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San Juan River

The 383-mile long San Juan River is one of the Colorado River’s main tributaries. The river runs through 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.

An adventure on the San Juan River is unlike any other river running or rafting experience. Venturing out on the San Juan River is an opportunity to learn of the history, geology, and biology of this remarkable region. Ancient ruins and rock art are found throughout the San Juan River gorge. This river rafting experience is much more about the things you'll see, do, and learn, and less about running rapids.

Day trips are available, along with opportunities for multi-day experiences on the San Juan River.

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.