Rivers Wild

This expedition includes:

  • Rafting
  • Inflatable kayaking
  • Cross-Cultural service project*

While all of Deer Hill’s summer expeditions blend fun, challenge, and beauty, Rivers Wild gives participants the opportunity to learn the hard skills needed to guide others on the river. For those interested in learning how to row the oar rig and steer the paddle raft, read and run rapids by understanding water hydrology, and gain a deeper knowledge about water in the Southwest; this expedition is designed to give each participant the opportunity to develop their boating skills in wilderness river conditions.

“I never expected to learn so much in a summer. I’ve grown so much as a person.” – Macala, participant

*Due to COVID, there is a degree of uncertainty that we take on as we plan for our programs to visit Native American communities in the coming year. The safety of our participants as well as our Native partners is paramount. If we have to cancel the Native American service portion of our programs and switch to conservation service or some other form of service, we will let you know as soon as possible about this change.

Want more information about this Deer Hill program? Request Information

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 begin to pack group and personal gear for the first part of their trip. 

Upper and Lower San Juan Rafting Expedition

Days 3-9
All prepped and packed, the group departs Deer Hill Basecamp on Day 3 for the river launch at Sand Island in Utah. 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 10-15
Participants live and work with their Hopi hosts near the oldest continually inhabited town in North America. The Plaza is the center of community life on the Hopi reservation, and has been for many hundreds of years. Participants often help community members plaster and whitewash the Plaza buildings in preparation for community ceremonies, and sometimes have the opportunity to watch these events. Several Hopi hosts that work with Deer Hill are artists who are willing to share their craft with participants in addition to other aspects of their cultural traditions.

Green River ‘Deso-Gray’ Rafting Expedition

Days 15-24
The group departs the Hopi Pueblo and drives towards Green River, UT to the put-in for the Desolation – Gray Canyons section of the Green River. The group will float 84 miles through a deep wilderness of sandstone canyons whose wall reaches up 5000 feet to its unseen rim. With over 60 rapids to navigate, participants have the opportunity to use the skills learned on the San Juan River by reading the river, finding safe routes through the rapids, and steering the rafts through the river canyon.

Return to Basecamp

Days 24-26
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.

Want to apply for this program? APPLY

Ages 16-18*

June 29 – July 23, 2021

25 Days

32 Service Hours


Scholarship Information

*For questions about age or grade level, 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 24-26) for hot showers and home-cooked meals. The final full day will include a closing ceremony and celebration with a cookout and slideshow.

The group is at Basecamp only at the beginning and end of the expedition.

Arrival and Departure:

Durango Airport (DRO) or

Deer Hill Basecamp, Mancos, Colorado.

Arrive June 29, 12-6pm; Depart July 23, 8:30am-2pm

Travel Information



The canyons, the service and the mountains brought new experiences and meaning, yet the mountains provided an environment in which all my lessons and experiences came together. The hikes in the mountains opened my eyes to my own strengths both physically and as a leader, and provided a new appreciation for these activities, journeys and the wilderness. The times in which the instructors recognized my strengths were reassuring and motivating. But also, when the instructors forced you to learn without assistance were more memorable because it pushed me out of my comfort zone into a place where they knew I would succeed despite the obstacles and danger. This is why a leadership course is the most meaningful of all the courses.

Isabelle, participant

This trip has given me a sense of growth (physically and mentally), belonging, and purpose in life. It opened my mind to the endless possibilities of things I could do and the things I have never dreamt of doing.”

Hannah—Participant 2018 Wilderness Leadership

Deer Hill has taught me how to believe in myself….this trip made me feel powerful. My fears are now afraid of me.

Jakhia—Participant 2018 Wilderness Leadership

I feel as if I discover something new about myself every time I come to Deer Hill. I always have fun and return home a better person.

Alex—Participant 2018 Wilderness Leadership & 2017 Southwest Journey

I found greatness in learning that adventure includes the known, the unknown, nowhere and the now here.

Erica—Participant 2018 Wilderness Leadership