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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a Wednesday launch at 106 cfs. Takeout is Saturday, so I'll have two days of 500 or so. I'll be solo, and I've somehow become old. I have a small RMR 12' cataraft. So- should I rent an IK or try to get down with the little cat? I don't have a hardshell big enough to stash gear anymore. I just want to make it to campsites and wait for more water, and do most of it the last couple days. I do love solitude...
 

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I have a lot of Rio Chama floats but none at 106 cfs, which means take my advice with that up front. If I was going to do the Rio Chama float you describe, here is what I would do.

My choice would be either a pack raft or very light weight IK.

My gear list and food would be what I would plan for a self contained back pack trip. And, a couple of freeze dry entrees extra just in case. I would plan to filter river water.

I would expect to do quite a few get out and walk spots in the river bed till I got close to the Monastery area. Take excellent river qualified shoes. I am thinking of the 5 10 river shoe type if they are still available. Plenty of good wool sox to wear with another pair of walking shoes off the river.

There are take outs and a parallel road (at least pretty close to the river) from the Monastery down to the normal take out.

My main goal would be to get down close the Monastery as quick as I could. Mainly due to the ability to do a fairly easy exit to the river left road.

If you do this float / hike take a light weight camera and post plenty of images. I would love to see the Rio Chama at the expected levels you post.
 

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I forgot this. One thing I have experienced over the decades of floating Rio Chama is the expected flow. That is the expected release may or may not happen as forecast. On the other hand a rain storm or un expected release may make things easier for you. That top part of the river is gonna be the hard part so be prepared for that. Be prepared to carry all your gear for either short or maybe long distances.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks, Okieboater! I am worried about suckmud when I'm pulling the boat, so I'll get better shoes. If I can't count on 500 cfs Friday and Saturday then I should IK for sure.
I was already planning on backpack style gear.
I've done a self-support solo SUP trip on Ruby Horsethief, and it was lovely. It was not boney like a low water Chama, however, and that changes the calculations. A fall even while kneeling would not be fun if you hit rocks. Can't take those chances solo. Paddleboard would be EZ to drag, though.
I wish I still had my Overflow, that was great for self support, but it would be hard to move around in a really tight rock garden.
What happens if I take out a day late?
 

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I have been running Rio Chama just about every year since mid 90's

Saw a couple rangers loading their raft at the put in one year. Nice gents, too busy getting their raft launched to do more than a cursory check of us.

Never seen a ranger at the take out. Never seen a ranger on the river.

No guarantees on your float.

Minor rapids at normal flows. Scenery is 100 percent outstanding. Great camps.

My guess is a sea of rocks for you to deal with. Big danger of slips, falls, possible bone fracture issues. Be really careful and take it slow. Good shoes a must have. Could be a trip to brag about.
 

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I have been running Rio Chama just about every year since mid 90's

Saw a couple rangers loading their raft at the put in one year. Nice gents, too busy getting their raft launched to do more than a cursory check of us.

Never seen a ranger at the take out. Never seen a ranger on the river.

No guarantees on your float.

Minor rapids at normal flows. Scenery is 100 percent outstanding. Great camps.

My guess is a sea of rocks for you to deal with. Big danger of slips, falls, possible bone fracture issues. Be really careful and take it slow. Good shoes a must have. Could be a trip to brag about.
BLM rangers have been consistantly patrolling on the river and I would expect to see them at some point. Wear your pfd - even in the flats. They have an overly agressive ranger that has been writing tickets lately.

As for flows, as mentioned above, even in an IK or packraft you will be walking at 100 +/- cfs.

The monsoons have been active this year but the Chama tends to fall as fast as it rises during rain events. The irrigation calls should give you the predicted flows but I wouldn't count on any bonus water.

Your permit won't get you any additional nights in the wilderness but once you leave the wilderness you will be in a mix of private land and USFS managed land (not BLM) so you can certainly extend on the bottom part of your trip if needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It's been many many years since I've been down there. I don't remember suck mud there then, but of course that was with boatable flows. Sticky mud would make walking way worse, so is there much of that, do you think? Slippery boulders will be challenging enough.
 

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For what it is worth and remember I have no experience floating / hiking at 105 cfs, my guess is slippery rocks is going to be a real problem getting down river.

Also one year I spent considerable time doing internet searches and phone calls attempting to understand who controls releases and flow of Rio Chama where most of us float. I gave up looking but when I stopped my investigation it looked to me like some local organization controlled the flow based on irrigation requirements. This group may be located around Espanola NM. Bottom line I was unable to find their contact information. Bottom line here is posted Rio Chama release may or may not happen.

