San Juan River Expedition and Cross-Cultural Service Project

This expedition includes:

  • Rafting
  • Inflatable kayaking
  • Native American service project

On a wilderness rafting expedition the group wends its way through the banded sandstone cliffs of the Lower San Juan River. They will camp on sandy beaches, learn to cook healthy, delicious river meals, and have the opportunity to navigate class 2 rapids. Hikes to scenic overlooks reveal the captivating beauty of the canyon, and southeastern Utah’s stunning geology. From the river, the group will head to Hopi Pueblo for a service project, and the unique opportunity to learn about the culture and lifestyle of this amazing community.

“Every time you meet someone who influences you, you carry a bit of them with you even if you never see them again.” Sadie, participant

Arrive at Basecamp

Days 1-3
Participants arrive at Basecamp throughout the first afternoon. Their expedition leaders help them become acquainted with Deer Hill, as participants meet each other and the group begins to form. In addition to playing games, and eating home-cooked meals, the group will pack group and personal gear for the first part of their trip.

Lower San Juan Rafting Expedition

Days 3-7
All prepped and packed, the group departs Deer Hill Basecamp on Day 3 for the river launch in Mexican Hat, UT. They will spend their days on the river, rafting class I and II+ rapids through the deep and sinuous sandstone canyons, exploring side channels, and hiking to overlook points high up the canyon walls. Participants learn to read the river, paddle a raft and inflatable kayaks, and even have the opportunity to try the oar rig. After each day of boating, the group makes camp on a sandy beach where they will prepare dinner, and enjoy the scenery.

Service in Hopi Pueblo

Days 8-13
The group arrives in Hopi Pueblo in the afternoon of Day 8, to meet their hosts, make camp, and begin their project. Historically, projects in Hopi Pueblo have included whitewashing and plastering the ancient buildings in the plaza of Old Oraibi, making and repairing bread ovens, and working in community gardens. Cultural learning opportunities can include observing ceremonies, lessons in traditional arts, conversation and storytelling with community members, and sharing meals with the group’s host.

Return to Basecamp

Days 13-15
Participants return to Basecamp for program closure. The group cleans equipment and returns it to its storage locations at Basecamp, and returns any rental items to the Deer Hill Store. The group holds a closing ceremony to conclude their experience, and enjoys a cookout and slideshow on the final evening. On the last day of the program, expedition leaders drive participants to the Durango airport to return home.

High School Sophomores*

August 1 – August 15, 2020

15 Days

36 Service Hours

*For questions call us at 970.533.7492.

Start and End at Basecamp

The expedition is bookended with time at Deer Hill’s Basecamp in Mancos, CO. From Days 1 to 3, participants get to know each other as they pack group and personal gear for their river expedition. At the end of their expedition, the group returns to Basecamp (Days 13-15) for hot showers and home-cooked meals. The final full day will include a closing ceremony and celebration with a cookout and slideshow.

Transitions between sections occur in the field. The group is at Basecamp only at the beginning and end of the expedition.

Arrival and Departure:

Durango Airport (DRO)

Arrive August 1, 12-6pm; Depart August 15, 8:30am-2pm

Travel Information



The Wilds are Calling Apply

I was able to get to know one Navajo family on a personal level. I began to understand how people could live and enjoy a simpler and more relaxed life. We worked with Navajo children. We got to know them, learn from them, and love them. The relationship was two-way, and we felt appreciated for our work.

Daniel, participant