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Rio Grande, New Mexico
Report by Marc W. McCord

~ 6.5 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Rio Grande, or Rio Bravo del Norte, as it is known in Mexico, flows from its headwaters near Alamosa, Colorado, through New Mexico and down the Texas-Mexico border through Big Bend to Brownsville and the Gulf of Mexico. However, paddling in New Mexico is generally limited to the Taos Box area near Taos, though it is possible to paddle several other sections of the river, as well.

From Taos County Line down to Embudo Station is a 6.5 mile run on Class II whitewater that can be a run of its own or a continuation of the reach or two above. Bosque is an area with a gentle 12 fpm gradient flowing through a "quiet zone" and raparian area that is home to many species of birds and animal wildlife that live along the river banks. This reach is easy enough for anybody with moderate whitewater exposure in canoes, kayaks or rafts and short enough to do two or three runs in a single day if you start early. It also offers an additional take-out at Velarde Dam about 2 miles below the Embudo Station Restaurant access for those who do not want to stop after 6.5 miles. Only about 30% of adjoining land is BLM-controlled, so paddlers need to be mindful about not trespassing. Watch for signs indicating where you may legally make a landfall. Only designated access points should be used for launching or recovering craft and gear. For those with advanced or higher level whitewater skills this reach could be the culmination of nearly 42 miles on the Rio Grande starting at the top of the Lower Taos Box. Scenery demands that you pack the camera, and you just might be fortuate enough to capture some good shots of aminals and birds along this reach that are not found on other reaches.


Rio Arriba County along SH 68 between Dixon and Velarde just northeast of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. THe Rio Embudo confluence sits at the bottom of this reach.

Distance from major cities

Santa Fe 137 miles; Albuquerque 78 miles; Phoenix 377 miles; Durango 290 miles; Denver 515 miles; Salt Lake City 682 miles; El Paso 190 miles; Dallas 660 miles; Austin 695 miles; San Antonio 706 miles; Houston 881 miles; Oklahoma City 620 miles; Little Rock 959 miles; Kansas City 855 Miles. (All distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generally very good to excellent, flowing clean, clear and cold from the snowmelt runoff of the mountains above Taos and southern Colorado. Seasonal springtime through early summer is the normal season for the Bosque reach.

Best time to go

The prime season for this section of the Rio Grande is April through June in normal snowpack years. By mid-summer the river may be too low for enjoyable paddling unless an exceptionally heavy winter snowpack accumulated in the mountains to the north.

Permit requirements

All private boaters are required to make reservations through BLM (575-758-8851) for paddle trips on this reach of the Rio Grande. River Office contact is Mark Sundin at 575-751-4720. There is no fee, and registration at self-serve stations at each access make the process fast and easy.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant whitewater hazards on this section of the Rio Grande. Cold water and possibly cold air temperatures should be considered as hazards, and proper attire should be worn to prevent hypothermia. Typically, this is an easy reach that almost anybody can padle and enjoy.

River Access Points

County Line Public Access off SH 68 at 0.0 miles; Gauging Station Public Access below the bridge at about 6.5 miles. There are no other public access points on this reach of the Rio Grande. Most adjoining property is privately-owned, and trespassing is not permitted.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no public or private campgrounds located along this reach of the river, though numerous riverside campsites can be found nearby on reaches above and below this one. Most adjoining land is private property, so avoid camping or stopping there.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no liveries or outfitters operating along this section of the Rio Grande. Plan on setting up and running your own shuttles. DO NOT park within 30 feet of SH 68! State troopers love to write parking citations along this area. Be sure to leave room for large busses pulling trailers to turn around, and use ONLY designated parking spaces. Avoid using the Embudo Station Restaurant parking lot at the take-out. An alternate parking lot and public access is across the street from the restaurant.

Reviewer's Comments

The Bosque reach of the Rio Grande is the last of eight whitewater runs between Lobatos Bridge in southern Colorado and the Rio Embudo confluence. It is an easy, Class II run with moderate rapids, excellent scenery, a wildlife raparian area that is home to may riverside birds and animals and easy access along SH 68. While the rapids are smaller the water remains cold and it may be necessary to wear wetsuits or drysuits to avoid hypothermia. This area is much flatter than the gorge and canyon areas near Taos, where the much larger rapids are found. Like Orilla Verde and Racecourse, the Bosque area is very popular, so expect to see other paddlers in canoes, kayaks and rafts, as well as more traffic and competition for parking spaces at the access points. Please observe the "quiet zone" that is in effect for this entire reach and do NOT trespass on private land - signage furnished by BLM indicates when you are entering or leaving land under its control. Use the gauging station access below the bridge for taking out below Embudo Station Restaurant. Please avoid using the restaurant property for parking or access (unless eating there, and with management's permission.)

Technical Data
Class Rating II
Length 6.5 miles
Minimum Flow 300 cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Quartzite Public Access
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Gauging Station
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient 12 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Taos Junction Bridge
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season April through June
Permits Yes - see details at left

BLM Taos FIeld Office

Adobe Whitewater Club of New Mexico - For the Love of Rivers

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Lone Star Paddler - the paddlesports web site of Marc W. McCord

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Rio Grande and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

Rio Grande

[ Rio Grande Homepage ] [ Lobatos Bridge to Chiflo CG ] [ Upper Taos Box ] [ Lower Taos Box ] [ Pilar ]
[ Espanola to Albuquerque ] [ Albuquerque to Chavez S.P. ] [ Chavez S.P. to Socorro ] [ Elephant Butte Res. to Las Cruces ]

Tributary Rivers

[ Red River ] [ Rio Brazos ] [ Upper Rio Chama ] [ Chama Canyon ] [ Rio Embudo ] [ Rio Pueblo ]

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Last updated August 26, 2014

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