With so much snow in the mountains this winter, rafting guides and outfitters are expecting a great runoff season.
“It should be a banner year on the Rio Grande Box,” says Steve Miller, president of the New Mexico River Outfitters Association.
And that means it should be a great year to take a hair-raising, white-knuckle ride guaranteed to make you feel alive.
The “Box” runs through a deep, rocky gorge in the Río Grande del Norte National Monument between the John Dunn Bridge at Arroyo Hondo and the Taos Junction Bridge above Pilar.
It’s 16 miles of whitewater thrills and chills and one of northern New Mexico’s best outdoor adventures, Miller says.
Whitewater enthusiasts from around the country converge on the “Box” during high-water years, and this year is shaping up to be one of them.
Snowpack surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service show levels well above average in the mountains of southern Colorado and New Mexico. Visit nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs for more information.
When all that snowpack melts and flows downstream through the state’s rivers, creeks and streams, it produces great conditions for rafters, kayakers and canoeists.
Those interested in the sport can get a taste of all the fun by booking a trip with an experienced outfitter through raftnewmexico.org, Miller says.
Miller, who operates New Wave Rafting in Embudo, says there are many kinds of rafting trips to enjoy on the Rio Grande.
There’s a fast, furious five-mile run featuring plenty of thrills that can be taken in the morning or afternoon on the “Race Course” between Quartzite and the County Line takeout.
Those more interested in sightseeing, including wildlife, can take a gentler, seven-mile float through the Orilla Verde Recreation Area between the Taos Junction Bridge and the Quartzite takeout at Pilar.
There are also backcountry trips on the Chama River and angling adventures as the season progresses through the summer, Miller says.
Last year was one of the worst years on record for snowpack, and the lack of runoff left many in the rafting industry struggling.
“We’re looking to rebound this year,” Miller says.
The great snowpack this year also should produce some much-needed relief for many of the state’s reservoirs.
Reservoir levels monitored by the NCRS show many are at well below their average capacity and in need of replenishment.
The great winter snows combined with a good monsoon season this summer should go a long way toward reducing the drought conditions that have repeatedly plagued the state in recent years.
Karl Moffatt is a longtime New Mexico journalist and avid outdoorsman who posts regularly on his blog, www.outdoorsnm.com.