problemo finding channel the rest of the way to Clay Hills.

But, it's not just the SJ that does that. We were on the ["beginner"] Green going from Spring Canyon to Spanish in October when a storm kicked up in less than 15 minutes. The river was running at less than 2,000 and the gauge at Green River went up over 1,000 cfs in less than 1/2 hour, and it's upstream of where the San Rafael and Spring and Mineral canyons come in. We had just gotten off to set up camp, and I watched white caps break up-river. Epic. We came across two canoes adrift later the next day. NO PAINTERS, NO bow or stern lines of ANY form. I beached them as high as I could. As most of you know, Stillwater/Labyrinth are considered good first canoe river trips.
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Old 03-20-2011   #17
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Gunnison, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 86
Just getting back from the San Juan today. Beautiful week - no wind except for the last push out of Lake Powell - temps in the mid 70's. It was so warm that we were in shorts as soon as the sun came up and frequently all night. Good to get some sun therapy coming from Gunnison, Co. The road to Clay Hills is in excellent condition and the BLM added a culvert to one of the nastier washes so getting out if it is raining should not be much of an issue.

When it rains in the desert the water in any of these rivers can go up quickly. Last August we did Cataract from Mineral bottom and it rained ALL week. This was a blessing as it made it comfortable instead of an oven. The water went from 6000 cfs at the put in to over 12,000 cfs by the time we hit Cataract Canyon. 12,000 cfs made the rapids much more fun for that time of year. You really had to watch where you camped as the increase in flow rapidly eroded the sand bars we were camping on.

If it looks like rain, pick your camps carefully. Everything turns into a pour over in a down pour in the desert.
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Old 03-20-2011   #18
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 81
I always think of the San Juan as one of the most beautiful floats with a few minor rapids you can do. It has wondrous slickrock side canyon hikes and nice camps with the exception of the lack of cottonwood trees. I always love stopping at the trading post just before the goosenecks for ice cream.

Deso has more whitewater that while not overly demanding, are fun and splashy. The side canyons are more brushy with trees than the San Juan. The bugs on the first couple days on Deso can be the stuff of legend a certain times of the year. Be prepared if you go during bug season.

I've had epic wind and weather/flash flood experiences on both, but while I've managed to do the San Juan with little wind issues (last time I did it we had downstream winds most of the trip), I've never done Deso without at least a couple days where the wind made getting downstream hard work. (Not that I mind hard work, builds charactor)

Bottom line: Both trips offer top quality, albeit different experience's
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Old 03-20-2011   #19
New Haven, Connecticut
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1
Actually I haven't been there but sounds interesting. I might try going in there for sometime...
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Old 03-20-2011   #20
wildh2onriver's Avatar
irvine, California
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,197
Originally Posted by Weezer123 View Post
Actually I haven't been there but sounds interesting. I might try going in there for sometime...
Don't do it, people lie, babies's a lot like the MF--very dangerous and uninteresting.

Are you related to the rock band?

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