When the Rio Grande drops below 600 cfs (cubic feet per second) we pull out our smaller rafts and our funyaks. While we will miss the Taos Box, which. because it is so steep and rocky, requires more than 600 cfs, we look forward to the fun of funyaks and our sport fleet. “Does the lower water level make the river easier?”, you may ask. Well … yes and no. The lower water is safer, in that you are not being rushed pell-mell downstream if you fall in. The water is warm and clear now , as well – 65 degrees warm as of 7-1-17 – making it much more fun for swimming. Yes, we do a lot of swimming during this part of our season. But the “no” part of the answer is that, while we have fewer big waves in the Rio, the lower water has allowed more rocks to break the surface – and we now have to maneuver around those exposed rocks. This makes the river more “technical” – meaning more rafting/funyakking technique is required. Either on the part of the guide, who may be shouting paddling commands at you, one after the other, or on your part, as you dodge between the rocks. Of course, everything else being equal, a funyak can thread the passages with greater ease than a raft. And, funyaks are more much stable and user-friendly than regular hard kayaks. We rent funyaks for 4 hr. unguided trips on the Class 2 Orilla Verde stretch, with shuttle included, and we provide funyaks on our regular trips at no extra cost, but you have to request them beforehand. Are you handy? Then you can likely handle a funyak.
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.
Opening Day in the Taos Box, March 2017
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:
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
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! 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!!
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!!
AS OF June 10: The big snowmelt, aided by the snows of May, has arrived, with flows in the Taos Box of 1472 cfs. This is an above average flow for this date, and we’re very excited to bring this information to you. We’ll be even MORE excited to get on the Box with you, and give you the ride of your life! There is no better one-day wilderness Class 4 stretch in the country. The Taos Box is also the whitewater centerpiece of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Come and enjoy YOUR public lands.