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.
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.
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: http://www.newwaverafting.com/
Or call: 800-984-1444
See Bighorn Sheep in the Taos Box. Many bighorn sheep, with newborn lambs, were seen on our Taos Box raft trip of 5-20-17. The sheep come to river-side at this time of the year to graze on the new grass and other vegetation just now showing up. There may be no better way to come into such close contact with these magnificent wild critters, which may be a better reason for running the Box than the whitewater itself!
But, while speaking of the whitewater – it’s not too shabby right now! We are having, at the moment, very exciting rafting on the Rio Grande, and we anticipate yet more exciting rafting as, in the next month, the river rises to levels that exceed what we’ve seen so far this season. It’s been chilly this spring, leaving plenty of snow still in the mountains … and that snow will start melting in earnest when hot weather finally arrives (temps in the 80s). The first week in June is when the big melt usually hits, and that is just around the corner.
We’re expecting the Rio to exceed 4000 cfs, and perhaps much more than that, at the peak of run-off. Levels at or beyond 4000 cfs make the Taos Box a white knuckles non-stop roller-coaster ride, and bring the Racecourse up to Class IV difficulty. You will not forget your run through Souse Hole (on the Racecourse) at that level! And you will be insisting that your friends look at the photos of you in either Taos Junction Rapid (the Taos Box) or Souse Hole, on the Racecourse.
Call us now, and mention this blog post to receive a 10% discount on any trip. Adventure awaits!
Photos and video by Britt Runyon, NWRCo guide and photographer extraordinaire!
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!!
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.
Commercial rafting choices on most rivers usually include “float” trips – either on Class 1 (no waves) or Class 2 (small waves/little danger) water.
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.
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.