Two little recognized and infrequently paddled canyons are San Vicente and Hot Springs, located between Solis and Rio Grande Village in the Upper Canyons area of the Rio Grande. Together, they comprise about 19.7 miles of scenic beauty that usually has few hazards and plenty to see. Paddlers are required to obtain a campfire/boat permit from the National Park Service before paddling these canyons. Immediately below Solis is the entrance to San Vicente Canyon, a short, but very beautiful and scenic canyon of about 3 miles cut by the river through the north end of San Vicente Mountain. As you exit San Vicente Canyon you will see Glenn Springs Draw entering the Rio Grande on river left, an excellent place for a riverside camp. The draw will probably be dry, but a solid Class II rapid (at higher flows) sits where it enters the river. Between San Vicente and Hot Springs Canyons lies a few miles of open desert, affording a different view than what you see in the canyons, and depicting what lies just beyond the canyon walls all along the Texas-Mexico border.
An exciting Class II-III rapid sits at the mouth of Tornillo Creek, where it enters the Rio Grande. Below this point are numerous hot springs and an abandoned old vacation resort that once thrived upon the medicinal powers of hot springs. Hot Springs Canyon, a short, but very scenic canyon of about 2.5 miles in length, is the last canyon above Rio Grande Village and Boquillas Canyon. Upon departing Hot Springs Canyon, on river left, is Rio Grande Village across the river from Boquillas, Mexico. RGV has an easy access for taking out adjacent to the RV park, and not too far from the tent camping area, store, laundry and shower facilities. This area is flush with birds, wild animals and fish, as well as a beautiful oasis of cottonwood and willow trees offering shade from the hot sun. Crossing into Mexico is easy enough, but illegal, and fines are high thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, which apparently has never been here, but thinks that terrorists would consider of entering our country along this border. The village of Boquillas del Carmen sits just across the river from RGV. Using BBNP access points for backcountry camping, paddlers can start or end trips along this reach at several locations between Solis and Rio Grande Village, though driving in and out requires a high-clearance vehiccle, and 4-wheel drive may be necessary depending upon road conditions.
Far southwest Texas, in Brewster County in the Big Bend area of the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border.
Dallas 520 miles; El Paso 340 miles; San Antonio 425 miles; Houston 625 miles; Austin 440 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Good most of the time, but muddy during periods of high water. Illegal dumping of heavy metals can lower the quality of the water at any flow rate. Flow is generally adequate for river trips except during periods of prolonged drought. Beware of flash floods that can raise the river level and flow rates very quickly after rainfall in the drainage basin, even if it down not rain at the river. Due to the remoteness of the area it is generally best to be prepared for any and all weather possibilities.
Early November through mid-March is generally the best time to paddle the Rio Grande. Summertime temperatures can soar above 100° F. Spring and Fall are frought with the possibilities of flash floods. BBNP off-river camping areas are limited and may be very crowded during holiday periods or during the winter "snowbird" season, which is also the time most likely to have favorable paddling conditions. Summertime low-water conditions may be inadequate for rafting, but canoes can almost always navigate the river.
Entrance permits to Big Bend National Park are required for all vehicles entering the park for river access. Fees are $20.00 per vehicle (increasing to $25.00 in 2015) and allow park access for up to seven consecutive days. Leaving vehicles overnight in a campsite also requires an additional fee of $10.00 per car per night (there is no additional fee for leaving cars in designated parking lots, but you do need to get an "overnight pass" for your dashboard so that rangers will know yours is not an abandoned vehicle.) Backcountry permits ($10.00 per group / $5.00 with Senior Pass), issued by Big Bend National Park and available through local outfitters and BBNP Ranger Stations, are required for all trips on or along the Rio Grande by automobile or boat at all times. River runners in San Vicente and Hot Springs Canyons are limited to a maximum group size of 30 people, and groups must launch at least two hours apart. Groups are not allowed to stop, eat or camp together along the river. For more information, call Big Bend National Park at (432) 477-2251.
Glenn Springs Rapid (Class II) is about 5 miles below the put-in at Solid. It is a boulder garden rapid of minor technical difficulty. At the mounth of Tornillo Creek (16.0 miles below the put-in) is a Class II to III rapid that is fun and which poses moderate challenges to competent boaters. There are no other significant hazards along this reach of the river.
Unimproved backcountry road, on river left at the Solis Access about 1.4 miles south of River Road East, at 0.0 miles; La Clocha backcountry campsite, on river left off River Road East, at about 14.0 miles; Gravel Pit backcountry campsite, on river left off River Road East, at about 14.5 miles; Rio Grande Village access on river left at about 19.7 miles. There are no other access points for this reach of the Rio Grande. Auto theft and vandalism is a recurring problem at backcountry parking areas, so do not leave unattended vehicles there if not necessary, and do not leave valuables inside vehicles. If valuables must be left with a vehicle, then make sure they are locked securely in the trunk.
There are no public campgrounds operating in the area. However, there are abundant natural campsites along the river including several primitive campsites in Big Bend National Park (backcountry permit required).
There are at least four known commercial outfitters offering rentals, shuttles, guided trips and/or river information for this reach of the Rio Grande.
Between Mariscal Canyon and Rio Grande Village lies San Vicente and Hot Springs Canyons along a short reach of about 19.7 miles. Though not quite as impressive as the canyons above and below, these two offer a different view of the desert and Big Bend National Park. Campsites along the river are abundant and bank access is generally much easier. The community of San Vicente, Mexico is situated along this reach where horse ranches across the border can be seen. About ten miles below Solis is an excellent Texas-side campsite where the river divides around an island, and bear paw prints, as well as bear scat, were seen there in April, 2005, indicating the presence of black bears in the park area once again. The trip through San Vicente and Hot Springs Canyons offers many options for paddlers and campers due to backcountry campsites accessible from unimproved roads in the desert. There are a few small rapids, but nothing particularly challenging in normal to low-water conditions. This reach offers a leisurely paddle trip that passes by the famous hot springs on Big Bend National Park. It is a trip that almost any able-bodied person can do regardless of experience.