Hi sullyP! I moved to Albuquerque to go to grad school fall '14 so I'm still learning about the available runs. And there's a lot of runs!
Well, first off, let me introduce you go two groups that know the rivers well: Adobe White Water Club
and the Albuquerque/Santa Fe Kayak Meet-Up
. Tlhe meet-up explores a lot of the Rio Grande (a bunch of your New Mexico rafting near Santa Fe is on the Rio Grande), and parts of the lower Chama that aren't run often. The Adobe White Water Club meets in Albuquerque every 2nd Tuesday of each month. It's a great group, lots of boaters interested in GC runs, Utah runs, and San Juan runs.
The two "main" rivers near Santa Fe are the Chama and the Rio Grande. For the Rio Grande I recommend the guide book The Rio Grande
by Paul Bauer. He describes all the runs from Colorado down to Cochiti Reservoir (south of Santa Fe), as well as the geology of the region.
The Rio Grande has a great selection of runs from Wild Rivers Park (near Questa, NM) down to the Embudo gauge (just up stream from the community of Velarde, just down stream from the community of Embudo, about an hour at most from Santa Fe). From Wild Rivers, putting-in at Little Arsenic trail, you have a class 3 wilderness run (with one class 4 which you can avoid by putting-in about a mile downstream at Red River). And it's a wilderness run, no roads or anything, just beautiful scenery and towards the end narrow, tall gorge walls. The take-out is John Dunn Bridge. The run is called "La Junta" or the "Middle Box'.
The next run is the 15 mile Lower Taos Box, probably the most famous run in the state. It's class 4/4+ in a wilderness canyon (again, no roads or anything, just a place where power lines cross high above on the rim of the canyon). The gorge itself is breath-taking to behold if you drive north into Taos from Santa Fe: a desert valley with a monstrous vertical crack
running down the middle. That crack is where the LTB trip is. You float under the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
, a famous engineering landmark in New Mexico (if not the most famous actually, an I'm not embellishing!). For all the river guide services in the area, this is the premier run to make. And you don't need to draw a lottery permit. You might have to register, but that's it: as long as there's water, you're good to go. The take is Taos Junction Bridge.
After the LTB there's a slower stretch called the Orilla Verde, from Taos Junction Bridge (TJB) to Quartzite. It's class 2, 6.5 miles and very scenic. There's a road that runs along the river but it's not very busy. I took my folks on a trip there one evening and we saw a handful of beaver, including one that was the size of a small-medium sized dog.
Below Orilla Verde is probably the most popular section of white water in the state, the class 3/3+ Race Course. It's 4.5 miles and with some friends helping with shuttle you can get several runs in a day. The run is from Quartzite to County Line boat ramp.
The Bosque run is about 7 miles from County Line to Embudo gage (though most people take-out just above the Embudo Station Bridge). It's class 2 and it's nice to do on an easy going afternoon.
Below the Bosque the river passes through a bunch of diversion dams and makes for not the best boating, though doable. The last run is the White Rock Canyon run, a 19 mile desert canyon wilderness stretch. I've heard good things about it, haven't run it yet. The river flows past Bandelier National Monument. It's about class 3 (with one class 4 when the water is right).
There's more boating upstream, such as the Upper Taos Box (class 5/5+) and the Razor Blades (class 4). You're close to Colorado now and there's a couple class 2 runs (including a twenty-some mile wilderness run) just over the border.
The Rio Chama isn't far from you at all, maybe an hour/hour-and-a-half. There's an 8 mile stretch from Chavez Canyon to Big Eddy that's class 3-, or you can put-in upstream to tack-on
. The lower 8 miles you don't need a permit for but the upper 23 you do. The Chama canyon is very different from the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande flows through a rift that has seen lots of volcanic activity. The Rio Chama flows through sandstone canyons with all the different colored layers (red, brown, yellow) and forests growing way-up on top. I love that canyon, definitely recommend it! I haven't done the wilderness section yet on the Chama, but there's trees there, forests and trees (I'm from Oregon originally, the love of trees has stayed with me).
The other rivers I don't know too well. I did 18 miles of the Canadian (which rarely runs) last summer. There's the Upper Pecos
, not too far from Santa Fe, the Gila wilderness run
down south near Silver City.
k, when it gets enough water, provides a class 5 run. If you head for the northwest of the state you have the San Juan River (and forks) and Animas River. Farmington, where the San Juan flows through, has a white water park. Just over the border in Colorado you aren't very far from the
(4 hours to Buena Vista from Santa Fe per Google) or the
(3 hours, 20 minutes per Google).
Hope that helps!