Rafting the San Juan River IV 19-Jun-2021

DAY 4: Twin Canyon Camp to Slickhorn C Camp

River Flow: 1,290 cfs (36.5 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 102°F (39°C) high / 68°F (20°C) low

Time and the river flowing… In addition to being Juneteenth, today was also my birthday. Almost 30 years ago I celebrated one during a DIY canoe trip on the Green River with The LovedOne, Diane, Wayne and two other friends. A lot of water, some turbulent, has flowed under the proverbial bridge since then. And yet here we are, once again on a river, still good friends, and still having adventures together. What amazing and wonderful people. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full…

Aside from further expansive geology, today would offer-up the one moderately challenging rapid we’d run on the lower San Juan – Government Rapid (Class III- to III) at RM 63.7. When we reached camp, we’d start getting some insights into how Lake Powell had affected the river and what the future might hold for the hydrology of southeast Utah.

Morning clouds at Twin Canyon Camp
Sunlight creeps toward our camp
One of the few times we got on the river while there was still some shade
Reflections
Ross Rapid
Lots more geology
We had lunch on a mud flat at about RM 58 – not clean, but workable
The muddy lunch did not diminish the brave rafter smile
Thick strata around RM 60

We arrived at Government Rapid – considered a fun Class III rapid. It was the only one our guides bothered to scout – which they did quickly because there was a large group coming up fast behind us. The preferred line depends on river level and there are some significant pin hazards below 500 cfs. Today’s flow was above 1,000 cfs, so most of the rocks were well covered and there were only a few minor holes. The biggest obstacle was an emergent rock about halfway through. After running it in the lead raft, it was an easy walk back to a spot where we could photograph the other rafts and kayaks coming through. That rock got one of the kayaks but everyone else made it through unscathed. 😄

Looking upstream at Government Rapid
Government Rapid
Below Government Rapid, with a faint cloud cover
Slickhorn C Camp

One of the selling points for camping at Slickhorn is (or was) access to plunge pools in the canyon itself. Unfortunately, the drought that has be ravaging the Southwest for several years has rendered the canyon waterless and the plunge pools but a memory. 😥 However, there are still exposed fossils up in the canyon and a few in our group braved the afternoon heat to go see them. We decided to wait until the cool of the morning.

Slickhorn is also where we first began to see the results of the sediment deposited by back-up from Lake Powell, some 20 miles (32 km) downriver. At its peak in 1983, the lake pushed all the way up here and eventually submerged Slickhorn Rapid in sediment. Then the lake level started an oscillating downward trend that is still going on to this day – it’s now some 140 or so feet (43 m) below its 1983 level (may actually reach minimum power pool soon). While its waters are retreating, the thick layer of sediment those waters helped deposit are still with us. In the two days we had left in our trip, we would find ourselves helping to push and pull our rafts over many of the sand bars formed by this sediment. 🤔

Moonrise at Slickhorn
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2 comments

  1. Thanks! It didn’t help that the heat dome seems to have followed us home – it’s supposed to be 112’F here tomorrow! And it’s not even July yet, not to mention August. 😅

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  2. Happy Birthday

    thanks for sharing the trip– great photos as always!

    If it is 100+ in mid June I dread to think what August will bring

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