How Deep is the Water?

Steve Miller —  April 25, 2016

How Deep is the Water?

More often than you might imagine, prospective rafting customers ask me: “How deep is the water?”. Many people suppose that water depth is the only measure by which to assess the risk of drowning. “Is it over my head?”, is the implicit question. Of course, you can drown in shallow water, if you are unlucky enough. But most people know that, besides containing water, rivers are not like lakes. And lakes and oceans are where most people drown. Many people who drown in natural water settings are involved in recreational motorized boating accidents, are NOT wearing life jackets (Personal Flotation Devices aka pfds) and don’t know how to swim.

Rivers are similar to lakes in that the water near shore is usually not as deep as far from shore, but that can vary tremendously. Otherwise, there are many differences. Most river recreationists wear PFDs, and ALL commercial rafting participants wear PFDs, and often helmets. Rivers have current, while lakes do not. Current can get you in trouble, if you either fall out of a boat or the boat is overturned, because you must take action on your own behalf to return to the boat, go to shore or grab and hold onto a rope thrown to you. If the flow in the river is high, the current is correspondingly faster and more powerful, making you work harder to save yourself. Failing to get out of the river promptly exposes you to hazards, such as submerging you in certain river features or against obstacles found in the river, like tree limbs, and hypothermia (being dangerously cooled). This is why prospective rafting participants should ask whether the flow is high or not – not how “deep” it is. Another question a prospective rafter should ask is how shallow the river is. At low water, more rocks in the riverbed will be exposed, making it difficult to navigate. You might ask: “Is portaging (carrying) the raft required?” Otherwise, rivers have both deep and shallow spots. Rivers are generally deeper where the current is slow, and shallower where the current is fast, such as in rapids. So, in rivers, the deeper places are the safer places. Rapids occur where the river channel is narrower, and/or where rocks are scattered throughout, and/or where the riverbed drops more quickly. Rapids are rated on a 1-6 scale, with Class 3 being moderate difficulty/moderate danger, and 4 being more difficult/more dangerous. Most commercial raft trips take place on Class 3 water. Class 4 is for those wanting a greater challenge, and who are ready to accept the greater risks of the raft flipping over or being thrown from the raft, and the requirement to deal with turbulent water while getting to safety.

Final Drop rapid

Final Drop Rapid – Class 3. Racecourse, Rio Grande

Buzzsaw Rapid

Buzzsaw Rapid – Class 3. Taos Box, Rio Grande

The tight squeeze at the entry to Dead Car Rapid

Dead Car Rapid – Class 4. Taos Box, Rio Grande. Photo by Britt Runyon

Commercial rafting choices on most rivers usually include “float” trips – either on Class 1 (no waves) or Class 2 (small waves/little danger) water.

funyaking the bosque

Class 1. The Bosque, Rio Grande. Photo by Britt Runyon

Upstream view towards the put-in

Class 2. Racecourse, Rio Grande

When I’m asked: “How deep is the water” and/or told that the prospective participant can’t swim, you can guess what kind of trip I recommend.




Steve Miller —  March 30, 2016


Me and 6 others did the Taos Box with New Wave and our raft guide Britt was the best guide I’ve had throughoutmy many rafting trips across the U.S. He knew so much about the local area, geology (which was awesome because I’m a geologist) and knew the river like the back of his hand! Everyone was super friendly and they packed us a badass lunch. If you’re looking for a great rafting experience for a first timer or a veteran, New Wave is the place to go!
June 10, 2015


Britt we had a blast with you down the race course, what a great guide! Also a big thanks to CJ & Britt for letting us try out the paddle boards it was a blast. Thankful for such great guides & extraordinary memories!
July 18, 2015
Britt, in our staff shirt

Britt, in our staff shirt


New Wave Provides Water Safety for “Midnight Texas” Movie Shoot. The movie, a NBC pilot, is described as Twin Peaks meets True Blood in Midnight, Texas, a remote town where your neighbor could be a vampire, a witch, a werewolf, or even an angel. Mystery, horror and romance combine to both enthrall and frighten any outsiders who decide to venture into this unusual place. The New Wave staff that provided water safety services were Britt Runyon and Mike Boren. Britt was behind the camera, documenting our safety assurance activities.

We were on call for 3 days of shooting.

We were on call for 3 days of shooting.

One of the on land scenes we were present for at sunrise.

One of the on-land scenes we were present for at sunrise.

Several scenes were shot on land with New Wave merely an observer.

Several scenes were shot on land with New Wave merely an observer.

Mike assists the actors along submerged platforms at the crime scene.

Mike assists the actors along submerged platforms at the crime scene.

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

A camera man's bag of essentials.

A camera man’s bag of essentials.

One early morning scene was shot at the gates of an irrigation canal. This scene was one in which the sheriffs search the canal for the gun used in the crime.

Mike rigs the safety ropes for the police actors prior to their entry into the canal.

Mike rigs the safety ropes for the police actors prior to their entry into the canal.

The actors enter the canal with Mike directing.

The actors enter the canal with Mike “directing”. lol

Some of Albuquerque's finest actors playing the role of Roca Fria's Sheriffs.

