San Juan River from Sand Island to Mexican Hat

Memory a bit fuzzy, but this could have been only the second time I've launched under a lottery permit actually drawn. Cancellations and other paddler's coattails are usually my only options. Unlike some previous spring time trips with frozen water bottles, the temperatures were very comfortable. The first days were actually too warm for hiking in the heat of the day. Nights were perfect, with a full moon removing the need for breaking out a flashlight.

Although the 380 CFS flow was near minimum cutoff level, the water was clear enough to see and avoid hazards. This was a rarity for the San Juan. The Animas was only contributing 11 CFS and there was no turbulence to silt/muddy the water. I have never seen the river this clear before. Valles provided the shuttle but it turned iffy. Their regularly scheduled driver had an issue with the dentist and the usual backup drivers were unavailable. Sitting in Mexican Hat at 11 a.m. on launch day with no shuttle and a rapidly dwindling window for getting downriver. Luckily, local native Myron walks in looking to see if they could use an unscheduled shuttle driver. 40 minutes later push off from the Sand Island ramp. Sandwiched between was an intriguing story about a healing ceremony undergone to right a wrong suffered during a surgery.

One major hike planned is a full-day attempt to scout the easternmost side canyons entering Chinle from the rim. Exploring them from the wash in the past has proved difficult from a bush-whacking viewpoint. Perhaps there would be an easier access point from the top. Another goal is an overnighter to explore the area to the southeast of Mule Ear via the old jeep road that parallels the western side of Mule Ear. The first proved doable while the second was delusional. Horrible headwinds changed the half-day exploration up canyon at 8-foot rapid to a shorter hike that tops out the ridge above Stairmaster camp. I did not realize the views of Monument Valley were that nice at Stairmaster.

Highlights of the trip were bighorn, visiting several times with the canoe paddlers at Chinle, and meeting old Navy/paddling friends after the trip to do more Butler Wash exploring. Especially going solo, seems like in the evening I've overstayed my San Juan welcome. After it is over though, seems worthwhile every time.

Click images to view trip report details.

Trip report image
USGS flow link image