Rio Grande

Impounded, channelized, and pumped dry, the river gives up the ghost in the desert at Fort Quitman and is resuscitated at Presidio by the Rio Conchos. 
Rio Grande
Rio Grande River
Illustration by Carl DeTorres

Section Rancherias to Lajitas, through Colorado Canyon
Difficulty Hard
Length and duration 24 miles, 6–9 hours
Resources Shuttle and guide service from Big Bend River Tours , 432-371-3033
Reward yourself Polish off a bowl of chili at the Starlight Theatre, in Terlingua.

 


Canoeing/Kayaking, Rapids, Overnight Camping

So much has been written about the Rio Grande that I feel justified in being brief here. Impounded, channelized, and pumped dry, the river gives up the ghost in the desert at Fort Quitman and is resuscitated at Presidio by the Rio Conchos. Last year Mexico released enough water from Luis León Reservoir for the rafting to be consistently good, and in late February there was ten feet of water in the Rio Grande at Lajitas. When the river is that high, most tourists want to raft through Santa Elena Canyon. But this is your opportunity to make like the locals and brave the rapids in Big Bend Ranch State Park that stretch from Rancherias to Lajitas. That’s usually done as an overnight trip, but if you’re feeling ambitious and the water’s running fast, you can pull it off in a day. If the river is just too low, you might try the shorter version that passes through Colorado Canyon and ends in Madera Canyon. Unlike the light limestone of the lower canyons, the rock walls here are red, black, and gray igneous rock, arranged in twisted layers like tortured toffee.

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