Colorado Whitewater Rafting & Kayaking
Rio Grande River Rafting & Kayaking
The Rio Grande, Spanish for Big River, starts with the snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains and runs through southern Colorado, through New Mexico and then forms the border between Texas and Mexico. The river flows a total of 1,760 miles, making it the 5th largest river in the nation. The Rio Grande was the Nation's first designated Wild and Scenic River in 1968. The best rafting conditions start with the melting snow mid-May to the third week in June. However, the river can be rafted through the summer months and finishes with scenic tours in fall.
The most commonly rafted section of the river is the Rio Grande Gorge, which runs 68 miles through southern Colorado and New Mexico. The gorge contains the most and best rafting in New Mexico. Surrounding you will be the rugged basalt cliffs, which plunge 800 feet to the river, dotted with juniper, cedar and sage, as well as ravens, falcons and eagles. The river is more difficult the further upstream you start.
The rafting is divided into four sections. The first section, The Taos Box, runs 16 miles through intense and challenging class IV+ rapids. With names like Dead Car, Pinball and Sunset, this is the state's premier whitewater run. You may miss the beautiful scenery, as all your attention will be focused on navigating your way through your exciting adventure.
The Middle Box runs 18 miles through class II and III rapids. This section runs through remotes and rarely visited pristine wilderness. Many kayaks and canoes travel this section of the river.
The Orilla Verde is a more mellow and scenic part of the river with towering bluffs and buttes. Along the way you will see Indian petroglyphs as well. This 10-mile section floats you through class II rapids.
Last, the Racecourse section of the river runs through 5 miles of almost constant action of thrilling and rollercoaster rapids. The walls of the gorge around you rise 1,500 feet throwing you through class III rapids. This is the most popular section of the river to raft.
The International Rapid Rating Scale:
- Class I: Easy. Fast moving water with riffles, small waves.
- Class II: Novice. Straightforward rapids, wide, clear channels.
- Class III: Intermediate. Rapids, moderate, irregular waves.
- Class IV: Advanced. Intense, powerful rapids, precise boat handling.
- Class V: Expert. Long, obstructed, violent rapids.