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Old 12-02-2013   #11
Flagstaff, Arizona
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 384
Turlingua is a very interesting town with lots of old river rats. I showed up there a few years ago and had no problem meeting helpful locals. Rain was the most surprising factor as the river level went from 300-1500 overnight. I had planned on boating alone but the higher level had some farflung guides join me for Santa Elena Canyon. Not much gradient in there, but the scenery is world class. I would love to get back there for a much longer trip. It's incredibly beautiful in the Park, and there are many great hiking and mountain biking trails too. Have a great trip!

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Old 12-02-2013   #12
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
Originally Posted by okieboater View Post

Back in 1977 my bet is the Mexican Federales would not have went to the trouble transporting you to the local jail (sounds like the Mexican side big hot springs in lower canyons was the site).

My bet is they would have relieved you of what ever camping gear they needed plus any adult beverages or whammo box stuff not to mention any cash and left you to get out however you could.

Looking back, you guys were lucky on timing and getting on the river.
I agree; luck played a big part of most of my trips. I will say that probably things would have gotten ugly if we had been stopped; two in our party considered the WHAMMO! cans sacrosanct and likely would have mounted resistance to search and seizure.

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Old 12-02-2013   #13
Paddle_like_Hell's Avatar
Austin, Tejas
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 113
lmyers, lots of good info. on here so far so I'll try not to be redundant.

Flow: I's say a min. of 250. Lowest I've ever done was 300cfs with a speed run this summer of Colorado and Santa Elena at 5k (more flow the better)

Shuttle: I suggest finding a different outfitter. Far Flung is a good outfitter for commercial trips but their reputation with providing private shuttles has taken a beating the last couple of years. Here's my latest experience with them.
We were quoted $130 for full shuttle of our 42 mile private river trip, ended up paying twice that. Charged $95 an hour for a driver to leave our truck at the take out. Greg, owner, was very rude and un-accommodating and justified the outrageous price by commenting "my guys gotta eat". I'll never use them again. Couple of other reliable outfitters in Turlingua willing to run your shuttle without ripping you off and giving you attitude.

Have a great trip.
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Old 12-02-2013   #14
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peoria, Arizona
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 125
As Okieboater mentioned, the Aulback series are "the" guidebooks to have. Although likely not enough time, I would highly recommend reading Keith Bowden's book Tecate Journals for local color. For my trip, I exchanged several emails with him which were quite helpful. He's floated (at least the lower canyon) the river more than anyone else I'm aware of. I also got a lot of information through the site which has a river forum. The NPS also has a free river guide that was better than expected, although the ratings they assigned to the few rapids were ludicrious.

Santa Elena worldclass. Mariscal not quite so but still very good. Although it was not a vehicle from our group, one shuttle vehicle left at Solis had a window smashed with the car apparently being rifled through.

The last float I did was in 2007 and the NPS/Border Patrol/Federales was still sorting through the new reality. At that time, officially you were not to land on the Mexico side, but everyone did. Fern Canyon was a must see for us and it's across the border. My understanding is that the situation is much more restrictive now. I would definitely talk to Far Flung about this. As a permitted outfitter, their official stance would mirror Homeland Security, but the under-the-counter advice might be different. Be aware that a possible gotcha is that if you do get caught on the wrong side, you can only re-enter the US through an approved border crossing. That could well be hours and hundreds of miles from where you get caught. Have used Far Flung and had no problems.

Others have discussed flow/canoes vs kayaks/etc so won't dwell there and I've only done monsoon floats anyway.

The whole crime/drugs/cartel/border patrol/federale/wetback (you could well see someone with water dripping off theirs) issue is a sensitive one for lots of people. The most common advice is to ignore it all and play the tourist role. That is what I've always done and it's worked well. Keith Bowden also told me about where 3 trips in a row he found a headless body in the river. We went through a border patrol checkpoint but it was well away from BBNP and we apparently did not trigger any obvious flags as we were waved through without stopping. On the last trip had heard an unverified rumor that the DEA crossed the river at night in rafts to cut down a pot plantation that the Mexican Army had growing. This was in Colorado Canyon across from Big Bend State Park. I kept thinking about that when we did a day hike up Arroyo El-Rinco on the Mexican side in that area.

We've never had an issue, and it's a great (though not white-water) trip, but it's also not the San Juan nor a Boundary Waters trip.


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Old 12-02-2013   #15
deadlizard's Avatar
peoria, Arizona
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 125

Forgot to mention, have waypoint files covering the Upper and Lower canyons along with the middle section under the waypoint menu at the website PaddleOn
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Old 12-02-2013   #16
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
PaddleOn is a great site for waypoints and general information. I have used the waypoints a number of time and find them very helpful.

Highly recommend a visit there and also a good place to look at videos of many rivers.

Been visiting paddleon for a while now and it just gets better with more boater information as time passes.

Good job Gene!
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Old 12-02-2013   #17
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Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 4,207
Nice. Thanks for the advice and information everyone. Looking forward to this trip. Anyone else have experience with Far Flung? How about the other 2 outfitters? I will call and speak with them, but input both positive and negative is appreciated.

If there is less than 250 or so our backup plan is to look to Arizona. If there is 200 cfs or more in the Salt we will give it a shot, and if that isn't going to happen we will likely spend a couple days in the AZ Gila box and then follow it up with Fossil Creek and maybe some skiing at Flag and/or New Mexico.

I have been using Gene's site Paddleon quite a bit for information as well. Have never used waypoints though. I assume those are GPS coordinates? I have a GPS but with maps I have never needed to take it on the river.

When searched at the checkpoints did they go through all your river gear? I was thinking if they didn't have dogs a pelican case in front of the bulkhead in my kayak might go unnoticed........but sure as hell don't want to go to jail in Texas.
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Old 12-02-2013   #18
B.V., Colorado
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 192
I have friends with a horror story about TX jails from that trip. They were running shuttle after their trip and thought they were past all the checkpoints.....nope, and the truck smelled like....skunks.
They were separated and spent the whole weekend in jail. MMJ cards didn't matter a bit. The local law did not approve of these 2 colorado hippies transporting the devil weed. The truck was further searched while they spent the ENTIRE weekend in jail, they were interrogated continuously, apparently the homemade pesto in the cooler was a red flag. The charges were eventually dropped as the DA said he had bigger fish to fry, but it cost them. Be careful
"Huck Finn?...more like huck-and-swim"
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Old 12-02-2013   #19
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 167
I worked down in Big Bend for 3 seasons for Far Flung, and never heard of any complaints from the folks that used their shuttle service. As some others have mentioned, Santa Elena canyon is super beautiful. I would do that over Mariscal.
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Old 12-02-2013   #20
Flagstaff, Arizona
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 384
If all else fails...

Verde has been above 250 for quite a while and is fun at or above that level. I'd pick the Verde daily at 250 over the Salt daily at 200, although the Salt wilderness is worth it at that level if you have time for side hiking. I wouldn't hold your breath for good skiing in Flag unless we get another round of wet.

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