Sawatch gave you more current feedback than I have. For sure on Ranger patrolling.

You asked for feedback and got it.

No way would I float Rio Chama lower than 500 cfs.

You make your own decision but be aware the Rio Chama at flows around 105 cfs is estimated to be a very dangerous hike not a normal float.
 

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I've launched at 150cfs with a 14' raft. Boney for sure, but not a problem to get at least as far as Aragon (that camp is for groups of 10+ though). Catarafts draft more than rafts, so maybe an IK would be better at 100cfs. Still think it would work though. Camp (or layover) somewhere above there until Friday water. 500 is certainly doable for the rest of the trip. Pack light, soft tubes, and remember that you'll be on vacation in a beautiful canyon.

New guidebook: https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/publications/guides/riochama (site is down currently)
 

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WOW, adamread, outstanding to hear about your float. any chance of a trip report on your 150 cfs float ?
and
kneth if you do make the trip at 105 cfs please take some photos and a trip report would be appreciated by us stay at home folks.
 

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The remarkable thing about low water is that there is almost always a channel. Plus, it's moving slower so you have more time to sort it out. The riverbed in the wilderness section is usually rocky, so no mud issues, at least in the places you're likely to get parked. We got hung up several times for sure at 150cfs, but it wasn't truly epic or anything. Then we waited for more water to show up. The hardest rapid at low flows is the 'Sieve' which is at about 1.5 miles. It might be worth scouting because the line isn't super obvious, and many folks get stuck there. I have only gone as far as Aragon on those flows and your mileage may vary. I've also done the wilderness run in my 18' bucket boat down to 700cfs. It floats pretty high, but I don't think I'd put-in at lower flows with that boat. Above 800 is no problem though.
 

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adamread,
thanks for that information.

500cfs has been my cutoff for rafts. Based on your trip report, I may have to go a bit lower.

Appreciate it. That Aragon Camp is about as good as it gets. Plus one of the most fun rapids on the Chama is there.
 

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Knet asked:
“What happens if I take out a day late?”

Are there any rules regarding trip length? I can’t seem to find them in the regs...
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thank you, AdamRead! I will get some really good river boots, not just my kayak booties, and an IK. Super light no problem, as I got older backpacking I could also afford better gear. I will take a little waterproof camera, and will try to get good photos showing the river. It makes sense that there are channels, a way for the water to get on down. I will scout the Sieve, I'm super careful when solo. And anything else I can't read and run. Excellent info, many thanks, please wish this old lady a safe trip.
 

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...Camp (or layover) somewhere above there until Friday water. 500 is certainly doable for the rest of the trip. Pack light, soft tubes, and remember that you'll be on vacation in a beautiful canyon.
My recommendation was going to be camp above Aragon, or higher, until the release. 100 cfs would be really tough going I think.
 

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It takes about 12 hours for the release to propagate from El Vado to the Day section and they usually don't release the water until midday Friday. I wouldn't count on 500 cfs during the day on Friday. We car camped just below the day section put in a few weekends ago and the flow did not pick up until just around 9:00 pm. A group of IK's floated past us, around 8:00 pm, just before the water came up that Friday night (they presumably did not get a campsite above Last Chance) and they did not seem like they were having fun.

As Okieboater mentioned the releases are a result of water requests calls from the downstream irrigators and water users. The Middle Rio Grande Conservation District puts out regular water updates however their last one was a bit cryptic (see the link below). They usually have a blurb about El Vado releases but they did not mention anything except the San Juan/Chama diversion.


I'd second Sawatch's comment on the ranger(s) - you will most likely see them at some point on the river. I would always wear your life jacked when on the water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks, Dakib, I was about to call to figure out when they release on Friday. I do follow the rules on PFDs and will try hard to get out on time. Luckily, I've been hiking a bunch in Summit the last two months, and I'm in shape for that. As much as I can be at my age.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I got a phone call from the excellent BLM Ranger for the Chama, Barry Weinstock . He said that there are no requirements to take out on the day you said on your permit. He did make a reasonable request, that small party weekday boaters don't take large campsites on the weekends. If that happens, the BLM may restrict or eliminate weekday permits. You do not have to camp in an established spot, just be on public land. That's good news for a solo boater. Thanks Barry!
 

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I got a phone call from the excellent BLM Ranger for the Chama, Barry Weinstock . He said that there are no requirements to take out on the day you said on your permit. He did make a reasonable request, that small party weekday boaters don't take large campsites on the weekends. If that happens, the BLM may restrict or eliminate weekday permits. You do not have to camp in an established spot, just be on public land. That's good news for a solo boater. Thanks Barry!
that's awesome. Have a great trip! Eager to read your trip report
 
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