BETA on upper rio grande and rio chama? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-11-2005   #1
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 123
BETA on upper rio grande and rio chama?

Hey all, I'm thinking about taking a trip south to run some of the rivers in the san luis valley and northern NM.

Have any of you run the chama canyon from the chavez canyon put-in to the big eddy takeout? According to the CRC it's a class 2/3 section, but there;s not a whole lot of detail on it. How long did this section take you? (the last 9 miles of the canyon). is there a lot of flatwater? any excitement on the river? no permit is required on this section, am I correct?

What about the upper rio grande from river hill campground to the TR186 trailhead? according to CRC this is a 6.3 mile section, class 3. Anyone have any details? it sounds like fun! what's it like at 2000 cfs? (may be lower when we get there at the end of the month) Also, what's the deal with the "private takeout" mentioned in the CRC? any problems?

Any beta would be great!


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Old 06-12-2005   #2
Dave Frank's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
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I've never run that stretch of Rio Grande, but I have done the Chama a few times. I have always done from El Vado, so my memory might not be specific to the bottom stretch that is not permitted. While that is the most exciting part of the run, it is still very straight forward. There are some small but fairly consistant class 3 rapids. The river is neer too far from the road if someone felt they were in over their head. If you are comfortable on easy 3s you will be fine. I took my 2 1/2 year old down that in a raft with no concerns.
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Old 06-13-2005   #3
Abron Cabron
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Santa Fe, Nuevo Mexico
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 611
!see you on the Rio!

I am not familiar with the stretch of the Rio Grande you are referring to, but it could be fun... any thing upstream of the lower box involves a nice (i.e. strenuous) hike down into the gorge, and probably back out. by the colorado border there is the ute mountain run ,which would probably be more fun with the razorblades (III-IV) included to break up the float. it is supposed to be beautiful.... but don't miss the take out, cuz the upper box is no place for any of us non- sickbirds. i would love to do the razorblades though.
The day section of the Rio Chama is super beautiful, cold water, isolated, and fun non scary class II with a couple III's, but the water is most likely turned off until later in the summer in july/august, when they do weekend releases for commercial trips. if you can, the three day trip is totally worthwhile. it is one of my favorite multi-day trips. you can check the gauges on to verify the flow. anything over 300 cfs is alright for the day section. great free camping, but bring a bike for the shuttle. it was actually running almost 4000 earlier,but its all dependant on the plan to fill elephant butte reservoir, and i guess they brought that level up a bit.
your best bet pretty much all summer for class III in NM is the pilar section. it has actually been class IV- for the first time in years, (major rafting carnage) because of the flow, but it's doubtful it will be that high in a couple of weeks (II and III+ up to @ 3400, then it's
IV-) there is some exciting spots, but they could all be portaged if you really wanted to. scout beforehand along the road. Albert's falls, big rocks/ toilet bowl and souse hole are the main ones to look out for, and the narrrows is a long rapid and/or swim. i am definitely a member of the rio grande swim team .in the last seven years, i have swam them all! the toilet bowl should be avoided at all costs- except at very low levels (>600) when it is probably easier than the slot at big rocks. ( which is all underwater right now) that is , of course a matter of opinion. souse hole is an almost river wide hole, but it's a pool drop.
actually that is almost all of the rapids- it's only five miles. there is good camping on the state park section, which is a nice five or six mile flatwater stretch with three little rapids between the lower box and the racecourse.
hope that helps a little. i guess i wrote a little (lot) more than i meant to, but I love my home state. and contrary to popular belief, you can drink the water, dollars are accepted, and you don't need a passport to get home. oh, and we have real green chile and real (good)margaritas. if you have any more questions or you are looking for someone to paddle with down here, i would be happy to show you the runs, and i am definitely an intermediate level boater- my email is [email protected]. i am in school full time, but hopefully i will have a day off this summer sometime....
!Buen viaje! -abe
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