Some of Albuquerque’s finest actors playing the role of Roca Fria’s Sheriffs.

The actors swept the bottom of the canal searching for the weapon.

The actors swept the bottom of the canal searching for the weapon.

The boom operator mistakenly got the $500,000 camera wet only once.

The boom operator mistakenly got the $500,000 camera wet only once.

No that's not the real name of the acequia, it's a Hollywood prop.

No that’s not the real name of the acequia, it’s a Hollywood prop.

A view from the other side of the canal.

A view from the other side of the canal.

Another view of the scene.

Another view of the scene.

The 70 foot camera boom over the Rio Grande.

The 70 foot camera boom over the Rio Grande.

Here’s a short video demonstrating the reason day two was cut short, and “wrapped” early

Midnight Texas Movie Set from New Wave Rafting on Vimeo.

To book your New Wave Adventure call 800-984-1444 or visit our website here.

Birds of the Box, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.  Birds love rivers! Some birds eat fish, some eat insects that hatch out of the river, some eat subsurface insects, and some eat river-grown vegetation.


You know what the Great Blue Heron eats – everything that moves!


This is an American Dipper, or Water Ouzel. It dives to the bottom, where it probes for invertebrates, like the nymphs that fly fishermen imitate.


This nest has been used by ouzels for decades! As can be seen, it’s located within splashing range of some whitewater. Guess the name of that whitewater! Yep, it’s Ouzel Rapid.


The Black-crowned night heron comes out during the day, as well as at night.


Is this a Canadian goose … or a Canada goose.? He (or she) is the latter. They are also known as “honkers”. They eat grass.


What are these American cliff swallows up to? Well … they build spherical mud houses under overhangs. Here they’ve been disturbed, while gathering mud.


One of the prettiest birds you’ll see along the river – the Western tanager. But you have to be looking for them at the right time of the year. They are springtime migrants, using the Rio as a migration route.

These wonderful photos are by Britt Runyon, Operations Mgr. of NWRCo. He guides the Box all summer, and is never without his Nikon DSLR and 300mm telephoto lens. Nice work, huh?

2016 Season Begins with a Bang! New Wave began its 2016 season on Saturday March 12, with a Taos Box trip and a Racecourse trip. For the Box,the weather was nice to begin, but then the wind started to blow! The party saw an otter and lots of bighorn sheep. Britt Runyon guided the Taos Box trip, with 4 guys from New York. He got an assist from Mike Boren, who rowed a support boat. We never send a single, unaccompanied, boat down the Box   Here’s the Box crew.

Opening day in the Taos Box.

Our Box crew, at the John Dunn bridge Box put-in

Here’s the Esquivel family, from San Antonio, Texas, after their morning Racecourse trip, with guides Hendrix Johnston and Joey Coburn, who rowed a support boat. They wrote: “Steve, we had a great time today.  Hendrix and Joey were great guides and made the trip very enjoyable and memorable.”


The Esquivel ladies, at the Racecourse County Line take-out

Here is the Gonzalez family from Houston. Britt guided them down the Racecourse on Sunday afternoon.


The Gonzalez family, at the Quartzite put-in.

Another herald of spring is the blooming of the forsythia. Here’s our one forsythia bush.

Forsythia Mar132016_0666

Forsythia bush by the New Wave sign, at our Embudo headquarters

And, how about the water??  Yep, with all the early warm weather, the run-off has started, with a nice volume of water in the river. The flow is 946 cfs at the Embudo gauge.




Good idea! There’s simply no better way to experience the outdoor majesty of northern New Mexico than a raft trip on the Rio Grande or Rio Chama with New Wave Rafting Co.

But, first, let’s consider which raft trip will be the best one for you and your family. There are two kinds of raft trips available on our rivers: float trips and whitewater trips. Let’s look at float trips first. River trips are categorized on a 1-6 scale of difficulty, with float trips rated as Class 2. That means you will encounter minor whitewater (small waves), very little difficulty in navigating the river and only a very slight chance of falling out of the raft. So float trips are the best choice for families with little kids (ages 4-5), those who don’t swim, those who are anxious about being on the water, aged members of the family and people with disabilities. Whitewater trips will be either Class 3 or Class 4. Class 3 is considered to be of intermediate difficulty – something anybody in reasonable physical condition can do. It will have waves that break into the boat, navigation challenges that require paddling effort and a chance that you might fall into the river. We take children 6 and up on Class 3. Our Class 3 stretch on the Rio Grande is known as the Racecourse (for raft/kayak races held there annually). Class 4 is considered to be difficult whitewater, with very challenging navigation and whitewater features severe enough to flip a raft. Falling or being thrown into fast-moving water is a real possibility and will require that you take action to save yourself. Class 4 is NOT for the timid, and you should not allow yourself to be talked into doing Class 4 or talk someone else into doing it! Our full-day Taos Box trip (16 miles) is Class 4 to 4+, depending on water level.

