Rafting the San Juan River V 20-Jun-2021

DAY 5: Slickhorn C Camp to Oljeto Camp

River Flow: 1,120 cfs (31.7 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 104°F (40°C) high / 68°F (20°C) low

At first light, the bats started zooming over my head catching the insects that were on their way to feed on me – but became bat food instead. Win-win! 😉 I find bats fascinating and could have lain on my sleeping pad just watching them flit about. But I wanted to see Slickrock Canyon before the solar blowtorch got going, so I arose and shuffled the short distance over to the canyon’s mouth. The LovedOne slept on…

The canyon bottom was well and truly dry. It must be an amazing sight when it is, in fact, slick and shiny with running water.

A dry Slickrock Canyon
A slickrock abstract
The water had carved an amphitheater in the rock
Looking upstream from the mouth of Slickrock Canyon; B Camp in the foreground
Overlooking C Camp

I had the canyon to myself for just a bit before the large group camped above us at B Camp showed-up. Well, it was time for breakfast anyway. So back to camp for coffee, yogurt, and cereal.

Breakfast conversation at Slickrock C

And then it was time to get back on the river – whose waters may look deep but usually weren’t. While there were some deep holes, much of the river was less than 3 feet (1 m) deep. In some places it wasn’t even that deep – which is where dragging the rafts came in. And this is not the San Juan’s natural bottom but rather the surface of the sediment deposited due to Lake Powell. The river’s original bottom might be 40 or more feet (12+ m) down.

On the river, again
Still floating
Wide and shallow
Approaching Grand Gulch

We stopped at the mouth of Grand Gulch for lunch and a very short hike. Grand Gulch is one of the must see features along the San Juan and has become popular as a backpacking destination (entering either from above or up from the river). Once densely populated (relatively speaking) by Ancestral Puebloans, their remains and artifacts were extensively looted and plundered in the years before the 1906 Antiquities Act – and, sadly, still are to this day. It must be a magical place to visit in cooler weather. We went maybe a quarter mile before seeking shade under a gigantic boulder, then it was back for a sit in the river.

The entrance to Grand Gulch
The rocks were often too hot to touch
Shade!
The LovedOne casting an enigmatic smile

The scenery was no less amazing after we got back on the river after lunch.

The scenery continued unabated
Sandbar (arrow) in mid-river

We almost made it to our last camp without having to walk. Almost. The mouth of Oljeto Wash had just come into view when we ran aground. Walking, hauling, pushing, and shoving of the rafts ensued.

Anabelle pulls us toward camp

Our last camp on this trip – Oljeto – was possibly my favorite. Mainly because it offered shade as soon as we arrived and stayed shaded until we left in the morning. Maybe not a winter trip favorite but certainly a summer one. It sits at the mouth of a wash that extends 12 or so sinuous miles south into the Navajo Reservation. While it’s legal to camp at its mouth, we’d have needed special permission (rarely granted) to do more than just walk a little ways in from the river.

The view upstream from the mouth of Oljeto Wash
We had our last supper at Oljeto Wash
Sunset at Oljeto
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One comment

  1. This would be my favorite stage of the trip. I happened to be reading Tony Hillerman’s “Finding Badger”, set near the (fictional?) town of Bluff near the San Juan, and your images brought that to life. thanks.

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