San Juan in September - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-03-2010   #1
Menlo Park, California
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 1
San Juan in September

We've got a Sep 7 launch date for MH to CH and I'm looking for some beta. Our group of 9 will be doing 5 nights on the river and will be taking three 14' rafts with oar rigs.

Shuttles: I see that Blackhawk is the only outfit currently doing shuttle; but also saw a post referencing Jim H out of Bluff. Is this the most current information about shuttles?

Flow: Has low water in recent years made certain sections unrunnable due to shallow water and sediment build-up? Is there a flow below which the run would not be recommended?

Camps: We already have BLM reservations for downriver sites (Slickhorn "D" and Oljeto). Are there other camps upriver from Slickhorn that are highly recommended?

I'm sure I'll have more questions as I get deeper into planning; but for now would appreciate any and all advice.

-Roger (riveraddict) from CA

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Old 08-03-2010   #2
Emmielou's Avatar
Moab, Utah
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 106

From one week ago
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.-Ed Abbey
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Old 08-03-2010   #3
Durango, CO
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 155
Jim Hardin out of Bluff UT is the way to go for the shuttle. I used him twice this summer and both times he did great and his prices are totally fair. 435-672-2455.

We did MH to CH a few weeks ago, at the lowest water of the year (i think?), before the flows from Navajo Resevoir were bumped up for the "critical habitat areas". So, we ran it between 450-550 in 14' rafts. Govt Rapid was technical but was no real problem. The sandbars after Slickhorn are not fun, but easy to read. you'll get stuck a few times but you should be okay. I'd guess (but really, I don't know) that below 350-400 it'd be not so fun.

Oljeto is absolutely awesome. Make sure you plan for enough time (should have a short day from Slick to Oljeto) to do a hike up Oljeto Wash. One of the coolest places on the trip, in my opinion.

Definately check out the side hike up Slickhorn Canyon. Also the side hike up John's Canyon. Be careful and don't bring little kids on this one.

Also, camping at John's Canyon would be cool. I like the camp on river-right at the bottom of "Ross Rapid" as well. I've never camped there, but it looks super cool.

At ~500 cfs you will have a moderately long day from Oljeto to Clay Hills, so you may want to plan a short breakfast for that day and be ready to boogie early. It's totally doable, but it's slow moving those last 10 miles. It becomes more like a lake and less like a river every mile.

Have fun. if you have any other specific questions feel free to ask!

The Whitis/Martin RiverMap is a great resource.
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Old 08-03-2010   #4
ilanarama's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 85
I might have seen you, BLott - we were there at the same time, 2 12-ft catarafts and a canoe.

We did two trips this year and used Blackhawk on one and Jim on the other - both fine. Jim is a really nice guy and willing to go out of his way if for example you need to pick up a proper poop-carrying bucket at Recapture Lodge because yours doesn't meet ranger spec....

I thought Government was challenging but easier than it looked in the scout. Some of the riffles are a bit beefier at low water also, Gypsum Creek was rather rocky to get into, and the rock garden just above John's Canyon has no clear path - expect to bounce off rocks. OTOH Eight Foot seemed a lot easier at low.

Upper John's is a nice camp. Upper Honaker is also really nice with a big beach and lots of room, and then you can hike up to the overlook. I like the Midway camp also.

Stop at Grand Gulch for a hike as well. It's easiest to go past the canyon entrance as the walls are lower a bit farther down. As far as Oljeto out is concerned, it's not that long in distance - we didn't stop for lunch and took out around 1:30, and we hiked up the canyon before breakfast, so it's not as long a day as I think BLott makes it sound. But it's a lot longer than the river mileage suggests because you have to cross and recross the river to stay in the deeper water.

I wrote up our most recent trip here on my blog - lots of photos, including a flash flood in Oljeto.
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Old 08-03-2010   #5
Summit County, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 156
Be VERY aware of what the weather situation is in the surrounding areas at that time of year. These pics are from last year when we did this in June. These flash floods were very uncharacteristic for that time of year, but are more common in the fall. This is what we had to deal with the entire trip. We had several camps flooded, and I know of one group that had a flash flood come down on them and they lost all of their gear and two boats (if I remember correctly), and ended up with one boat left. Very sad situation and a humbling experience since this is a fairly easy stretch. We could not do any hikes because ALL of the washes (Slickhorn, Grand Gulch, Oljeto) were flooding tremendously. The first pic is Slickhorn. The second is our camp at Slickhorn, Slickhorn D, actually. We could hear it coming, but had no idea where it was going to come over the edge - we got lucky. That's our river wing - the only shelter we had for the entire trip. I highly recommend bringing one, just in case. The waterfalls were just pouring over the tops of the canyon. It was beautiful and VERY scary all at the same time. The river turned blood red. We ended up taking out a day early, as our last camp was completely gone when we got to it. Had we taken a closer look we would have seen the other group's kitchen completely smashed by boulders, and their ropes to their boats severed. It's a gorgeous stretch, and we can't wait to go back. Be prepared and most importantly, ENJOY your trip
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camps, flows, san juan, shuttle

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