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Old 03-27-2015   #1
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 135
More San Juan Beta - What is considered low, med, high?

What is considered low, med, high, water on the San Juan. Going from Sand Island to Clay hills May 28 put in. Can you get a whitewater dory through there that time a year.

I know it is done through releases any way of knowing?

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Old 03-28-2015   #2
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 115
500 cfs is low. The river has shallow sand bars below Slickhorn that at some point will make you need to drag you boat off or around. Some people say a Dory will be harder to get off the sand bars. If its below 1000 and your Dory has a deeper draft then a raft it may be a pain in the but. I ran it last year at 2000 and it was much better then at 700 ish. I am going from sand island to Mexican hat the same time. If you look at the flow data the river is not likely to be below 1000 cfs around this time.

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Old 03-28-2015   #3
Wondervu, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 390
The sand bars can be a pain, at least with me rowing. The flows in the lower section breakup into multiple braids, if you follow the wrong one it thins out and you might need to drag the boat upstream for several hundred yards to get back into the deep channel.

I find it a little easier to read the deep channel at lower flows, the dead ends are easier to spot and there are fewer wrong choices. The most important thing is to keep all the boats in a tight group so you are close enough to help out if someone gets stuck.

On some trips we had kayaks and duckies that could go ahead and scout the channels for us.

My dory floats pretty high when the passenger and I get out to push, as long as I don't overload her and keep the trim close to level. It can be hard to find a good place to push/pull on the dory, so a rope and a good tie point might be handy. AND it is much easier to pull upstream than my raft.

I did see a Clackercraft pinned in Government Rapid in 2008, so be alert. Also the scouting trail on river left at government is lined with rocks that have veins of flint sticking out like small arrows heads. Definitely want some good footwear and be careful if you carry a duckie through there.
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Old 03-28-2015   #4
Arboles, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 32
Personally, I would not count on there being 1000 cfs in the Juan at that time of year this off has started and the long-term weather forecast does not look as if it is going to slow down. I have heard that BOR plans to do a release this year from Navajo....when or how much that will be I do not know at this time. Two years ago we did MH to Clay hills and we took out on approximately 450 (week after memorial weekend). I don't think I would want a dory down there at that level. We went same time last year, and had problems, saw lots of dorys. We launch this year on the 25th, and as I say, I am not anticipating there being an abundance of water, but time will tell. Have a great trip, no matter what the level is for you!
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Old 03-28-2015   #5
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 337
Not that this helps, I rowed a 22 foot snout rig down the San Juan at peak flows. It was tight at government but I had no issues. The sand bars weren't an issue at all. In fact that big boat was the fastest of the fleet.

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Old 03-28-2015   #6
mattman's Avatar
Fraser, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,038
This march I found the first chanel of the braid to be the best, as you went down stream there was progressively less water for each channel, usually.
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Old 03-29-2015   #7
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 35
I have run my dory down many times in the last 25 years, I personally have decided that anything under 1200-1500cfs is not worth the hassles of rocks.

Government rapid is the biggest problem below Mex Hat. I have run it at as low as 500cfs to 8000 cfs. Unless you line it, you will hit a rock or two. I would stay away. I ran it last year at 600 cfs in a raft, so glad I was not in my dory!!!! There is no sneak in a dory at this rapid,,, lined it once at 500 cfs, before the flash flood, not it is worse...

I bought a raft, now its a last minute change on the trailer for this trip. The best level is 2500 - 3500cfs in a dory, big bounce, 8000cfs all washed out.

FYI: sand bars below slick, better defined at low water..
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Old 03-30-2015   #8
Castle Rock, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 191
Minimum flows for raft

What is the minimum flows that you would recommend for taking 14' rafts down here? Not really interested in dragging my boat around for hours on end. I've seen some say 500. My permit is not till late June - based on history, seems like I will be around 1000, which sounds fine, but others are suggesting lower water this year. Not looking for water predictions, just the level at which we should consider cancelling the trip.
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Old 03-30-2015   #9
wildh2onriver's Avatar
irvine, California
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,197
I did it once at 375 in a heavy 18' cat with 2 passengers. Got stuck 3-4 times on the last day, just had to jump in and drag for a few seconds.

I'd do it again in my 14' raft in no question. All the rafts did great at that flow.

Sent from my iPhone using Mountain Buzz
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Old 03-30-2015   #10
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Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 4,207
In the past Susan Novak has been the contact and has been very kind to us by posting updates on the Buzz. It would appear our contact has changed. Here is her contact info and the project update page:

Susan Behery

Bureau of Reclamation - Project Notices: Navajo Unit

Hope that helps Don. Hope your carpet looks good too...

GARNA’s mission is to foster stewardship of the resources of the greater Arkansas River region through education, volunteerism and experiences.
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