San Juan River
Utah Rivers

San Juan River

The 383-mile long San Juan River is one of the Colorado River’s main tributaries. The river runs though the Four Corners area, primarily in southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico. The river begins near the southern slope of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, as do its main tributaries which include the Animas River, the La Plata River, and the Navajo River. The San Juan River flows south and east, changing more than 11,000 feet in elevations, eventually merging with the Colorado River at Lake Powell.

The San Juan River runs through a large amount of desert landscape and is the most significant source of fresh water in parts of the Navajo Indian Reservation that dominates the area. The river is also a popular destination for whitewater rafting and fishing. A three- to four-mile stretch of river below the Navajo Dam offers one of the most prolific trout populations—in both size and numbers—in North America.

An abundance of Native American ruins is also a major draw for adventurous history buffs, hikers, and campers. The area along the San Juan River between Bluff and Mexican Hat features an unrivaled amount of rock art, cliff dwellings, and archaeological remains which reflect Utah's Native American past. Millions of years of geologic history are also evident along the San Juan River, particularly visible from an 'entrenched meander' in Gooseneck State Park.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees the San Juan River from Bluff to Lake Powell. Recreation permits, required for most river activities, can be obtained at the BLM's Monticello office.


Colorado River

The Colorado River flows across the Colorado Plateau for more than 1,450 miles, beginning in the Colorado Rockies and winding through southeastern Utah and western Arizona until it reaches the Gulf of California in northwest Mexico. This powerful river is a true force of nature, carving majestic canyons and deep gorges to expose 300 million years of geologic history, and sustaining wildlife and ancient, pioneer, and modern cultures.

The Colorado River is famous for its world-class big water, and exhilaration takes on a whole new meaning at the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers at the southern end of Canyonlands National Park. Here, the river’s force doubles to create some of the most powerful white water rapids in the country. Fifteen miles of back-to-back Class III-IV rapids pound through Cataract Canyon, a 46-mile long, deeply carved gorge with 2,000-foot high red sandstone walls inside Canyonlands National Park. Yet white water isn’t the only highlight of this adventure, as the breathtaking scenery and unrivaled ancient Native American ruins are equally enthralling.

White water rafting trips through Cataract Canyon typically launch near Moab, where calmer waters are appropriate for all skill levels and even families, and end about 100 miles downriver at the confluence of the Dirty Devil River near Hite Marina on Lake Powell. Whitewater rafting season on the Colorado River typically peaks in May and June, although the unregulated water levels vary depending on spring runoff. Expect high temperatures during the peak season, perfect for a white water adventure.


Green River

The 730-mile-long Green River is the main tributary of the Colorado River, beginning in Wyoming and flowing through Utah into San Juan County. The powerful river winds through the rugged sandstone canyons on the west edge of Canyonlands National Park, converging with the Colorado River at the southern tip of the park. Relatively calm before the confluence, kayakers, rafters, and canoeists float along the Green River’s tranquil waters inside Canyonlands National Park. Once the Green River merges with the Colorado River it creates powerful rapids similar to those at the Grand Canyon for world-class white water rafting.

A rafting trip down the Green River introduces more than just adventure - it’s also a trip through Utah’s unique Native American, pioneer, and geologic history and scenery. Once home to the Fremont, Shoshone, and Ute cultures, the Green River was named ‘Rio Verde’ by early Spanish explorers who crossed the river on the Old Spanish Trail, just north of present-day Moab. The Green River was mapped by the Powell expedition in 1869, who set up camp at the confluence in Canyonlands National Park.

The Green River white water rafting season runs from April through October, with peak rapids around May and June. Boat launch ramps are available outside Canyonlands National Park. The Green River is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).