The Pecos River forms in Mora County, New Mexico, then begins a journey of about 500 miles to its confluence with the Rio Grande at International Amistad Reservoir on the Mexico border near Langtry, the famous home and location of the courtroom/saloon of Judge Roy Bean, "The Law West of the Pecos". Of its total length, about 350 miles flows through the rugged Chihuahuan desert of West Texas, where there is very little to suggest civilization ever set foot here. In Texas, the river flows from Red Bluff Reservoir in Loving and Reeves Counties near Orla in a southeasterly direction through semi-arid scrublands where riverbank vegetation runs the gammit from none to small brush to dense stands of saltcedar (Tamarisk) trees. Below Pandale, the river cuts its way through gorgeous canyons with walls rising hundreds of feet above the riverbed.
The Pecos River flows about 39 miles through semi-arid land between FM 11 on the Crane-Pecos County Line and US Highway 67/385 between Girvin and Big Pecos, where Crane, Crockett and Pecos Counties meet. The river is narrow and has very limited flow except in flood stage conditions, so paddling is never going to be a major activity on this reach of the river. Its banks are lined with dense growths of saltcedar trees that tend to wipe out other vegetation in their quest for available water. This is farming, ranching and oil country where water quality is diminished by contaminants and pollutants. Just 8 miles below FM 11 is FM 1053, one of only two crossings between the top and bottom of this run, the other being a county road off FM 11 at about 14 miles below the first put-in. Signs of human existence are few and far between. Rattlesnakes, Texas cobras (JUST KIDDING!) and varmints are there, but most of them only come out at night, when the scoarching sun is down and it cools off to the lower 90's (that is closer to truth than one might imagine!) While shorter than the reach above, this is another long, desert adventure for those who are truly prepared for wilderness paddling excursions. The river can, and will, flash during periods of heavy rainfall, which is about the only times it is navigable, so swiftwater rescue training and experience on fast-moving water are very necessary.
Crane, Crockett and Pecos Counties of far West Texas, near ... NOTHING! El Paso, the closest significant city, is about 4-5 hours to the west. Monahans, on IH 20, is about 20 miles north, and Fort Stockton, on IH 10, is about 40 miles southwest.
El Paso 270 miles; San Antonio 342 miles; Austin 373 miles; Dallas 482 miles; Houston 559 miles; Oklahoma City 687 miles; Little Rock 817 miles; Kansas City 987 miles; Albuquerque 415 miles; Phoenix 873 miles; Denver 852 miles; Salt Lake City 1,019 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Water quality is generally poor to fair due to low flow and pollution from agricultural and oil field runoff contaminants. Flow is usually too low for paddling except after a significant rainstorm, when the river can flash flood quickly, then drop again almost as fast.
There is no predictable "best" time to paddle this long reach of the Pecos River. Navigable flows depend entirely upon substantial rainfall in the drainage basin of this desert area. If everything from El Paso to Midland and Odessa are getting soaked, then pack the boat and get ready for an "adventure".
There are no substantial hazards to navigation other than the usual lack of water. When the river flows, usually in flash flood conditions, fast currents are more the problem than rapids and drops. The river is flatter than a crepe, with few obstructions in its channel. Hot sun and hot winds are the primary hazards, but as they like to say in Arizona, "It's a DRY heat!"
FM 11 crossing at Imperial Reservoir at 0.0 miles; FM 1053 crossing at about 8.0 miles; Unnamed county road crossing off FM 11 at about 14.0 miles; US Highway 67/385 crossing at about 39.0 miles. There are no other access points for this reach of the Pecos River.
There are no campgrounds, hotels, motels or any other type lodging anywhere near this reach of the river. This is the middle of nowhere, so plan on truly "roughing it" if you are coming here to paddle.
There are no outfitters, liveries or shuttle services in this area. Bring everything you need and run your own shuttles.
While not quite as difficult as the 175-mile reach above, the section of the Pecos River between FM 11 and US Highway 67/385 is almost identical in every other way. Its topography is sparse vegetaion of the cactus, yucca, tamarisk (saltcedar) and sagebrush variety amid oceans of desert sand. The area is raw and undeveloped, serving as ranchland and farmland, as well as oil fields. Signs of modern life are scarce, and most of those are outbuildings on ranches and farms or the frequent rocking horse oil pumps that summon "black gold" from beneath the West Texas sand. While the Lower Pecos River is very attractive as a place to paddle a canoe or kayak, this is another reach that is eldom navigable and less hospitable because of its general remoteness and wild, untamed wilderness character. Like the long reach above, this section is not for casual paddlers out for an afternoon of fun on the water. If you do not catch this run in or near flood stage, then it is unlikely that you will be able to boat it at all, and forget about bringing a raft unless you need to lose about 300 pounds very quickly.