Plan Your Rafting Adventure Along the Animas and San Juan Rivers

Plan Your Rafting Adventure Along the Animas and San Juan Rivers

21 Jun, 2024
Plan Your Rafting Adventure Along the Animas and San Juan Rivers

River rafting is a great summertime adventure for the whole family! The sunshine, water, and adrenaline keep everyone engaged for the entire day. Rafting is also a unique way to enjoy the Animas and San Juan Rivers. This exciting and family-friendly (for older kids) activity is an ideal way to break up a trip to the Four Corners. When planning a rafting trip, there are a few helpful things for first-timers to keep in mind. 

Why Choose the Animas and San Juan Rivers?  

The location of the Animas and San Juan Rivers is the first reason these rivers are ideal for rafting adventures. The Animas River runs through the heart of Farmington, which makes for a convenient pit stop while exploring everything the area has to offer. While coasting along this river, you'll enjoy scenic beauty and wildlife sightings.  

For white water rafting, the Animas River is a great place to start. The Animas River Whitewater Park playground has exciting rapids during the spring runoff. This park is accessible from the Animas River Walk parking lot near All Veterans Memorial Plaza. This rafting section is suitable for different levels of rafters, from beginners to advanced. There are Class I and Class II rapids throughout this section. Take a look at the map below or check out our Animas rafting map to learn the routes and points of interest. 

Another river rafting option is the San Juan River, which snakes around the southern edge of Farmington. This section of the San Juan River is known for its world-class trout fishing. 4.25 miles of the San Juan River flow from the Navajo Dam with special trout waters that provide year-round fishing. Anglers from all over travel to Farmington to engage in North America's most prolific trout population concerning size and quantity.  

This section of San Juan is also well known for its paddling trails. To access these paddle trails and see a San Juan River map, download the Farmington Recreation Trails Map featured above. This section of the river is suitable for different rafting skill levels, which makes it another excellent option for both beginners and experienced rafters.  

Best Time to Go Rafting  

The best time to go rafting varies for the Animas River and the San Juan River, each offering unique experiences based on the season. The Animas River provides optimal rafting conditions typically during its peak flow from June to early August. However, the season can extend from early May to mid-September, depending on the year's water levels. 

Due to controlled water releases, the San Juan River offers year-round rafting opportunities, with fall being an especially favorable time for a leisurely float. The best time to raft the San Juan River is in late May and early June; going during peak flow is particularly exciting. 

Preparing for Your Rafting Trip 

First off, make sure to dress appropriately. Ensure you have shoes that will not fall off, such as sandals that tighten and strap up (not flip-flops), a bathing suit, and quick-drying clothes to wear over your base layer (you may receive a wetsuit from your guide depending on the air and water temperature). Avoid cotton clothing. You don't want to be the person who shows up in jeans—you will get wet.  

Showing up prepped and ready for adventure gives you and your family the upper hand for a good day on the river. If you are not using a guide, you must rent specific equipment. Go to the San Juan College Outdoor Equipment Rental Center to find San Juan River raft rentals. Rafters do not need to be students to rent from this equipment center. Below is a list of all the necessary items for any rafting excursion:  

  • Personal flotation device (PFD) 
  • Helmet (certified for river use)  
  • Paddle 
  • Quick-dry clothes, swimsuit, and water shoes 
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses  

Some additional tips to make sure your day goes smoothly: 

  • Make sure to start hydrated and continue to hydrate throughout the day. You may not feel thirsty while on the river, but your body needs hydration.  
  • You'll also want to make sure to eat a good breakfast on the day of your raft trip, because you will get a workout paddling your way through the rivers. 

Choosing the Right Rafting Tour 

Choosing a guided or self-guided tour is the first big decision to make when planning a rafting trip. Each option has unique benefits and drawbacks.  

Guided Tours 

With a guide, you will get the convenience of having all equipment and logistics handled for you. Guided tours will provide you with experienced rafters who are familiar with the river's nuances, potential hazards, and emergency procedures. Additionally, they will often provide enriching information about the local area, wildlife, and history.  

Local guide companies like Desert River Guides offer flexible scheduling and customization based on your rafting preferences, making them an excellent choice for those seeking a personalized experience. Many guided tours have fixed schedules and include other participants. Desert River Guides also allow you to schedule personal tours if you prefer a more private adventure. 

Self-guided Tours 

There are unique benefits to doing self-guided tours. These are mostly recommended for those who have rafting experience. You have full control over your schedule and pace, and they are typically more affordable. That said, they come with their own set of challenges.  

  • Lack of immediate help in case of emergencies.  
  • You must arrange your equipment and transportation 
  • You may miss out on local insights and expertise. 
  • Guides will have knowledge of the best put-ins and take-outs. 

With that in mind, we recommend first-time rafters opt for guided tours for ease and safety. These tours help you learn essential rafting skills and safety procedures while enjoying the experience without worrying about the logistics. 

If you want ease and convince the Desert River Guides are a great option for various family-friendly and scenic floats along the Animas and San Juan Rivers. They offer several tours on the Animas River, including the Berg Park Tour, a two-hour tour, and a full-day tour, and on the San Juan River, with options for a two-hour tour and a full-day trip. 

What to Expect on Your Rafting Adventure 

If you’re going on a guided tour, you begin at the designated starting point or the guide outfit and meet your guide and fellow rafters. From here on, you will: 

  1. Learn safety protocols and basic rafting techniques.  
  2. Get fitted for and put on life jackets, helmets, and other safety gear.  
  3. Jump in the river!  

You'll load up into your assigned rafts and start the adventure. Depending on the length of the float, you may stop for a snack or lunch break in a scenic spot. After snacks or lunch, you'll continue down the river, going through rapids and calm sections until you meet your endpoint. 

Rafting along either the Animas River or San Juan River is an immersive experience into the natural beauty of New Mexico. These rafting trips are a great way to view natural formations and the local wildlife. You'll cruise past views of sandstone cliffs, lush forests, and nature, all steeped in rich indigenous history.  

It is essential to respect the Navajo Nation in this space. Enjoy the view of Shiprock, a significant cultural and historical feature, which is viewed from various points along the San Juan River. Rafters often see unique birds like the great blue heron and bald eagle, fish swimming by, and possibly a mule deer taking a drink. 

Make Farmington Your Base Camp  

While planning your rafting adventure, remember that Farmington is an ideal location for a base camp. With beautiful accommodations and delicious restaurants, it's the perfect place to relax after a day on the river. 

Find your base camp in Farmington by booking your trip today and connecting with local rafting companies to plan your excursion. For additional assistance and resources, contact the local visitor centers and tourism boards at the Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau.  

Author: Ingrid
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