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Old 05-14-2007   #1
durango, Colorado
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 2
float trip on the san juan or dolores

hey, I'm trying to plan a 3 to 4 day float trip and I have narrowed my locations down to the san juan(sand island and lower) and the lower dolores. anyone have any good insight on these 2 rivers? which would give me the best rapids without going over a class 3? any good camping spots?thanks

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Old 05-15-2007   #2
Dave Frank's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,727
Chicken Raper on lower d is 4. San Juan I've only run low, but I dont believe anything would be over 3. at 600, 8' is the only thing even close to 3.

S J is much prettier, but needs a permit.


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Old 05-15-2007   #3
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 6
If you're gonna run the Dolores, go NOW 'cause flows won't last. If you're headed for the San Juan, you must have a permit and right now the river looks booked (just looking at the river calendar). If you entered the permit lottery on the SJ, you are eligible for cancellations. If you didn't enter, you can't get a permit this year.

SJ River calendar linky...

On the other hand, the lower SJ presents almost nothing in the way of whitewater and is a spectacularly scenic float. The biggest rapid is Government, and it's an easy 3. Easy portage, too.
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Old 05-15-2007   #4
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 33
I agree about the SJ permits. If you didn't enter the lottery this year, you would need to call and have them send you a paper application. Then you send in the paper application. Then you call in for an open date. Yes, it is really this prehistoric. Or you take your chances and show up at the BLM office in Monticello and hope that someone has cancelled. Their calendar has been very full this year. Look on their website for open dates:

If you plan to run the SJ, it really helps to get a camping permit from the Navajo Nation, so you can camp on river left. Otherwise, the supply of campsites can become very limited, with the number of groups on the river. These permits can also take weeks to get, or you can drop in to the office and pick one up.

The other issue with the SJ is that it has been running 5000-6000 for most of the past 2 weeks. It is a different river at this level, with riffles becoming actual rapids, and Government is a respectable Class III rapid. Eight-Foot and other rapids also turn into respectable II-III with holes that you really want to miss. In rafts or ww kayaks, no big deal. In open canoes or with novice boaters, it can be a cold wet silty experience. This water is coming from Navajo Dam releases, so you could call BLM and find out the release schedule.
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Old 05-15-2007   #5
durango, Colorado
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 2
hey thanks for the info guys. yeah I was worried about the permit thing and I had no idea the run for dolores is so short. looks like I might have to settle for the colorado which sucks cause I wanted to do something new. I'm still holding out hope though that a spot will open up and I can get a permit.
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Old 05-15-2007   #6
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 6
Right, I forgot about high flows at Navajo Dam. From what I've been told, high flows out of Navajo end this week, like Wednesday. But you're probably out of luck on the San Juan on such short notice anyway. So that leaves you with the Moab Daily on the Colorado. No permit required but then you have to go through Moab, so you pay a price no matter what
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Old 05-15-2007   #7
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 33
I can think of a few other options.

The Green from Green River to Spanish Bottom is an excellent Class I run with a riffle or two, easy to get a permit, 120 miles. The 54 miles from Green River to Mineral Bottom doesn't even require a permit. Lots of water at this time of year. Lots of archaeological stuff in the Canyonlands section. Drawback is that if you run to Spanish Bottom, you either need to get a jet boat out (book early) or run Cataract.

Gunnison from Delta to Whitewater is usually Class I-II. You could run 2-3 days here, maybe continue downriver.

Upper Colorado from Pumphouse downstream can be at least 2-3 days. You could continue down as far as Dotsero if you wanted to add days. Good flows, perhaps II-III at this level.

San Juan above Sand Island does not require a permit, but there are a couple of diversion dams, so not suitable for rafts.

If you want to sea kayak on flat water, you can go explore canyons on Reservoir Powell. I did not think this was a fantastic trip, but I know others have really enjoyed it.
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Old 05-15-2007   #8
rwhyman's Avatar
Unincorporated Douglas County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 961
I was told by the lady at the SJ river office that the web site with the available dates was not working and could not be updated at this time and it's been that way for a while, so you just have to call and see what may be available. The June 16th Mex Hat to Clay hills date has been open for a couple of months on the site, but it's really not available.

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