The Pecos River forms near Santa Fe in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Santa Fe National Forest, then flows southeast to Fort Sumner, where it turns south and flows through Carlsbad into Texas to its confluence with the Rio Grande at International Amistad Reservoir between Langtry and Comstock. Of all New Mexico rivers, it is second only to the Rio Grande in distance travelled through the state, and provides a significant water source for most of eastcentral and southeastern New Mexico. At least 7 state parks are located along its banks between the headwaters and Carlsbad, near the Texas border.
From Pecos to US Highway 84 near Tecolotito the river flows about 44 miles through several small Spanish villages in deep-walled sandstone canyons of spectacular grandeur and color. This section has numerous rapids in the Class II to III range that make runs interesting, but not particularly difficult at normal flows, and which are well-suited for paddlers in canoes, kayaks, and rafts. The upper reaches of the Pecos River bear the "Wild and Scenic River" designation, and is a protected waterway that will remain very natural and beautiful, especially if boaters help preserve the pristine nature of this stream.
San Miguel and Guadalupe Counties of Northcentral New Mexico between Albuquerque and Tucumcari (west and east, respectively) and south of Las Vegas, at the top of the New Mexico tablelands. This run ends at the beginning of the desert reaches of the river.
Santa Fe 25 miles; Albuquerque 82 miles; Phoenix 540 miles; Durango 294 miles; Denver 520 miles; Salt Lake City 686 miles; El Paso 348 miles; Dallas 750 miles; Austin 785 miles; San Antonio 812 miles; Houston 971 miles; Oklahoma City 624 miles; Little Rock 963 miles; Kansas City 859 miles (All distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, destination point and route taken.)
Pecos River water quality is usually excellent as it flows from snowmelt in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north. Flows are normally boatable for a few short weeks in late-spring, though the river may provide rides after significant local rainfall in the drainage basin above Santa Fe.
Generally, the month of May is optimum, with the possibility of adequate flows in April and/or June depending upon local precipitation conditions.
Rapids on this section of the Pecos River are rated Class II to III, and should not pose significant hazards for competent boaters. However, at high flows some of the boulder garden rapids can create holes and pourovers that spell disaster for careless or inexperienced canoeists and kayakers. Rafts should have no serious problems if there is adequate water to prevent having to carry the boat downriver. The remoteness of this reach is definitely to be considered as a potential hazard. Access is very limited and getting outside help is next to impossible, if possible at all. Canoeists and kayakers should have at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills to safely navigate this reach at stages above about 3 feet (about 2.6 feet is the suggested minimum.)
Villanueva State Park, at about 25.0 miles, offers campsites with and without electricity, drinking water, restrooms, showers, a launch ramp (small fee may apply), day use area with picnic tables, fishing and a sanitary dump station. There are no other campgrounds along this reach of the Pecos River. Below this reach Santa Rosa Lake State Park (505-766-2724), located 3 miles north of Santa Rosa (121 Miles east of Albuquerque off U.S. 66 / I 40), offers campsites with and without electricity, drinking water, restrooms, showers, a launch ramp (small fee may apply), day use area with picnic tables, fishing and a sanitary dump station. Natural cxampsites can be found along the river, but many may be on private property, especially below Terrero, so be sure to obtain permission before camping there.