San Juan River - Mexican Hat to Clay Hills - 04/23

Over the last decade, drawing a permit for the San Juan essentially has become impossible. Moving the lottery to in combination with the increase in number of people applying results in roughly an 8% chance of drawing a permit. Missing from those odds is the date the data was compiled. I don't believe the odds are anywhere near that good currently. Personally I was zero for four on my applications which was inline with everyone I knew. So it was a bit of a surprise to be invited on Ray Hiemstra's April 24th Mexican Hat to Clay Hills trip. Especially since I had never met Ray.

It all turned out good and except for the typical spring-time winds, the weather and flows were excellent. Low seventies for highs with nights hovering above forty. The scenery of the lower canyon run is tempered with the painful slog from Slickhorn Canyon to Clay Hills. A flow of 2800 CFS made the 17+ mile out- day possible but that was still a long, hard day.

Ray was the permit holder but someone who had not been on this section and had limited river experience. Mark, Roscoe, David, Mike, and myself co-shared the trip leader role and it was a no-drama, pleasant trip. We rarely saw anyone else on the river which matched what others said when we did meet someone. Valerie Lee (435-669-3592) provided the shuttle for $220 and it was non-eventful. Valles parking lot was busy and Sand Island was packed. 24 vehicles at Clay when we arrived and this was a pre-May time frame. Valles appears to be slowly withdrawing from the river scene and the office wasn't even open for the initial shuttle stop.

It rained at Sand Island the night before launching which caught everyone by surprise. River campsites were at an un-named beach below Tabernacle (Mike had it annotated as 'Fish Exterminator'), Twin Canyons, and Slickhorn A. We were assigned Trimble, but Trimble always sucks so we committed to a Slickhorn to Clay for the out-day. The hike from Slickhorn A to the pools has gotten much, much, worse over the years.

Mark has his usual insightful trip report and photos at Google: Day 1 , Day 2 , Day 3 , Day 4. Several of Mark's photos are included in this TR.

Click images to view trip report details.

Trip report image
USGS flow link image