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: newwaverafting.com, 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.