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Old 05-08-2009   #1
MacD's Avatar
Sandia Park, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1968
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 1
Good level for San Juan

Hi, Can someone tell me what a could level to raft the San Juan from Sand Island is? What's medium level, what's high level?


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Old 05-08-2009   #2
rivermanryan's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
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Posts: 580
500 - 1500 cfs = Low
1500 - 4000 cfs = medium
4000+ cfs = high

I'm sure others will have other opinions

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Old 05-08-2009   #3
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Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
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The higher the better, IMO. Years ago during a super wet summer in the San Juan mountains, we launch around August 1st and had flows between 4,000-6,000 the whole 5 days. I barely put an oar in the water the whole trip, and each day of about 10mi took a couple of hours max. We did have a flash flood in Grand Gulch (we were camped downstream) that stole a trash cooler one night - but we were lucky. A group camped at GG lost their whole kitchen that was set up in the wash. At least they were smart enough not to have set up tents in the flood path.....
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Old 05-08-2009   #4
Pugetopolis, Washington
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 767
I liked it at high and low levels. First time i did it,it was 550cfs roughly. It still has good current at that level,the water was nice and green,and there were a lot of campspots available. Government rapid was a lot more techy at low water. Definitely need to scout.

Last season we did it at 7k. It was brown with good current. A lot of the campspots we stayed at the first time were underwater. Government was just read-n-run waves....

I think i prefer low water on it. Waters nice and green and Govment is more of a challenge. But i remember thinking that 550(ish)cfs is about as low as you want to go. Below Grand Gulch the sandbars will suck at any level. Even though none of us got hungup on em,your constantly dodging em and scraping along.
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Old 05-08-2009   #5
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 1,907
I've done Sand Island to Mexican Hat at 7000 cfs. Fast, fast, fast. No rowing required, though eddying out for campsites was kinda tough. 8 Foot was an easy wave train.

Just did the Mexican Hat to Clay Hills section at 2000 dropping to 1500. Government's rocks were pretty well covered, and the line was obvious, center-right. At that level, the sandbars downstream from Grand Gulch were covered enough to fool us more than once. Lots of heave-ho to get the overloaded rafts floating again. I assume the last day is easier at higher levels 'cause the sandbars would be covered, and at a lower levels 'cause you could see them more clearly.
You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you. - Heraclitus of Ephesus
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Old 05-08-2009   #6
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
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Posts: 580
Even at 9000 cfs, we were dodging sandbars last year. More channels at higher water, but very hard to see until your on them.
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Old 05-08-2009   #7
RFV, Colorado
Paddling Since: 94
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 234

All Flow Levels are good. Its is the San Juan after all. Just depends on how much you LIKE IT THERE.
Government is the REAL problem at low flow,especially if you are less experienced. It's like being in a pinball machine. I've seen Gov. Turn a good trip into disaster. And with that I'm sure there are alot who will disagree.
After Gov. Turning the corner(Into the Lake) at low flow and High "w" could result in a day delay.. as well as Hike A BOAT the sand bars.
All In All it is the San Juan Right? And if you can't get lost and forget all your troubles out there. Then maybe it isn't worth the trip?

Big Dave
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