Mesa Canyon - San Juan River

Mesa Canyon

This 16-mile stretch of river runs through a beautiful and secluded canyon downstream from Pagosa Springs.  

At flows over 2000 cfs there are some holes and waves to miss, but this is a class III- run.  The first few miles through town move the fastest with the wave below the Hot Springs Blvd bridge being the biggest excitement.  As you get into the canyon things slow down, but there are some natural and man-made holes and weirs that can keep you on your toes.  

The majority of the run crosses through private property, so please be respectful and stay in your boat.  Halfway thru the canyon is a nice beach and small meadow that is a designated stopping point indicated by a sign posted by the property owners.  

As you exit the canyon proper there are a few fun features.  A series of shale ledges create surfing opportunities at higher flows.  Jack’s rapid follows directly with nice eddy service into a shallow but sticky hole that can be surfed in a fully loaded raft.  A few turns below Jacks, a volcanic intrusion that crosses most of the river channel creates “lama falls.”  It can be avoided on the left.  A few more miles of meandering water gets you to the take-out.

Recommended Flows - down to 600 cfs. 

Below the Mesa Canyon take-out the San Juan takes a class II meander thru a mix of private and Southern Ute land on its way to Navajo Resivoir.  Although the road is close to the river most of the time, public access to the river is limited. The history and geology are the most redeeming qualities of this mellow section.

Put in:  Just upstream of the Hwy 160 bridge, on river left, just behind the Malt Shop, is the most common launch.  There is parking behind the River Center, but this access gets busy on summer weekends, be conscious of where you park.


Take out Head south on Hot Springs Blvd, turn right on Apache Street and cross the river.  Apache street turns into county road 500 (Trujillo Road).  Leave your vehicle at the wide spot in the road near the 12 mile marker, where the road meets the river for the first time.  The Southern Ute Tribe has marked their property line on the southern end of the area so be careful not to trespass.

Information and photo courtesy of Pagosa Outside