Rafting the Rio Grande

Gentle float on the Rio Grande

By Matt Gontram

The Rio Grande, also known as the Río Bravo, travels 1,885 miles (3,034 km), and is the fourth longest river system in the United States.  The Rio Grande flows for much of its length at high elevation. In New Mexico, the river flows through the Rio Grande Rift from one sediment-filled basin to another, cutting canyons between the basins and supporting a fragile Bosque ecosystem in its floodplain. The Rio Grande flows out of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in Colorado, from headwaters in the San Juan Mountains, and journeys through New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico. It passes through 800-foot chasms of the Rio Grande Gorge, a wild and remote area of northern New Mexico. In 1968, the Rio Grande and Red River were among the first eight rivers Congress designated into the National Wild and Scenic River System to protect outstanding resources values.

Rio grande whitewater
Rio Grande whitewater courtesy of New Mexico River Adventures

Whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande is great fun and an important outdoor activity to be enjoyed in Northern New Mexico during the spring and summer months.  There are few other rivers that have the historical importance of the Rio Grande and also offer the incredible  rafting options that can be accessed in a single day:  from the Colorado border to the Remote Razorblades section, the iconic Taos Box canyon to the lower part of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, and finally the famous rapids of the Racecourse.  There are many sections of this incredible river system to be enjoyed year after year by our millions of visitors.  From family floats to world-class whitewater, the Rio Grande continues to deliver unforgettable outdoor adventures.

Unfortunately, whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande has been negatively targeted in the news, both local and national, due to low water levels resulting from below average snow packs and unscheduled and under regulated irrigation draws from our neighbors to the north.  It seems that the only news worth reporting is bad news.  What most people don’t understand is that, unlike almost every other whitewater destination in the West, the Rio Grande within Taos County has runnable flows year-round.  And even though we have seen some lower flows recently, we always have a great selection of whitewater for all our visitors to enjoy, regardless of the water conditions.

Gentle float on the Rio Grande
Gentle float on the Rio Grande courtesy of New Mexico River Adventures

Whether it be in rafts, stand-up paddleboards or kayaks, the Rio Grande always offers multiple sections of river to enjoy throughout the spring, summer, and fall months when our weather is absolutely gorgeous.  Just contact a professional about which section of the Rio Grande is best for you and your group or family. Get out there and enjoy one or multiple days on this incredibly beautiful and challenging river!

Matt is the owner of New Mexico River Adventures
Matt started rafting and kayaking at the age of 18 and knew right away that this was the life for him. He ran his first commercial raft trip on the Rio Grande and Rio Chama in 1992 and has been in love with the rivers of New Mexico since. His hobbies away from the river include playing with his dogs, seeing bluegrass legends and planning the next big adventure.

Find a whitewater rafting guide on BeyondTaos.

Download a PDF of “Rio Grande del Norte National Monument: A Visitor’s Guide,” published in 2015 by MARKETAOS and the Town of Taos.

Photos courtesy of New Mexico River Adventures

Sunset Gorge courtesy New Mexico River Adventures
Sunset Gorge courtesy New Mexico River Adventures

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