Rio Grande - Racecourse vs. Box - Mountain Buzz

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Old 02-25-2012   #1
Issip's Avatar
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 216
Rio Grande - Racecourse vs. Box

I'm curious how the Taos Box compares to the racecourse on the Rio Grande. A friend and I ran the racecourse about 30 times last year in my Puma, this year I'm interested in trying the box, but it's much harder to scout the box and it's rated at IV whereas the racecourse is rated III.

I picked up a WW helmet and am considering options like jumping on a commercial run as a way to scout the Box, or just putting in and scouting as I go and watching others go through the tough parts before going myself, and/or portaging if necessary.

Can anyone give me an idea of how the box compares with the racecourse? Is the box just a little more intense in parts or is it a completely different challenge level?

Also, the racecourse gets really technical when the flow drops to ~500cfs and lower - I've heard the same about the box below ~800 CFS, does anyone have experience to say what flow would be best for a first trip?


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Old 02-25-2012   #2
Northern Colorado, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 115
Box more techy...

After guiding on the box and racecourse for a couple seasons, I can tell you the box is a level up in terms technical boating. But, there is good warm up. The rapids become increasingly more difficult as you go downstream.

CFS-wise- I've run it as low as 600 in 12'ers and as high as 8K back in the mid 90s. Anything above 1k is good.

Boat-wise, I've rowed my 16'cat down there, paddle boated 16' avons years ago when it was running 8k, but generally, a boat around 14' is a nice size on that run-either paddle or oar.

Pick up a guide for the box and study it. You'll want to scout dead car and powerline-mainly cause they're steep and quick.
The rio bravo section at the end-depends- at higher flows-about 2000? some of the stuff in there runs together and you need to be pretty on your moves in a raft/cat. Flows in the teens, the holes are chunky but reading and running is more manageable.

After that stretch, the last rapid is sunset- steep and short- I'd take a look.

The box is a great run, but you need to be prepared. Be sure to have some rope and a wrap kit-and know how to use it.
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