The Rio Chama, Summer, 2018

Our other river is the Rio Chama, the next drainage to the west of the Rio Grande. It joins the Rio Grande at Española, just 20 miles to the south of our headquarters in Embudo. But it is remarkably unlike the Rio Grande in so far as its scenery is concerned. The Rio Grande runs along the Rio Grande Rift, which is responsible for the lava flows that have blanketed the Taos Plateau. The Rio Grande Gorge is cut into those grey and black flows.

The Rio Grande Gorge High Bridge

The Rio Chama, on the other hand, is to the west of all that volcanic activity. It sits on the eastern margin of the Colorado Plateau, that area known for its sandstone scenery. The Rio Chama has cut a canyon into colorful sandstone formations – red, yellow and white strata are seen in the cliffs that contain the river. This is the sandstone scenery made famous in the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe, who lived in the Rio Chama Valley, in the small village of Abiquiu.

the Rio Chama

Chama Rock, on the Rio Chama

Rio Chama Canyon, sandstone cliffs and cottonwood

Placid water

Hot spring

Gypsum cliff

Cliffs of Entrada Sandstone

Swiss cheese wall

You can catch rainbow and brown trout in the dam-release waters of the Rio Chama

Reservoir storage on the Rio Chama is now providing good flows (800 cfs) for the 3-day Wilderness (from El Vado Reservoir) and 1-day Rio Chama (from Christ of the Desert Monastery) trips. Get three friends together and give us a call! 800-984-1444/

Out of the Raft at Sunset Rapid (Movie), Rio Grande

Out of the Raft at Sunset Rapid, Taos Box, Rio Grande, New Mexico

Taos Junction Rapid (aka Sunset Rapid) ends the Taos Box run on the Rio Grande, in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. It’s called Taos Junction Rapid because it’s just upstream of Taos Junction Bridge – this bridge having been named for the reason that it connected Taos and the Taos Junction station on the Chili Line, a narrow-gauge railway that once ran west of the gorge. Also, it’s located at the “junction” of a major tributary – Taos Creek – and the Rio Grande, Taos Creek being the source of the boulders that make the rapid.

In this high-water scene, Taos Creek enters the Rio Grande from the left. The big wave seen right of center is created by a large boulder that was deposited into the river by  flooding in Taos Creek. This is the big wave  seen in the movie that follows. Kathy Miller photo.

Taos Junction Rapid (aka Sunset Rapid), after a flood in Taos Creek that narrowed the Rio Grande. Taos Junction Bridge is seen downstream. Steve Miller photo.

Taos Junction Bridge

Sunset Rapid of the Taos Box.

Taos Junction Rapid (aka Sunset Rapid). Photo courtesy of Southern Exposure Photography

Many folks ask about what happens if you fall out of the raft. My typical answer is that we usually find you. But, to be serious, the following movie shows a good example of how we get you back. Points to notice: the guest did not let go of her paddle, which she could extend back to the raft to help pull her over; she got on her back with feet up to fend off rocks; she positioned herself next to the boat so that she could be pulled back in on her back, which is much easier than trying to pull her in on her stomach; it didn’t take long to get to her and get her back in – usually the water calms down after a rapid making it easier to chase after a “swimmer”. Watch it now!

For reservations visit:

Or call: 800-984-1444

Opening Day in the Taos Box, March 2017

Opening Day in the Taos Box, March 2017

The Taos Box team for opening day.

The video found below was taken on New Wave Rafting’s first Taos Box whitewater adventure of the 2017 season.

The Taos Box (short for “box canyon”) is the premier run on the Rio Grande – 16 miles in a vertically-walled wilderness gorge, with challenging rapids (Class 4+) guaranteed to get you wet. It is in the top rank of one-day wilderness whitewater trips in the country, and is included in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico. And, by the way, we haven’t seen high water on the Box for quite some time, and believe that this will be the year when the run-off hits record or near record levels. How much water is that? In rafting parlance, that’s about 8000 cubic feet a second (cfs). Imagine the amount of water contained in 8000 boxes that are twelve inches on a side, going by in a second’s time. Or, 8 times the amount of water seen in the video below!! And the next question is, of course, when will that run-off start in earnest? Generally, the run-off peaks in the first week of June, but we’re betting that the river will stay very high throughout the month. In preparation for that, we’re getting our BIG boats out – our 16 footers – that can handle the very big waves we expect to see, such as in the photo below:

Powerline Falls in the Taos Box in high water

Don’t fail to watch this video of opening day on the Box. You’re just gonna love these guys. They are SO into it. Of course, that’s typical of our customers, who just cannot get enough. Are you that kind of person? Then what are you waiting for?

Make your reservations at:
Or call:  800-984-1444

Back to the Box

Back to the Box! We’re thrilled to have good flows for our Taos Box run, and have 7 guests there today (along with some Box guide trainees), who will enjoy 80 degree temperatures, bighorn sheep sightings and maybe even see the otters, or golden eagles, or migrating western tanagers … or who knows what? The Taos Box run is 16 miles of wilderness gorge, positioned in the heart of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which has been set aside to preserve the land and riverscape of the Rio Grande Gorge of northern New Mexico.

We also have a boatload of guide trainees on the Racecourse run. Summer and whitewater action is here!!

Dead Car rapid, in the Taos Box

Dead Car rapid, in the Taos Box. Photo by Britt Runyon


How Deep is the Water?

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.



2016 Season Begins with a Bang!

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 guests from New York (see photo below) . Britt 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, which means some good waves and splashing. We expect the peak to occur in late May or early June, with 2 to 3 times as much water as is in the river right now. The season is young! Come on out and get on the river. You can hardly have more fun. Say that you saw this post to get a 10% discount!



So … you want to go rafting!


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.