The San Miguel River forms in San Miguel County near the San Juan County Line in southwestern Colorado. Its headwaters are in the San Juan National Forest, though it also sits very near the Uncompahgre National Forest, which grows along the east side of the river. The San Miguel flows northwest to its confluence with the Dolores River in Montrose County, just above the Town of Uravan.
The last section of the San Miguel River flows about 24 miles from Green Truss Bridge through Uravan to its confluence with the Dolores River. The high desert setting offers a few minor rapids on a mostly flatwater section. Along its eastern side the Uncompahgre National Forest is just a few miles away. Most of the adjoining land is privately owned ranchland starting in northern San Miguel County and ending in Montrose County.
This run is not a popular section because of its length and the lack of public access, though some shorter runs can be made between Green Truss Bridge and Naturita or Vancorun. The gradient is about 35 fpm amid a slower current, and summertime temperatures are warmer than on sections above. The alpine and canyon foliage from the headwaters through Norwood Canyon gives way to a decidedly desert topography. This section could be used as a starting point for a Dolores River run from the confluence to Gateway, or even on down into Utah.
San Miguel County between the Towns of Naturita and Uravan in southwestern Colorado. The Town of Dolores is about 3 hours to the southwest. The Dolores, West Dolores, Animas, Piedra, Gunnison and Colorado Rivers all flow nearby.
Durango 156 miles; Grand Junction 156 miles; Denver 495 miles; Salt Lake City 441 miles; Albuquerque 366 miles; Phoenix 610 miles; Oklahoma City 910 miles; Dallas 1,036 miles; Austin 1,071 miles; San Antonio 979 miles; Houston 1,221 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
This section of the San Miguel usually has a navigable flow in mid summer for a few short weeks, but is too low to paddle at other times during normal years. Water quality is generally very good to excellent, flowing clean, clear and cold, but not drinkable without boiling or purifying by other methods. Be sure to check the flow before you go.
Generally, the optimum season is June, and possibly part of July, though the season may be extended or reduced according to the depth of the snow pack and/or recent local rains.
This section of the San Miguel River has several Class I-II rapids, but none with serious potential hazard threats other than the water temperature.
Green Truss Bridge at the intersection of BB36 Road and FR 540 at 0.0 miles; Town of Uravan at about 24.0 miles. There are no other access points on this section of the San Miguel River.
There are no public or private campgrounds along this section of the San Miguel River. Smokehouse and Iron Spring campgrounds are located in Uncompahgre National Forest just a few miles east northeast of this run. Sunshine Campground, south of the Telluride Ski Area on SH 145, is a riverside campground located just above this section. There are other campgrounds in the near vicinity off US Highway 550 between Durango and Grand Junction, and along the Animas, Dolores and West Dolores Rivers. Please observe the following use rules to insure that the river remains a pristine and wonderful place to paddle:
1. Fire pans are required for all open fires. Debris MUST be carried out;
2. Porta-potties are required for all human waste, which MUST be carried out;
3. Dogs must be on leashes at all times in camp;
4. Dog feces MUST be collected and carried out;
5. Strainers MUST be used for dishwater, and food debris MUST be carried out;
6. A scrim material should be used for kitchen floors to collect dropped food. All food debris MUST be carried out.
Because of limited campsites, courtesy in setting up camps and not intruding, either physically or by noise, on other campers is expected. When meeting other groups on the way downriver discussions about campsites should be undertaken so that groups know where each other are going to be staying. Cooperation on these simple rules and common courtesies will go a long way toward making your San Miguel River trip enjoyable for yourself and others who are on the river. If you pack it in, then pack it out. Take only photographs and memories - leave only footprints!
Shuttles may be available from the BLM at 970-859-7445 (Bedrock) or 970-677-2772 (Slick Rock). Shuttles and rentals may be available from any of several outfitters serving the Dolores and surrounding rivers. Other outfitters elsewhere in Colorado and other states may also provide services on the San Miguel River.
The lower section of the San Miguel will have lower water and a shorter season than sections above as it nears the confluence with the Dolores River below Uravan. This section is least paddled of all sections on the San Miguel because of its length (about 24 miles) and lack of public access. It also lacks the beautiful scenery of upper sections, and will tend to be warmer during the normal season of June and early July. A lack of riverside campsites makes this section less than desirable for most paddlers, though it is useful as a starting point for joining up with the Dolores on its way to Gateway or into Utah, where the Dolores flows into the Colorado River.