So, now that you have decided on the best trip for yourself and family, what else should you be thinking about? How about the best choices of clothing for a whitewater trip? Let’s start with footwear. Yes, you have to have something on your feet while on the river. You don’t want to be barefoot when trying to get yourself to shore. The rocks will hurt your feet. Teva or Keen-type sandals were invented for river running. These are the best choice. Next best are sneakers, running shoes and water shoes (actually intended for the ocean). A shoe with a sturdy sole is better than a shoe with no or a flimsy sole. Don’t worry about getting your costly running shoes wet. They’ll dry out and afterwards be as good as new. And, if you need footwear, we can provide you with wet suit booties. What next? Clothing made out of synthetics. There is lots of clothing intended for outdoor sports on the market. It’s all good. Cotton is not good. Why? Because when cotton dries it evaporatively cools your body. Long sleeves, long pants and a brimmed hat are the best protection from the sun, if you are pale. How about inclement weather? We go regardless of the weather forecast (unless it’s predicting snow!), and always have rain gear on board. For the Class 4 Taos Box, we provide both wetsuits, wet suits boots and rain gear. And don’t forget to bring a change of clothes for after, which can include a towel. There are changing rooms, and toilets at the end of all our trips (and also at the beginning).

What else will you need? Don’t forget sunscreen, and a bottle of drinking water per person. A waterproof camera is a good idea – a cell phone is a bad idea. Plenty of cell phones have been lost overboard. Leave it behind. The photographers of Southern Exposure take action pix on the Racecourse and Taos Box trips, which you can view online afterwards. Also leave behind your wallet, expensive watch, diamond ring and other valuables. If you end up with valuables once on the raft, you can give them to your guide, who will put them in a (usually) waterproof bag. But please note: we are not responsible for your valuables. How about food? We serve a snack at the end of the Racecourse half-day trip. Lunch is served near the end of the half-day No Wave float trip and on our Taos Box full-day trip. But you are welcome to bring an energy bar in your pocket, if you like. Choose the clothes you are going to wear and bring with you the night before your trip. Make time in the morning for a good breakfast, and adequate time to get to your pick-up spot.

You’ve arrived at the river!  The first thing New Wave staff will help you with is finding the right size life jacket (we call them PFDs). and then snugging it up. You don’t want a loose-fitting PFD, which, in the water, will ride up and lower your head towards the water. Then we’ll make boat/guide assignments. And, before we launch, the photographer from Southern Exposure will ask your group to assemble for a photo. As mentioned above, the photos can be seen and purchased online. The easiest way to find your photos on the photographers website, by the way, is to go to the New Wave website:, and click on: Your Day>Order Photos. Next is the Safety Briefing. Please pay more attention to the briefing than you usually do to the one you get on an airline flight. Our briefing covers topics that will be important to you, once underway. Last but not least, your guide will show you where and how to sit in the raft, how to hold a paddle, the paddle strokes you’ll be asked to perform and the other commands that he/she will be calling out to you. Don’t forget, this is a participatory adventure, where your paddling effort is required for safe passage of the raft! Now go have fun!

Click on the link below for a video of the Racecourse run.

On the Race Course from New Wave Rafting on Vimeo.

New Wave Rafts the Rio Marañon, Peru

A 400 mile, 28 day, whitewater river trip on the primary source of the Amazon, with Class V rapids, Class V biting flies and Class V foot fungus!

Here’s Day 10 of our trip. Click on the link below:



River Safety for Magnificent Seven. NWRCo. provided river safety services for the filming of the re-make of The Magnificent Seven, which included river crossings of mounted riders.

Click on link below:…cent-7-sept-2015/

Final Taos Box Trip of 2015, 8/2/15. There’s lots to see and do on a Taos Box trip – 16 miles of Class 3 and 4 rapids in a wilderness gorge, populated with otters, bighorn sheep, eagles, muskrats, beaver …. The Taos Box is the centerpiece of the recently declared Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which includes the Rio Grande Gorge and wild lands that spread out to either side on the surrounding plains. You can’t get a better one-day wilderness whitewater trip anywhere in the West. Shown here is our last trip of the season, with low water calling a halt to further activity in the Box. It just gets too rocky, as you will see. This fabulous collection of photos were shot by the very talented Britt Runyon, who is New Wave’s Operations Manager and official photographer. He was joined on this trip by guide Joe Cameron. As to next year, if New Mexico benefits from the predicted El Nino, we’ll see good flows in the Rio Grande once again. Think about reserving your Box trip for June, when we get the highest flows of the summer. See you then!!




Rio Grande Gorge High Bridge


One of the introduced bighorn sheep


Dead Car rapid


Young bighorn sheep


Power line Falls. Joe does raft gymnastics.


Powerline Falls


Rock Garden scout and sculpted rock


Rock Garden rapid, with the notorious Camel Rock smack dab in the middle


Boulder Field entrance


Fluted Boulder

Racecourse Smile

Steve Miller —  August 4, 2015

Racecourse Smile. Here’s a great photo by Britt Runyon:

Sousehole Rapid, on the Racecourse run of the Rio Grande, near Taos, NM

Sousehole Rapid, on the Racecourse run of the Rio Grande, near Taos, NM