Women and Water: Reflections on the San Juan River

An all women expedition on the Upper San Juan

Back by popular demand, CFI is bringing back the iconic Women’s trip – this time on the San Juan River!

In its journey from mountains to canyon country, the San Juan River’s stories are many having supported life in this arid country for generations. Truly Water is Life in this arid region, and not always fairly shared. A cultural and political borderland, the river flows along portions of Ute and Navajo lands and portions of Bears Ears National Monument.  Our four days will travel a 26-mile stretch, from Bluff to Mexican Hat, Utah.

With our fun loving and knowledgeable guides and faculty, learn about its deep history, its spectacular geology, wildlife and current conservation efforts. Short side hikes will take us to Ancestral Puebloan and modern-day Anglo and Dine (Navajo) cultural sites.    There will be quiet and time for personal reflection as well as an opportunity to learn river-running skills, to relax, or to simply soak up the surrounding beauty.

Slow Down to Connect

On CFI trips, we share quotes, readings, facilitate connections and practice unplugging from our busy lives. This is your chance to turn your phone to airplane mode and enjoy delicious meals, and spectacular scenery with like-minded women.

An Epic Legacy

This is one of CFI’s most popular experiences throughout our 40-year history. The annual Women’s Trip brings together longtime river runners and new enthusiasts through laughter, costumes, campfires, stories, adventure, food, and everything else that makes overnight river trips unique and special. This trip will be led by Brandi Atene, and an all-female guide staff. A guest expert in regional water issues will add up to date information on water rights, access and conservation efforts particularly affecting tribal lands.

The highlights were strong women, poems, taro cards, food, geology lessons, and excellent organization of this trip. We sought to share the spirituality of the Earth and of ourselves. We left behind competition with the Earth hand with one another.

- Betsy Rieke, Trip Participant

Start and end in Bluff, UT
September 24, 2024 through September 28, 2024
Group Size:
Minimum of 6, maximum of 12
$1840 plus $10 BLM fee & $30 Navajo Nation fee
Recapture Lodge, Bluff, Utah

This is how we rate the challenges you might face on a CFI trip.

Level 1 - Easy

  • Low level of physical activity, minimal movement required
  • 0 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking or walking 0-2 miles per day

Level 2 - Moderate

  • Medium level of physical activity, some movement required
  • 1-4 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 4 miles per day
  • Flatwater or mild whitewater rapids

Level 3 - Active

  • Medium or high level of physical activity
  • 1-5 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking up to 5 miles per day
  • Class I - III whitewater rapids

Level 4 - Challenging

  • High level of physical activity
  • 1-6 nights spent camping or in the field
  • Hiking 5 or more miles per day
  • Class IV whitewater rapids
CFI's Essential Eligibility Criteria outlines specific challenges that you may face on CFI trips. Please consult the EEC for information on responsibilities of participants.
  • A $300 non-refundable deposit holds your reservation and applies to the total fee due.
  • Lodging the first night is included in your fee, double occupancy; a single room can be reserved for an additional fee.
  • All meals starting with breakfast day one through lunch the last day are included.
  • Participants provide own sleeping gear and tent or may rent from CFI.
  • Lodging for the night you return from the river is on your own.

See other trips in these categories:

All participants on our adult seminars and on our private trips are required to be fully vaccinated.

Trip Narrative

Day 1: Arrive in Bluff and check into Recapture Lodge. The accommodations are included within the fee, but dinner is on your own this evening. We will meet up for an evening orientation at 7:30 p.m. We will take some time passing out essential gear, talking about the trip, and getting to know each other.

Day 2: After continental breakfast provided by the Lodge, and some final packing, we’ll head to the Sand Island boat ramp. The trip guides will deliver a safety orientation and the river journey will begin!

Day 2 – 3: Our days are a pleasant mix of time in camp, short informative talks, great meals and side hikes both on public and on Navajo Nation land. The first portion of the trip is filled with archaeological resources accessed throughout the day or from camp. Passengers can choose to ride in rafts or inflatable kayaks, and as the canyon walls tighten up, there are small riffles and family friendly rapids that provide some excitement. The last night dinner promises some crazy outfits and fun.

Day 4: The last day brings time to reflect and express gratitude for the gifts the river has given us. We’ll float the last few miles after lunch and reach the takeout early afternoon, returning to Bluff around 4 p.m. to say our farewells.

Guest Faculty

Brandi atene on the oars

Brandi Atene grew up on the Navajo Nation, just a few miles south of the San Juan River on the UT-AZ line. She spent her childhood herding sheep, gathering sumac for her grandmother’s basket making. Her father and uncles did horse packing to Rainbow Bridge for CFI;   Brandi did her first river trip at 4 years of age! She went to college in Kansas on a basketball scholarship while keeping ties close to home. She currently works for CFI as a Program Manager and Lead Guide. She heads native youth program development for CFI and is the mother of one son.

NNicky Haroldsenicky Haroldsen has extensive experience as a river and hiking guide and guide trainer. She has a degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership from Northern Arizona University.   She started with CFI in 1999, working with school groups at Professor Valley FIeld Camp and on the river. She has led adult trips in Range Creek, Cedar Mesa, Navajo Mountain, Arches and Canyonland and many CFI women’s trips on the Green, San Juan, and Colorado Rivers.  Of Utah pioneer family descent, she shares both formal history and tall tales; she loves rocks, wildflowers and dressing up for fun. She lives in Castle Valley near Moab with her husband and runs a small farm.


Additional guest faculty TBA

Accessibility and Safety

For any CFI trip, please consult the Essential Eligibility Requirements to determine if this trip is right for you. You can also reach out to CFI at info@cfimoab.org to ask any questions. 

Regardless of the time of year, please bring all items suggested on the packing list, including rain layers.

CFI trips generally happen rain or shine, with some modifications possible depending on the weather.


During this overnight river trip, we will be moving down the San Juan River, camping on riverside beaches and campsites.

Camp will feature spots for your tent, a camp kitchen, and a centrally located seating area. We will use rain tarps and shelters in case of hot or rainy weather, and we bring chairs for each participant. There will be a nearby Groover to use for the bathroom.

Hiking and Boating:

We will spend most of our days on rafts, navigating the river corridor. We may also stop for side hikes, excursions or to see points of interest along the river. Most hikes will be short, across sandy trails with some elevation gain or loss. Some will be on steeper, stair like trails or scree slopes. All side excursions are optional. 

Guide Training and Emergencies:

Every CFI guide has either a Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification. Your trip leader will have a Wilderness First Responder certification. Anyone working with youth has passed a background check, and drivers are insured with clean driving records.

Backcountry trips carry In-Reach satellite communication devices for emergencies. All guides have been evaluated by Canyonlands Field Institute as possessing the judgement, skills, and disposition required for mitigating risk in the field. 

Need to Know


  • A $300 deposit is required to reserve your spot on this trip. It will go toward the overall fee.
  • All cook and dishware, meals, snacks, and river gear are provided by CFI.
  • For more information about CFI procedures, view our frequently asked questions or our policies and procedures pages
  • Participants must provide their own tent, pad, and sleeping bag, but rental options are available if you would like to rent CFI gear. 

CFI is a non-profit organization and fees are not taxed. By choosing CFI, you are supporting our efforts to provide lifechanging outdoor experiences for hundreds of children per year.  Scholarships are available on an as needed basis.