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New Wave Rafting New Mexico Whitewater Rafting
New Wave Rafting New Mexico Whitewater Rafting
New Wave Rafting New Mexico Whitewater Rafting
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New Wave Rafting Blog

Whitewater Rafting in Northern New Mexico


Cholla Cactus Blooms Along the Rio Grande, NM

The cholla cactus blooms along the Rio Grande

Early June is when it happens. The cholla cactus blooms, transforming a menacing large cactus into a marvel! This cactus was photographed on 6/8/18, alongside the Rio Grande, in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. New Wave Rafting Co travels this stretch of river in both its New Wave No Wave half-day float and its Monument full-day float. Do you want to do a sunset float? Just ask!

The Rio Grande in Rocks

Just downstream of Taos Junction Rapid, on the Rio Grande of northern New Mexico, is a group of basalt rocks that, at high water, are vigorously washed by strong currents. The sediment carried by the high water sculpts and polishes these rocks. To my eye, the sculpting of the rocks model the river’s waves, while the polish on the rocks model the river’s gleam.

Bighorn Sheep and Channel Fill

Bighorn Sheep and a “channel fill” are seen in this arresting photo by Britt Runyon (below), taken in the Taos Box portion of the Rio Grande Gorge. “What’s a channel fill?”, you say?

OK, I’ll explain. But first, I need to discuss the geologic history of the Rio Grande Gorge. In this part of gorge, the Rio Grande is incised into a succession of lava flows, one sitting atop the other, like a layer cake – and I’ve counted as many as 7 different layers in that cake. Before these lava flows began, let’s suppose that the Rio Grande was running through a valley, as rivers do. The first lava flow into that valley dammed up the river, causing a lake to form behind the dam. When the lake rose to the height of the lava dam, its waters began to spill out and meander over the surface of the lava flow. Depending on the amount of time that elapsed between the over-topping of the lava dam and the arrival of the second flow, the Rio Grande would (with less time) have  cut a channel into the flow, and (with more time) cut a gorge. This same process would have repeated with the arrival of each new lava flow. The Rio finally had the opportunity to cut down more fully through that stack of layers once the lava flows stopped coming.

So, what about that channel fill? In the upper part of the photo, four Bighorn sheep are seen standing on a tan layer of rock, that looks nothing like the basalt rocks seen above and to the side (when hardened, this kind of lava is called basalt). That tan rock is, in fact, hardly rock at all. It’s dirt! And how did it get there? It’s sediment that collected in a stream channel that ran across the surface of a lava flow. The part of the channel seen in the photo narrows to the right side, being a partial cross-section of the entire channel. And then what happened? Down came another lava flow, which capped that channel fill, preserving it for all time. Additionally, the molten lava that covered over the channel fill baked that material, giving it a reddish cast.

Channel fills like the one seen here are seen elsewhere, and at different levels, in the walls of the gorge, being situated upon the top of one flow or another. They really stick out, and once you know what you’re looking for, you begin to recognize them.

Bighorn sheep and channel fill
Channel fill at the base of a basalt cliff
Channel fill at top of cliff (“X”), staining the rocks below
Channel fill (“X”)

Powerline Falls on the Rio Grande, with Kathy

Powerline Falls with Kathy, June 5, 2017. Powerline Falls is the most unforgettable and photogenic rapid on the Taos Box section of the Rio Grande, located in the heart of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Kathy is the President of New Wave Rafting Company, and she likes to keep her hand in! After all, she’s only 66 years of age … Here, she is seen rowing the “chase boat” – an additional boat sent along as a back-up boat, on what would otherwise be a single boat Taos Box trip. In these photos, the river is running at about 2700 cubic feet a second, which is a very bouncy level. At this moment (June 7, 2017), the river continues to rise, as the newly-arrived warmth accelerates the snowmelt in the headwaters (the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, uphill of the former mining town of Creede). Who knows how high it will get this season? We’re all guessing.

2017 Run-off Will Be Well Above Average

2017 Run-off Will Be Well Above Average!

Run-off is predicted to be between 110% and 149% at various spots in the Rio Grande drainage of southern Colorado. See the light-blue and dark-blue circles in south-central Colorado. The peak is usually in early June – that’s when you want to run the Taos Box! Our 2017 season begins on April 15. Join our Taos Box trip scheduled for that day.

Back to the Box

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

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?